Tuesday, April 15, 2014

'tis a gift to have gifts

I've been thinking about gifts, the way each of us is gifted. In the New Testament, Paul talks about "spiritual" gifts, which are a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit, but clearly this idea doesn't apply just to Christians. Everyone has their gifts. There are several lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, including wisdom, knowledge, administration, preaching, teaching, healing, and so on. Some of them are even a little quirky--like the gift of mercy (is that why some people find it so hard to show mercy? they don't have that gift?), and my favorite, which the King James version translates as the gift of "helps."

Christian or not, those lists are hardly exhaustive. A few that are left out: music, visual arts, cooking, writing, crafts and needle work, design, encouragement, engineering, building, computer/technological expertise --there must be dozens more. The gift of humor. The gift of entertainment--you know how some people can mesmerize a crowd by telling stories of their college days? The gift of loyalty and support--the people who make you feel better just by being around them. Some people have the gift of adventure, both of going on wild, amazing adventures and also of making adventures out of everyday experiences. The gift of play, which I don't think I ever had.

One of the reasons I've put off writing this post is because there didn't seem to be any way to do it without saying what I think my own gifts are, and that's a little scary and embarrassing. But that's silly, so here goes. I think my gifts are writing, teaching adults, helps, and a side serving of knowledge. Also I can be a leader, but it's not a major strength of mine--it only comes to the fore when I'm in a group that doesn't have someone with stronger leadership skills.

The cool thing about this is that once you figure out what your gifts are, you can maximize your time and efforts. When you play to your strengths, not only do things go more smoothly, but you enjoy your work more, and you can avoid wasting time on things that are never going to work. It helps me understand why when I am in a group, people respond to the information I present (teaching) but not to my vision for what our group or their lives could be (preaching/exhortation). And why I am not the one who ends up organizing and delegating tasks (administration), or charting a course for the future (vision). And why years ago when I was in a women's spirituality group, it didn't work to change our leader every time we met--some people just don't have the gift of leadership.

It also helps me understand some situations I've been in. An example--a couple of years ago I was working on a project with a friend where we needed to present some information to a group. It wasn't until long after we finished the project that I figured out why we were having such a hard time agreeing on how the information should be presented. I think her gift is exhortation (inspiring people to bigger and better things in their lives), but my approach was from the standpoint of a teacher--how do we break this information down so that people can understand it? If we'd seen that earlier, it would have given us a blueprint for how we could mesh our different styles.

and for the record, having a gift and being proficient or good at it are not necessarily related. At least I don't think so. I'm a perpetual beginner in writing, learning more and more about it all the time. The more I learn the more I realize how much I don't know. but conversations with other people over the years have convinced me that most people don't have this need to write things down, to get thoughts and ideas out of my head and put them down in words. (I almost said "on paper" but when was the last time I wrote anything other than a grocery list on paper?)

When I started typing, this was a setup post for something else. But you know how often I never get around to the "next" post. we'll see.

So what about you? What are your gifts?


  1. I've got the gift of teaching and maybe even exhortation but absolutely nothing in the way of organization, tidiness or calm coping skills! I used to think as a student I was a gifted writer but I'm not. I just want to write and I have a long way to go to make any of it readable. Is empathy a gift or, in some ways, a curse? Because I have that in spades but it's nearly crippling at times like when a student tells me he feels mad at home because his dad shouts at his mom and he can't stop him.

    1. You know, I am a firm believer that only you can figure out what your gifts are, because it doesn't necessarily line up with what you're good at. But I have to say that I think you are a gifted writer--having read your blog for several years now, and also one of your WIPs. Just because you're still learning doesn't mean you're not gifted. My .02. Also, having a toddler is not the time to judge whether or not you have calm coping skills. The older my kids get, the calmer I am!! :-)

  2. I haven't a clue. Truly. No idea. Someone told me the other day that I was inspiring but she may have just confused this with me being loud.

    (Catching up, can ya tell?)

    Oh, Lora. One of your gifts IS writing!

    1. Yes, I would agree with inspiring. And also funny and entertaining. And you're the only person I know who can see past lives, that's a pretty amazing gift. In fact all of your extra-sensory perceptions qualify as gifts if you ask me. And you have the gift of listening-- like I told you last time we saw each other, people tell you things, things they would never say to me. Ask Dan about this, I bet he has more ideas.