A Lesson in Helplessness

There is something about physical suffering that brings forth the truth of our fragility and vulnerability.

Yesterday I felt very sick. Probably just a minor virus… it wasn’t even the most sick I had been in recent memory. But there was something about a persistent and intense throbbing headache coupled with the weakness of throwing up that in that moment just made me wish I could lose consciousness, if just to escape the physical suffering for a little while.

I tried relaxing and breathing deeply… I prayed… but it was hard to even hold a conscious thought when my head was throbbing that badly. At that time, my heart went out to all people who suffer from migraine, and to all who are suffering from physical pain.

Our human bodies are just that weak. We are, at our core, vulnerable beings. But we fear our weakness and run from it as if we could thus escape the reality of our identities. We race to build weapons of mass destruction so as to mask our fear. We build walls around our heart and praise the virtues of independence, self-reliance, and of freedom, thinking that the way to these virtues is by becoming invulnerable.

Yet there are those among us who accept their vulnerability and the weakness in others. Because they first believe that they are loved, they can see themselves for the powerless and flawed beings they are and revel in the glory of their nothingness because by becoming transparent, they can let the inner light of God’s love shine through them without hindrance. By embracing their nothingness, they find that they have everything. By ceasing to fight for independence, they realize that they are truly free!

For the root of our crazed pursuit of physical and emotional security through achievement, wealth and recognition is but the symptom of our diseased self-worth. Deep in our hearts we are overcome by fear. Fear that we are not loved. Fear that we are weak that we fear that we are not loved. Fear that rots our heart with guilt. And so we do a thousand and one things to assuage our fear. Ultimately, we deceive ourselves that we are unafraid, and that we can solve our problems. For some so hardened by pride and self-centredness, they may even choose to die rather than admit they cannot survive on their own.

True strength comes from within. The truly strong can both give and receive love without fear because they have accepted who they are, and because such acceptance enables them to accept others, no matter how broken they are. Those who have found this kind of genuine strength within them know that they were not the architects. They are strongest when they embrace their weakness!


Despite what I know, my pride still made it rather difficult for me to ask for help yesterday. I didn’t want to trouble anyone. I felt I should be strong enough to handle this on my own. But thankfully, the pain was sufficiently intense that I put such stupid thoughts aside and reached out in need.

For in my reaching out, I not only received the love and care that helped and comforted me, I gave others the opportunity to love me and so shine in their beauty. I am reminded that we are all weak so that in God and with each other we can become strong. It requires true humility to receive another person’s help. And sometimes, pain can call forth humility! :P

Ting & Mel, your presence last night calmed and comforted me even when you could not do anything to make me feel better. Thank you for the tissues, the hot water, the temple massage, the offer to bring me to the doctor, the ‘vomit bag’, and for buying dinner, crackers etc etc. I’m grateful to Calvin too for being on stand-by! :D You girls are just the sweetest and best housemates ever. *GIANT HUG*


  1. “We build walls around our heart and praise the virtues of independence, self-reliance, and of freedom, thinking that the way to these virtues is by becoming invulnerable.” — so touched~
    What you said reminds me of a chinese idiom “人是有思想的芦苇”
    Maybe we are strong and vulnerable at the same time. And maybe we shine when we are suffering. (Ok I think I’m not matured enough to say all this, but I kinda believe it now)
    I used to hope that I’ll be a transparent person, sorta like a prism that can let light shine in and out. It’s not easy. You feel naked when you are in the darkness. I feel like I should start building wall too so I won’t have to trouble friends around me to help me with everything.
    But looking at what you wrote, maybe I should think twice- before I try hard to become as invulnerable as possible.

  2. Your comment touches me, Phei Yee. :)

    More and more I’m believing that it’s very ok that we don’t have the final answer, because I think that God’s purpose is for us to discover ourselves and Him in the process itself. It’s not arriving at the destination that completes us, it is the journey that polishes us into that prism that can let light shine in and shine out.

    I do think that we are both strong and vulnerable at the same time. But in order to believe that embracing our vulnerability is the pathway to true strength, we have to first redefine ‘strength’.

    Ultimately we have to ask ourselves the questions, “what does it mean to be strong?” and “why do we really want to be strong?”

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