“We are a desperate mix of both brilliance and brokenness, and the one is often linked to the other.”
In the superhero genre’, most of us are familiar with Superman. You know, the lowly Clark Kent, working as a reporter for the newspaper, with his main squeeze, Lois Lane. But when trouble strikes, he quickly sheds (or shreds) his shirt to reveal his true identity, a huge “S” emblazoned on his muscular chest. Superman to the rescue!
It’s part of what we love about superheroes. If you follow the arc of most superhero stories, it comes down to a surprisingly similar plot and three main characters: The hero, the villain, and the innocent. The villain has a nefarious plan to control, destroy, or otherwise injure the innocent. The hero fights the villain to bring an end to his (or her) heinous plot. And typically, the hero wins, the villain is defeated, and the innocent are spared.
But, inevitably, at some point in the story, it looks like the hero will be thwarted in their attempts to stop the villain.
For Superman, that thwarting is known as Kryptonite. You remember, the mythical alien mineral that deprives him of his superpowers. Suddenly, he’s not just weak, he’s super weak. Not only is he unable to save the world, he can’t even seem to stand up. Long term, if he doesn’t do something about it, it’ll kill him.
We’ve all got our own version of Kryptonite.
Kryptonite is defined as “something that can seriously weaken or harm a particular person or thing.” When I talk about Kryptonite, I’m talking about something that is both harmful to us…and others. Something that can take our superpowers and turn them into something not so good. In my last post, I talked about the reality that we’ve all got superpowers, gifts given to us by God to use for good in this world. But just as we have certain strengths, we have certain weaknesses too.
And often the two are linked.
Here’s what I mean. Often your greatest strength can become your greatest weakness, your Kryptonite, if you’re not careful. For instance, if God has given you the gift for making a lot of money, you can use that gift to be generous and change the world, or you can use that gift to be selfish and better your own little world.
If you have the gift of teaching, you can use that gift to strengthen and encourage others, or you can use it to belittle and berate others who disagree with you. If you have the gift of prophecy, you can use that gift to lovingly call someone to repentance, or you can use it to judge someone, creating condemnation and shame. If you have the gift of hospitality and serving, you can use that gift to bless others, or you can use that gift with the expectation of appreciation or reciprocation, and become angry or bitter when you don’t get it.
Let me bring it a little closer to home. My own version of Kryptonite.
- I’ve got the gift of communication. I can use that gift to teach people the way of Christ. Or I can use it to be spiritually abusive and coerce and manipulate people.
- I’m an inspirational and persuasive speaker. I can use that to provoke people to love and good works. Or I can use it to further my personal agenda and/or spin the truth.
- I’ve got a winsome and engaging personality. I can use that to connect with and refresh people. Or I can use it to charm and seduce people.
You see the problem. My brilliance is also potentially my brokenness.
The hero becomes the villain.
There’s another plotline I’ve seen in recent superhero movies. The superhero becomes disillusioned, disappointed, even cynical because of the seeming never-ending fight against evil. The bad guy gets the girl. Or the glory. The hero is unappreciated. And suddenly, the superhero decides to use his or her superpowers for themselves. The superhero is now the supervillain.
So how do we fight against Kryptonite? How do keep our brokenness from invading the glory of our brilliance?
Two words: humility and accountability.
I know, you thought I was going to say “Holy Spirit,” right? Well in truth, it’s gonna take the power of the Holy Spirit for us to engage these two disciplines. Let’s face it, neither of them comes naturally to us. The very nature of power (even God-given superpowers) lends itself to narcissism and individualism.
Whatever power God has given to us can be used for good or evil. It’s sobering. Sometimes it scares me to death. Because, quite frankly, there’ve been times where I’ve used God-given power to benefit me instead of others. To draw others into temptation and sin, instead of rescuing them from evil.
God help me.
So here’s what I continue to learn about doing battle with Kryptonite.
First humility. Humility recognizes that any gift I have, any good thing that I manage to do is by the grace of God. I love the way John the Baptist put it. “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27-28, NIV) This was in the context of people asking him how he felt about Jesus and His disciples growing in popularity, while his diminished. He recognized that any power he had, any gift he possessed, any fame he experienced, was by the grace of God, for the glory of God…and temporary. Not long after, John was executed.
Power, gifts, and any measure of fame are given by God and are temporary. So we’d best use them to benefit others now.
Second, accountability. Accountability means that I allow others to speak into my life. More than that. I invite them to speak into my life. If someone sees red flags, if someone sees me going “off the rails”, I need them to say so. I want them to call me out. Why? Because all of us have blind spots, often associated with our strongest giftings, and we typically can’t see when we might be using them in a self-serving way. (Or we don’t want to acknowledge it anyway.)
So I need other people that love me to talk to me, to hold me accountable. This is part of what it means to love someone well. Paul equated accountability with fulfilling the law of love, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-, NIV) Gentle, caring accountability is the way of Christ, the way of love.
So don’t let your greatest strength become your Kryptonite. Remain humble, recognizing everything you have is a gift from God. And invite other safe people to speak into your life.
Don’t become a supervillain.