Strong or weak? Which would you rather be? The answer seems like a no brainer – DUH – strong of course! Andy Crouch, author of the classic book Culture Making, says that if we want to truly flourish (and if we want to be effective leaders) we must embrace both. We must be Strong and Weak.
Crouch’s thesis is quite simple, weakness and strength are not opposites. They are actually meant to be held together simultaneously. When we learn this forgotten truth, then we will truly be able to be the people we were made to be. This is a countercultural message. Most people would say embrace strength and hide weakness. On the other hand there have been some that have recently been calling for a return to “vulnerability” masked as public weakness (though this is often a power play trading on the act of manipulation).
If you look at the life of Jesus you will see both strength and weakness. Exaltation and humiliation. Ascension and crucifixion. In fact when we celebrate Easter we actually celebrate this paradox of weakness and strength. It was in the moment of greatest weakness and vulnerability (the cross) that the almighty Son of God was coronated. Easter celebrates the King’s Cross.
In this short book Crouch explores cultural conceptions of strength and weakness. He exposes false weakness and authoritative strength. He encourages hidden vulnerability, that is the willingness to bear burdens and expose ourselves to risks that one one else can fully understand (25). He shows us that if we want to truly be strong we need to be willing to enter into brokenness, whether our own or the suffering of others. Only once we embrace this hidden vulnerability and descent into suffering will we be able to be the kind of people who can be entrusted with true power. Power that is both vulnerable and authoritative – weak and strong.
The book is filled with powerful stories, the story of Angela is brought me to tears – especially since my wife and I just had our first daughter. Stories of racism and of Crouch’s own selfishness really bring the message home. But the story that underlies all of this, though its never made too explicit, is the story of Jesus – the Gospel. The Gospel is what shows us what it means to be both Strong and Weak….
Overall I would highly recommend this book for leaders. Embracing both of these “virtues” is critical to leadership. In fact there are a few leaders in my ministry to whom I will have them read some of the chapters in this book.