There are people who claim that weakness is a crime. Weakness – defined as physical or mental breakdown, as a lack of physical strength or adverse property. Also as a liking or special preference for something.
Is that so? Is weakness a crime?
Well quoted is half known
Right at the beginning of my training at the Deutsche Sport Akademie there was a web-based training to familiarize me to the fitness market. During the training you could do a quiz show to check your knowledge or to impart further knowledge. There I came across a quotation. One should mark the beginning “Weakness is a crime…” with the matching end.
Weakness is a crime
Of course, I had no idea. Until then I knew neither about strength sports nor about its famous personalities in depth.
By the question in the quiz I learned about Bernard Adolphus MacFadden, known as Bernarr Macfadden. Unfortunately not personally, because he lived from 1868 to 1955. His life was obviously not easy. As a sickly and weak child he became an orphan at the age of eleven. After he was passed around between different relatives, he ended up on a farm. The physical work he had to do on the farm made him big and strong. Unfortunately, he lost his newly gained muscle power a few years later. He exchanged his work in the woods and fields for a job in the office. The lack of exercise led – then as now – to muscle loss and new diseases. This prompted MacFadden to buy his first dumbbells. In addition to his daily strength training, he also underwent endurance training, walking 10 kilometres every day.
Bernarr Macfadden had a distinguished career in the fitness sector. He wrote magazines and books, opened studios and even – as a convinced vegetarian – a purely vegetarian restaurant. At that time, in 1902, it was already revolutionary in America.
The fact that he has eight children from four marriages also shows that this man led a very eventful life.
Don´t be a criminal
That was the motto of the famous pioneer of today’s fitness culture
Weakness is a crime.Bernarr Macfadden
Don´t be a criminal.
No, I don’t want to be a criminal. I, who don’t even cross the traffic light at red.
Honestly, this quote annoyed me quite a bit when I first read it. So much that I even dedicate a blog post to the statement now. Because, is it really a crime to be weak?
Weakness & crime – the definitions
In the Duden, the famous German dictionary, the word weakness has many meanings. Most of them have negative connotations. On the one side, weakness is used to describe a lack of physical strength or a lack of physical functionality. On the other side as character, moral imperfection or as disadvantageous quality, as lack of a thing. But weakness also means a special preference to have a special inclination for something. Which, in principle, is not to be regarded so negatively.
A crime is, also according to the Duden, a despicable atrocity, a reprehensible and irresponsible act. A violation of the law or the basic rules of human coexistence.
Are we all weak criminals?
I have often asked myself what Bernarr Macfadden wanted to tell us with his motto. “Weakness is a crime. Don’t be a criminal.”
Is lack of physical strength a despicable atrocity? Or is it a violation of the basic rules of human coexistence to have an imperfection of character?
If you look at Macfadden’s biography, you see a determined, physically and mentally strong man who lived his life authentically. And not only did he stick to it himself, but also tried to bring his lifestyle closer to others through publications, founding his own studios and schools, and a variety of other activities. He is even said to have founded his own religion “Cosmotarianism”. Based on the Bible, one had to love not only one’s neighbor, but also one’s own health.
Is it a crime to be weak?
The longer I deal with the topic, the more facets I recognize in the statement.
Above all, I think one aspect is extremely important: weakness is not the same as weakness.
I think Bernarr Macfadden himself overdid it. You could say he had a weakness for himself.
However, I can basically support his intentions, because physical activity has many advantages: it stimulates blood circulation, the body is better supplied with oxygen and the immune system is improved. Not to mention the release of happiness hormones and the reduction of stress hormones.
Physical activity makes and keeps us healthier, which can counteract the lack of physical functionality. Not to forget the build-up of strength, which always goes hand in hand with sporting activity in one way or another.
But whether you have a lot or little power, are strong or less strong – this is certainly not a despicable atrocity.
Weakness of character
Is it then perhaps a crime to be flawed in character? To have a defect, not to be perfect?
Bernarr Macfadden seems to have been a very strong man. Probably someone who didn’t even let himself get away with anything. (Which may not necessarily be a strength, though.)
Very sensitive people are often described as weak. However, it is only the inner strength that makes it possible for us to show our feelings openly. This would imply that an emotional person is not weak at all, but rather stronger than the supposedly persevering strong one.
In training seminars on personality development, one takes an ingenious move: weaknesses are redefined – into development potentials. And then the whole thing sounds much more positive. For would anyone ever claim that development potentials are a violation of the basic rules of human coexistence? No, probably not.
The balance has it all
As already mentioned, Macfadden’s provocative quotation can be interpreted in many ways.
I think, as with everything in life, balance is in demand here. The balance between weakness and strength. Between soft and hard. Between allowing exceptions and standing through.
When it is a question of health preservation, I am all on Bernarr Macfadden’s side. If you are continuously weak here, it is a clearly reprehensible and irresponsible act, a crime against your own body. Of course, this also includes the constant work on and with one’s own body through physical activity. Not primarily to build up physical strength, but for the sake of health and psychological strength.
If it concerns the mental weakness, the development potentials, I think that you are by no means a criminal if you are weak. Rather, it is a sign of strength to stand by and work on the supposed weaknesses.
And last but not least it is a matter of perspective what should be interpreted as character weakness and what as character strength. So a character attribute can always be positive or negative. A stubborn person, for example, can also be described as determined and strong-willed.
Weakness is a crime
However, weakness is a crime when it is left out on others. For example, to even weaker ones such as children or animals. This is really a despicable atrocity. And often also a violation of the legal system or the basic rules of human coexistence.
My conclusion – Yin and Yang
Bernarr Macfadden was a clever man. In conclusion, I can’t say if I would stand behind his statement.
In any case, I am no longer so angry about the challenging statement. In some points I could even agree with Macfadden. And I am grateful that he made me think about all the many facets of weakness.
That’s why it follows the good old yin and yang principle. As long as nobody gets harmed, keep both strength and weakness. Two powers that alternately dominate and should also dominate. Only those who live a balanced life will be happy.
And if you also work on yourself – on your strength or on your (character) weakness aka development potential: I wish you much success!