The Christian apostle, Paul, when commenting on dealing with life’s hardships, made the profound and paradoxical proclamation, For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I have a dear friend who is suffering. He’s in the kind of agonizing physical pain that makes our normal daily emotional drama pale by comparison. My friend and I often text late at night, while I’m up writing and he’s kept awake sobbing through the disease that tortures him when the distraction of the daytime commotion has transitioned to the quiet, stillness of the night. Nighttime has a way of unmasking our soul and his texts are the kind of raw sharings of an open heart — a man who, with the typical machismo and masculine pride drained from his being, has nothing left to hold onto other than his truth … he has become strong in his weakness. I am blessed by his friendship and inspired by his courageous love.

The thought of strength through weakness is, like all great spiritual truths, a paradox — two of life’s extremes fused together until they become an intellectually confusing blur that resonates only in the heart of one who’s been there. We spend our lives trying so obsessively to be strong. We smile through broken hearts, we laugh away the tears and gut through the pain in the belief that big boys and girls don’t cry. And yet we do. Like my friend, sitting in the dark corners of our lives, we cry out, with the piercing silence of desperation, begging to be seen, heard, understood, and loved. From the time we are born, this simple desire drives our existence: to be loved. Pain serves to amplify this need until it’s all we can hear.

As newborn babies our cries for love were welcomed. Our first gasp of air and loud cry were greeted with a hug and tears of joy. But soon the reaction to our cries changes. We’re shushed, told not to cry and plugged with pacifiers, bottles, and sugary treats. Slowly and consistently we’re taught that our feelings don’t matter as much as our parents’ need to work and society’s need for peace and quiet. As we grow, this is reinforced again and again as we’re rewarded for “good” behavior and punished for the “bad.” We learn to succeed in the world we live and soon we translate our need for love into achievements: good grades, acceptance to the right school, and getting the right job when we graduate.

Our need for love is further masked by the marketing of our time, as our life’s challenges are met with Madison Avenue slogans that tell us to numb our pain and get back to the business of pretending to be happy. But an aspirin a day can’t keep the pain away for long. It’s not just corporate America extoling the virtues of ignoring our pain. Self-help books and Sunday sermons are equally filled with well-meaning yet often empty advice designed to keep us on track and following the rules. As my friend shared with me on one particularly painful night, “If one more person tells me to think positively or pray more…”

I watched Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer a few weeks ago. After about an hour or so of asking the kind of mundane questions inquiring minds want to know, Diane asked Caitlyn a seemingly simple question: “If you were me, what would you ask you?” With a lump in her throat, a tear in her eye, and the vulnerable honesty of a being who had spent a lifetime running, jumping, and winning in an effort to be loved, Caitlyn replied simply, “Are you going to be okay?”

Let’s take a breath together and allow that question to filter down to our hearts. Am I going to be okay? Take another deep breath. When’s the last time you asked yourself that question? Or allowed yourself the safety to be human, to feel weakness, or to not have to be strong? Are you going to be okay?

While very few of us know what it’s like to be an Olympic gold medalist or a woman hiding in the body of a man, we all know what it’s like to go through life hiding our pain, masking our desire to be loved, and running the race of life while wanting to be something beyond the story our parents, friends, and society have told us we are. And therein we find an invitation within Paul’s words — For when I am weak, then I am strong” … an invitation to love who we are right now regardless of where we are.

This week I invite you to embrace your humanity. To love yourself through your perceived weakness and to love others through theirs. Ask yourself Caitlyn’s question, “Are you going to be okay?” Invite an honest answer and a dialogue with yourself about what okay means, what it looks like, and the changes it requires in the way you treat yourself. Compassion begins with the acceptance of our humanity. It sprouts like a seed in our hearts, and when tended with loving-kindness it grows and spreads to the world around us. In that way loving yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses, is a gift that feeds us all.

Big hugs of love,


I invite you to read my recent article in INC: 4 Ways To Fight Stress Like A Warrior Monk

  1. “Am i going to be ok?” asking myself is most needed today when i was feeling very low…thanks Jason and love you

  2. ycphoto2013 says:

    I adore today’s post and its truth. We do indeed learn to create masks like chameleons at every turn in life. The beauty of aging (maturing) and/or a painful scare is that the charade ends there. To ask a friend with care, “are you living meaningfully? are you doing okay today?” can help to break through to those more meaningful conversations, at any stage of life.

    • Jason Garner says:

      Thank you Yvonne. I like those words, “the charade end there” and the idea that life’s painful moments can be our guide through the programming into a more authentic and loving place. Big hugs of love – Jason

  3. Your words always speak to me. I wanted you to know that since reading your book and following your blog posts, I’ve learned that it’s okay to just be me. That sometimes I’ll be happy and sometimes I’ll be sad, and that’s okay too. I don’t always have to be brave; it’s okay to be scared, especially when faced with scary stuff. It’s okay to feel pain too, to cry when I need to. It’s okay to love me for just being me. It has helped me to not isolate myself so much, and to learn to trust people a little more. To show the people that I love them no matter what for who they are, not for what they do.

    My heart goes out to your friend…I know what those pain-filled days can be like with no end in sight. Sometimes it is then that really forces us to examine our lives, what we want, what’s truly important – not society’s expectations of us. He is very lucky to have you there to talk to in the middle of the night, so he doesn’t feel so alone. Isolation is something that is easy to do, and can cause us to disconnect from people and ourselves, especially when we are in pain. I was always afraid to join any support groups, afraid I would have to then be brave for other people too at times when I couldn’t handle my own pain. But, I’ve put some of that aside to reach out to those who suffer from chronic illnesses, and have found that I am more connected again to those around me, that I’m not alone, and what I’m going through isn’t something I have to do alone – that in sharing own pain instead of having to bear it alone I’m with someone who understands, and that gives me strength and comfort. I’m glad your friend has that in you. Know my love and positive energy goes out to him.

    Big hugs, to you and your friend.

    Faith, hope and love, Kathleen.

    • Jason Garner says:

      Thank you Kathleen. I think that is the greatest gift we can give each other — a reminder of our innate greatness. Big hugs of love – Jason

  4. Amazing words. Thanks Jason for this important reminder, spoke my heart and much needed, as going through a heartbreak, asking myself big questions and evaluating my choices. Love..

  5. Wow….this is a truly amazing post. I definitely learned from this one….I know what it’s like to have those pain-filled days….your friend is lucky to have someone like you. It’s hard for me most days but I keep trucking on. Big hugs of love

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