The Advantage of Disadvantages

The big dream in our society is that if we work hard enough, we will eventually be able to experience a life without limitations or difficulties. It is also one of the biggest sources of friction in our society, creating disappointment, unnecessary suffering, and missed opportunities to live a full life. Some people spend their entire life waiting for that which will never, and can never, happen.

Limitations are not necessarily negative. In fact, I’m beginning to believe that they can give life definition, clarity and freedom. We are called to a freedom of and in limitations—not from. ...Unrestricted water is a swamp—because it lacks restriction, it also lacks depth.

The conclusion we arrive at all depends upon how we look at our limitations. Consider this late-night phone call I received one night. The voice on the other end inquired with great enthusiasm: “What does it mean for a horse to be handicapped!”

She hadn't identified herself, but I knew who it was. Leigh is a very special friend, and we’ve been through much together. She not only suffers from severe cerebral palsy, but has faced other, sometimes even more severe, difficulties- like losing her family at an age too young. Her feistiness and tenacity are not only her hallmarks, but are a contagious influence on us all.

I responded to her question, “Well, Leigh, I’m not exactly into horse racing, but as far as I understand they usually handicap the strongest horse by adding a little extra weight to make the race more fair."

"Yeah, I know!”

The she asked: “What does it mean if you handicap a golfer?”

Well, Leigh- again, I’m not really sure. But as far as I understand the rules, they handicap the best in order to make the game more exciting. The better the golfer, the larger his handicap.”

“Yeah, I know. And what does it mean when a bowler is handicapped?”

After we explored a number of sports, always reaching the same conclusion, there was a rather long pause. Then she said, with bold simplicity. “That’s it!”

That’s what, Leigh?” I replied, not understanding.

“That’s it! That’s why God gave me such a big handicap.. because I’m so special!”

It was one of the finest statement for tenacious dignity in spite of circumstance that I have ever heard.

Tim Hansel, You Gotta Keep Dancin