Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Squandered Gifts

Perhaps I've been thinking about this in the context of my own life lately, but...

What happens when a person doesn't use their gifts and talents to their fullest advantage? Who suffers more -- the individual, or those they could influence and inspire? I feel it's a matter of personal responsibility to not only discover what your gifts are, but to also cultivate and exercise them to their highest impact.

Imagine if some of the great impactors of even the 20th Century hadn't realized their potential? Some have even been discussed here recently -- Churchill, Reverend King...what about Einstein or Gandhi?

Granted, this is sometimes easier said than done (that and, we can't all be great world leaders, alas). Some gifts we innately recognize, and some are discovered along the way -- sometimes with the help and gentle prodding of others who care enough to take the time to pull them out of us. It can also be an incredibly exciting time -- shifting your self-perception as you find out who you're meant to become (maybe this is a patently mid-20s experience, hopefully I'm wrong).

This was inspired by "The Incredibles," and who would have guessed such a relevant lesson would come out of a family-friendly Disney movie?

In the film (which, from an animation standpoint, is sublime), the protagonist Bill, aka Mr. Incredible, must keep his super-human strength a secret. Because of this, he's miserable, he's not firing on all cylinders. He's bored at work, distracted at home -- there's something missing in his life and he knows what it is. When he gets a chance to exercise his might (literally), he comes alive. He's a brand new man, a loving husband and doting father. He knows he's doing what he ought to be -- fighting crime and saving lives.

It is clear to see, in the case of one fictional, animated life, that putting one's talents to use makes life that much more worth living. Seems to me like it probably works that way in reality, too.


At 1:38 PM, Blogger Simon said...

Suze, that's uncanny! I was thinking about the very same thing myself. (Must get the Incredibles out now!)

I've noticed that in my work I tend towards stuff that I deem 'significant'. Not earth-shattering, but something that will make an impact on the world around me. I can't stand just doing stuff and not really know what it's going towards.

So I started to analyse myself and see whether any of this was coming from wrong motives. Am I actually an egotist, just liking work and surroundings that make me feel good?

Upon serious reflection, I don't think this is the case. Rather, I've discovered what I am good at (something not to be taken for granted!) and enjoy doing it - and I feel the rest of the world misses out when I miss out on fulfilling my potential.

This has been quite er, significant for me as a Christian, trying to reconcile my view with the Biblical image of humility. But what's to reconcile? Biblical humility is only ever an acknowledgement of reality, that we are very small, fickle creatures. It's a natural reaction when you realise how big God is (or if you don't believe in Him, just think about the universe).

So humility and ambition can go hand in hand. It's exciting - and this is another thing reinforced for me by The Gathering Storm - to play your role in history well.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Mark Daniels said...

I've not yet seen the movie that triggered your comments, but I think that what you say is absolutely right-on. Each of us comes into this world with a full complement of passions and predispositions. In addition, we all have experiences that whet our appetites for the development of our gifts, sharpen skill sets needed in the exercise of our gifts, and teach us how not to employ them. To not use our gifts is horribly unfulfilling and denies the world around us the benefits of our God-given mission in life.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Mark Daniels said...

By the way, I also agree with Simon that humility must go hand-in-hand with the use of our gifts. This is probably why the apostle Paul, in the New Testament, introduces one of his discussions of spiritual gifts this way:

"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith God has assigned." (Romans 12:3)

From there, Paul encourages his readers to exercise their gifts to the max.


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