Monday, March 23, 2009

Gifts, Talents, And Skills

During my meeting at the monastery on Saturday one of the things we talked about was gifts. Gifts are slightly different than talents or skills but all of these are closely related. In my mind a gift is something that you are born with. I believe, and other people have told me, that I have a gift for writing. I have never done anything to develop the talent or the skill of writing although I believe it has become a talent and a skill. It comes naturally and easily to me. I may never get rich writing and I may never be as good as Thomas Merton or Henry David Thoreau, but I am confident I will always be able to express myself well through writing and I know there are others who like what I say and how I say it. My basic gift of being able to write has developed into a talent and a skill. On the other hand, although I believe I also have a gift for appreciating and loving music, I have absolutely no talent or skill as a musician. I will never be able to play the guitar like Eric Clapton although with a little effort I might be able to write the lyrics to a song. I think gifts and talents are closely related. A gift is the inherent ability to do something. Talent is perhaps the development of a gift. Skills can be learned without necessarily have a gift or talent for something. For example, I have developed some skill with Microsoft Excel in my daily work. At the same time I don't really have a gift or special talent for things of a technical nature. My home computer is now down and I am helpless on my own to fix it. For that I will need the skill and talent of another person who I also hope has the gift of fixing computers for a minimal cost.

Beyond the gift of a talent or a skill that we might be able to do well, I think there is also the gift of who we are. Over the years I have learned much about who I am. There have been some psychological tools that have helped me. Through the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator I have learned that I am an introverted, intuitive person shaped more by personal values than other's rules, and that I am someone who likes my life to be as open as possible and not terribly restricted or driven by the clock. Through the Enneagram I have learned that I am a peacemaker who hates conflict and disharmony. I have learned that my very presence often makes others feel peaceful and safe. Who I am seems to have a calming influence on others. Finally, in the last year or so, through a program and book called "StrengthFinders" I have learned that my top five strengths as a person are empathy, intellection, connectedness, developing, and communication. I care about people, I am a thinker who can usually connect the dots to see the big picture, I like to develop people and my ability to communicate speaks for itself. All of this stuff together is who I am as a person when I am at my best. For others it will be a different assortment of traits and talents and skills. However, whenever any of us are our "true selves"...that version of ourselves most perfect and real...we are a gift to others.

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