A limitation is an act of limiting or restricting an activity or a person. It could also be defined as a shortcoming or a defect. The following are synonyms of a limitation: control, block, restraint, constraint, obstruction, impediment, weakness, disadvantage, flaw, drawback, snag, imperfection, and hold-down. What is holding you down or back, blocking, restraining, or impeding you from moving on in life to do what you really love to do? Do you have anything in your life that you consider a weakness, a disadvantage, flaw, drawback, or a snag? Don’t be swift to answer the above questions because every human born of a woman has some kind of limitation. But the crucial question is, is that limitation robbing you of your future, meaning in life, or happiness? A short poem by Edward Everett Hale, an American author, historian and Unitarian clergyman illustrates the inevitability of natural limitations but simultaneously urges us to do what is within our control. It reads:
I am only one, But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do
No matter what you do, there may be certain natural limitations and being overly anxious to change them may distract you from fulfilling your assignment in life. The 42nd President of the United States William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton once said, “You can put wings on a pig, but you don’t make it an eagle.” There are three kinds of limitations; natural, social, self-imposed. Natural limitations are the hand you have been dealt in life by nature e.g. Gender, geographical location, family, physical disabilities, etc. Social limitations are the ones people (including love ones) and society put on you; and Self-imposed limitations are the ones you put on yourself or accept to be true based on what someone or society have as a stereotype about you. All these may be perceived as limitations but they shouldn’t hold you down in life. See, you can’t change the cards that nature dealt you in life but you can determine how to play it out and win in life. Someone once said, “Know your limits, but never accept them.” Never accept the hurdles people or society put on your way but it is wise to recognize them while you endeavor to leap over them. Scriptures say, “Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God,” (1 John 5:4, Message Translation). The faith you have in God is what helps you to overcome all your limitations in life.
You are an overcomer, nothing can stop you in life except you. That is why self-imposed limitations could be the worst of all limitations. If society or someone try to restrain you, it could be challenging but feasible to take off you; however, it is extremely difficult to take off a limitation that is self-imposed. Oftentimes, this becomes the root of low self-esteem, self-confidence, and eventually envy. It is very dishearten to say that most people with incredible potentials, gifts, and talents to change our world are living in a state of “arrested development” owning to what a parent, a friend, a “man or woman of God,” society, or a teacher said to them. Others are also leaving their lives to prove someone wrong; hence, they find themselves derailed from their true purpose or assignment in life. But I came to announce to you that “whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world,” you are born of God, and therefore, you are an overcomer. Don’t just settle for less; don’t short change your destiny because of someone’s opinion. Whatever they said was their opinion, the only opinion that matter is your Creator’s (God). The last time I checked, He said “you are more than a conqueror through Him,” and “you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Your prayer should be “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Sidney Poitier, born prematurely and was not expected to survive in Miami, Florida, in Coconut Grove, to his Bahamian parents, Evelyn (née Outten) and Reginald James Poitier. His poor parents who traveled from Cat Island, the Bahamas, then a British colony to sell tomatoes and other produce from their farm in Miami, Florida, had no choice than to remain three months in Miami to nurse him to health after his birth. Being born in Miami, Florida, afforded Sidney automatic right of becoming a U.S. citizen. At the age of 15, his parents living in abject poverty with no access to running water or electricity came to the conclusion that for their son to experience life on another level, he has to change his environment and outlook. As a result, they sent Sidney to seek a greener pasture in the United States with basically no formal education at the age of 15.
Initially, he went to live with his older brother in Miami, Florida, but with segregation and racism having a grip on the southern part of the country including Florida, he decided to move to New York where he could find a conducive and friendly environment to stay and work as a young black man. Sidney subsequently, left to New York with only $3 in his pocket. Upon his arrival, having seen an ad seeking actors for the American Negro Theatre, he answered the call. But his hope to become an actor was dashed into fragments when he flubbed his lines and spoke in a thick Caribbean accent, and the director told him, “Stop wasting your time, get a job as a dishwasher!”
On that day, Sidney made a conscious choice not to allow the opinion of the director to become his reality; therefore, he resolved to confront his limitations by improving himself and making himself more valuable in life. For the next year and over, Sidney started reading avidly and also mimicking American newscasters in order to lose his accent as well as working in exchange for acting lessons. It was Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States who said, “Do what you can, with what you have,where you are.” Saint Francis of Assisi also said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Sidney did all that was necessary, then all that was possible and before long, the limitations society put on him that a black person with an accent can’t succeed in acting was overturned and the same people who rejected him ended up celebrating him.
Sidney eventually returned to the American Negro Theatre company after months of refining his talent and preparation, and finally landed a role in Days of Our Youth. Someone once said “Limits exist only in the mind.” Because Sidney Poitier was willing to confront his limitations by changing his paradigm about life and himself, he made history by becoming the first male black actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award and also the first black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. Poitier directed several successful films; he served as a Member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company from 1998 to 2003. He was appointed Ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan in April 1997, a position he currently holds and the Ambassador of the Bahamas to UNESCO. He has won over sixteen prestigious awards including the enviable Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
There is no telling of the heights you could reach in life, not even you know what can become of you, if you will dare to confront your limitations and endeavor to do all that it takes to get yourself out of the limitations of the past by implementing the following suggestive steps:
- RECOGNIZE YOU ARE NOT ALONE – They that are for you are more than they that are against you and there is more to you than meet the eye. You have to come to the realization that you have a friend (God) looking out for you in “high place.” Helen Adams Keller, American author, political activist, and lecturer, who was deafblind said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” He promised to be with you always, even to the end of the age. Scriptures say, “Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” (Micah 7:8, NLT).
- ACKNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE GREATNESS IN YOU – Sitting inside of you is the power to make the world a better place and to demonstrate the goodness, greatness, mercy, and the glory of God to the world despite your limitations. The bible says “He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched that’ve been thrown out with the trash, Seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best. He gives childless couples a family, gives them joy as the parents of children. Hallelujah!” (Psalms 113:7-9, MSG). Therefore, don’t make the mistake of believing people’s opinion of you because none of them including your love ones can tell who you truly are. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us,” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
- BELIEVE IN GOD’S GRACE AND CALL ON HIM – Grace is the unmerited favor of God that can pick you up from the back of the crowd and place you in the front effortlessly. The bible says, “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT). In spite of all his limitations, Jesus Christ finished well in life and with this experience, he qualifies to empathize with your limitations; hence, he says, “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you know not” (Jeremiah 33:3, American King James Version).
- DECLARE WHAT YOU EXPECT NOT WHAT YOU SEE – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]” (Proverbs 18:21, AMP). Refrain from confessing the limitations you see or feel irrespective of your situation. The biblical character Jabez didn’t confess his situation nor blame his mother for his limitations and predicaments but he declared what he expects from God by saying, “Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection, don’t let evil hurt me” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10, MSG). In other words, Jabez said, “O God empower me to confront and break free from these limitations my mother and society have imposed on me,” and scriptures say “God gave him what he asked.” What are you asking God? Are you blaming people, systems, governments, etc. instead of confessing that God has empowered (blessed) you to confront your limitations and break free from them? Are you whining or praying? See, God only responds to prayers backed by his principles (Word), not complaint and accusations.
- CHANGE YOUR PARADIGM – Most of our struggles and battles are in our minds; hence, to truly confront your limitations in life, you have to change the way you think, do things differently and change your environment. German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics, Albert Einstein argued that “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” A Koi fish when put in a fish bowl will only grow up to three inches but when this same fish is placed in a large tank, it will grow to about nine inches long. In a pond, koi can reach lengths of eighteen inches. Amazingly, when placed in a lake, koi can grow to three feet long. This principle is true; you are limited by how you see the world.
Motivational speakers say the sky is the limit but God says, there is no limit to what you can become or do. Remember, you are supposed to reflect the image and likeness of God. All the tests, stop-watches, and finish lines in the world can’t measure the potential, abilities, and gifts residing deep within the recesses of your spirit. The potential that exists within you is limitless and largely untapped. When you think of limits, you create them. American Writer, author of ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull,’ Richard Bach advised that, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” Most of us spent countless and precious times worrying, whining, blaming, and arguing the reasons why we are limited, instead of utilizing those moments to meditate on the promises and possibilities of the Word of God to get us from our limitations.
The man in the New Testament book of John 5:1-9, who laid 38 years by the pool was more interested in complaining, whining, and blaming the system than confronting and breaking free from his limitations. When Christ inquired of him, “Do you want to be made well?” his response was, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus didn’t ask him, “who did this to you?” or “why are you here?” but he kept arguing his limitations until Jesus through his mercy said, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” It is my sincere prayer that God would give you the strength, boldness, courage, and wisdom required to confront and break free from any limitation placed on you by your love ones, society, or yourself and to truly acknowledge that he who created and called you is faithful, and he would also see you through. You are blessed!