Hone Your Personality Strengths – A Pathway For A More Interesting Life

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 10 April 2016.
By John Abbate.


Keeping focus, finding a meaning to life, being creative, remaining engaged and growing, keeping faith in the self, in other people and in the notion that good will triumph—we depend on these and other strengths of personality for our enduring wellbeing. Dr Macnab sums up the theme of his address with the acronym GRACE: growth, reason, adaptation, creativity/community, and enjoyment.

Through the many demands, crises and traumas of life, our strengths are taxed, become drained. For some, this weakening is chronic. “People once full of energy, good intentions and interests lose contact with their strengths,” said Dr Macnab, “and they become so much less than they were or could have been.“ Some people regain or rebuild their lost or depleted strengths, while others fall into despondency and despair—“the weakness that refuses to be called weakness.”

The Bible exhorts us to “be strong”; perhaps that was once enough for people. In our own time, however, the task of finding strength cries for more detail. “Strength emerges from destructiveness and darkness,” said Dr Macnab. And there are other sources. Dr Macnab reminds us that strength is found in our interpersonal relationships, in times of quietness and solitude, as much as in times of strife and struggle. “Strength comes from sources embedded in life itself,” he said. “It is a given.”

George Vaillant wrote of strength as adaptation, highlighting examples of survival and the endurance of the human spirit in the worst circumstances imaginable. “It is not stress that kills us. It is effective adaptation to stress that permits us to live” (Adaptation to Life, 2012). Dr Macnab pleads for us to look for that adaptation and more, “to bring us into a creative, collaborative existence, where our life will be enhanced.”

William James spoke about religion as a force for healthy mindedness. “Religion in the shape of mind-cure gives to some of us serenity, moral poise, and happiness, and prevents certain forms of disease as well as science does, or even better in a certain class of persons.” (The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902)

“In all the noise of life, in times of turbulence and trauma, we need strength to stay alive,” said Dr Macnab. “Strength comes from the spiritual depths, from listening to your inner-self, caring for others, and being alert to life’s best purpose, for which we are all agents and ambassadors.”

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