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Capacity and Ability


There are two terms that I love using with my clients: "capacity" and "ability." A cup can only hold so much fluid before it overflows and exceeds its capacity.


A coffee cup has the ability to contain hot fluids, but a water glass might break from the heat. They both might have the same capacity, but they don't have the ability to do the same thing.


When dating, you might look at someone and think they have both capacity and ability to meet your needs. So you test their ability to to respond, their willingness to give, and you listen to their dreams, wishes, and desires to do more. People naturally want to be seen as better than they are, to have more capacity than they do, and that they are more capable (ability) than they truly possess. That's just human nature. Your responsibility is knowing what you are looking for first. Then go find the cup that matches your needs.


One person may express they may want to be a gallon bottle, but later you realize they only have the capacity of a shot glass. They have not learned how to increase capacity and have very limited usefulness. They become easily frustrated when people try to change them into something other than what they are.


Some people have cups that were damaged in their youth and now their cups are riddled with holes. The more you pour into them, the harder you have to work to keep their cup full. When two people get together with damaged cups frustration can occur when neither cup is filled, and they see the other as the problem.


When you can understand the limitations of capacity and that people were designed with specific abilities developed for a specific purpose and you help them utilize those gifts, it's a beautiful thing. When you don't understand a person's unique capacity and assist them in developing their skills to increase ability, you will both be frustrated and discouraged.


You cannot change someone else's cup, but you can change your own. There are things you can do to increase your own capacity and ability. You can begin to recognize what your capacity is, what limits your ability to hold more (holes, design), and what abilities do you need to improve upon? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:


Do you spend more time focused on the limitations of others and avoid your own flaws (judgement)?

Do you pour into other cups and neglect pouring into your own (self-care)?

Do you see the holes in others and take responsibility to fix them (codependent)?

Do you deflect, defend, and avoid confrontation so you don't have to work on yourself.


If you fall into any or all of these categories, you might have experienced relationships like this:


A wife gets angry at her husband because he says he doesn't have the capacity to hold all the stress of work and her problems as well.

A husband blames his wife for his own lack of self-care because she needs him to pour into her cup when she can't do it herself.

A woman gets angry at all the men she's met because they can't give her what she wants, and she can't get them to fill her cup the way she wants them to.

A man is angry at all the women who fail to meet his needs and doesn't recognize the holes in his cup they will never be able to repair.


The long and the short of it is you must first know what your own capacity is and what you are designed to accomplish through learned and natural abilities. Repair any chips or holes in your own cup first. Then you can go looking for someone who also has learned their own capacity and abilities are and is willing to share space and time with you without needing you (or them) to meet an unrealistic expectation.



14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God

without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”

Philippians 2: 14-15

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