Strong Enough to Be Weak: A lesson in Emotional Intelligence…from my Dad

June 26, 2023


by Rodney C Burris

I remember the conversation vividly. 

My dad set there in the truck, looked at me and said, “you are strong enough to be weak.” I was like, “what?” He said it again: 

“You are strong enough to be weak.” 

Although I didn’t understand at the time, the conversation between us that followed was about to become one of the most impactful lessons on emotional intelligence that I would ever encounter in my life. 

You see, my dad was trying to tell me this one thing: that for all of his life he had learned to be stern. Hard. Tough. Rigid. Unbending. And it served him well throughout his life as a boxer and as construction worker-turned-company-owner. And yet, this trait was also the main reason why he found himself in several street fights, in and out of prisons, and with a string of not-so-happy relationships. 

His strengths were also his greatest weakness.

In his own words, he “was strong enough to be strong, but not strong enough to allow himself to be weak.” And somehow, he was trying to — in the best way he knew how — convey to me that he was Proud of me…for being like him, yet being different from him.  

He was saying that at a young age (I was in my 20s at the time), I seemed to understand enough about life, myself, and my-sense-of-self to feel confident enough to feel feelings, and express emotions, and most importantly, that I made others around me comfortable enough to do the same. He said, “you are strong enough to even appear weak.”

In that moment he used the imagery of the Palm tree and the Oak tree.

Both of these trees found themselves in the midst of a great storm doing their best to weather it. Every time the gales blew and switched directions the Palm found itself bowed to the ground, giving in to the gusts and whipping rain. Meanwhile, the mighty Oak, robust and strong, withstood it all, unflinchingly throughout the night. In the morning, the green fronds of the Palm, shiny from the powerful rinsing rain, adorned the body of the palm in the sunlight. The mighty, sturdy, unbendable body of that grand Oak lay prone on the ground beside it.

Both had the strength to withstand that storm.  

But only one of them also had the emotional intelligence… 

  … to be weak enough to actually weather it. 

Lessons from My Dad. 

Rodney C Burris is one of the Nation’s Top Trainers on Emotional Intelligence!
Raised in the inner cities of Baltimore and Jacksonville, Rodney is the son of a hardworking single mother.
Because his father often battled substance abuse, the family spent time in a homeless shelter and endured poverty and domestic abuse.
Despite this adversity, Rodney still earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The Johns Hopkins University and a master’s in Nonprofit Management from Capella University.
Rodney has assisted numerous companies with team-building, communication, data evaluation and program development. His workshops and seminars are among the most popular in the United States and abroad. Some of his previous clients include Fiat-Chrysler Corporation, the Federal Department of Education, and the Washington DC Business District. His book on emotional intelligence is a number one best seller in three categories across Amazon.
As Rodney always says, “LET ME HELP YOUR TEAM OVER ACHIEVE!”
@RodneyCBurris (all platforms)

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