In the children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle’s very relatable heroine Meg travels across the universe (several times) to save her family. Despite her fears and her belief that she is deeply unprepared, Meg faces each obstacle as it comes. She suffers for her efforts, and has to come face to face with her fears in order to save the little brother she so loves.
As Meg prepares to brave the terrible danger to save little Charles Wallace, she turns to her whimsical guides for reassurance and support. One of my favorite moments is this brief exchange between Meg and her whimsical guide, Mrs. Whatsit:
“Meg, I give you your faults.”
“My faults!” Meg cried. “But I’m always trying to get rid of my faults!”
“Yes,” Mrs. Whatsit said. “However, I think you’ll find they’ll come in very handy on Camazotz.”
Looking through a different lens
Many of the traits Meg perceived as faults turned out to be strengths in disguise. She is sensitive, smart, stubborn, and nonconformist. Her anger, and her sheer contrariness – the bane of her existence in many settings – turn out to be exactly what she needs to remain safe and strong in rescuing her father and brother. In the beginning of the story, Meg is relentlessly pressured to correct her faults. In the end, they turn out to be powerful assets.
Over the years, I have sat with many clients who feel fatally flawed, broken, or irreparably damaged because they struggle with anger, depression, anxiety, or low self-worth. So many fear that these faults they perceive mean they are ultimately unlovable, or that the abuse they suffered was truly deserved.
But here’s my big secret: What you see as faults, I see as fiercely strong protector parts dedicated to keeping you safe. In an abusive, chaotic, or otherwise unstable environment, your heart and mind will do whatever they can to help you get through. Sometimes that involves tapping into parts that society dislikes, such as angry parts, defensive parts, depressed parts, or stubborn parts.
Sometimes that even looks like developing protectors that push away the good things and people in your life. Sometimes clients sit down with parts that hate coming to therapy, that look for ways to push me away, or that will do anything to avoid looking at painful things. And you know what?
I am grateful for those parts.
Thank goodness for your “faults”
I am grateful for your angry protectors. I appreciate them for their fierceness and their dedication to protecting you from vulnerability. And I appreciate them for helping you stand strong in an environment that tried to knock you down.
I am grateful for your avoidant parts. You know, the ones that help you sidestep difficult conversations in order to minimize distress and tiptoe around conflict. I am grateful to them for helping you traverse the minefields. I am thankful that they can help you get to the other side just a little crispy instead of going up in a fireball.
I am grateful for your depressed and anxious parts. These are the parts that show you where the pain is. They push you to do everything you can to control your world and reduce your pain. I am also grateful to them for letting you know it’s time to get help.
I am grateful for your stubborn parts. The ones that dig their heels in, refuse to give in, and keep you from being pushed around by people with a vested interest in controlling you. They tell you when we are approaching a tender spot in therapy. They send up a warning flag to tread lightly. I am especially grateful to them for guarding your sore spots so diligently. (Even when that means they are secretly flipping me off behind the scenes for asking questions that get too close to those sore spots.)
A gift to yourself
It would feel a bit pompous for me to gift you your faults, but I wanted to express my gratitude to the parts of you that may be unsung heroes. Yes, those parts can become overzealous and cause challenges on their own. But the fact remains that even our “faults” have value, and without them we would not be.
I am grateful for your faults, and grateful for mine.
I wish you a peaceful, relaxing, and joyful Thanksgiving.