Monday, February 18, 2013

Downplaying your gifts hurts others

It seems so humble to shake off compliments of our work with, "Oh, that's nothing."

When someone speaks highly of what we did, we often feel as if our Christian duty is to downplay achievements and abilities.

We believe that in doing so, we are not placing ourselves above others and living with humility. It is for the benefit of others that we don't accept and acknowledge our gifts. Except it's not.

In reality, we offend the Giver of the gifts, cultivate false humility in our lives, and hurt our relationship with others. This was never more evident to me than a recent interaction with my son over school work.

Just because painting may come easy to you,
does not mean it will be similar for others.
Being a writer, reading to my children and generally have a very literate and well-read house, it came as a surprise to me to hear my oldest son's teacher talk about his struggles with motivation for writing at school. She went through how far ahead of schedule he was on his understanding and application of math, but he just didn't seem to enjoy writing.

Not long after that, he had a writing assignment from school that he did not finish during the class time, so he had to finish it at home. Believing that he was simply being absent-minded I scolded him over his inability to manage his time and write what he was told.

We went around and around over his not writing. He finally broke down in tears, revealing his needs, but also my insensitivity to his struggles and different gifting. He, at least at this point, needed help with prompts to help initiate his writing.

Once I sat down and listened to him talk about why it was he wasn't writing, I was able to help him think through some things that could help him get started and finish his work.

Writing is and has as long as I can remember come easy to me. It is a gift of mine that I enjoy.

God has blessed me with that ability, but for so long I spent my life speaking as if it was insignificant. Writing, I told myself, was just putting words on a page. Anyone can do that. It came easy to me, so it must come easy to everyone else.

Obviously, that's not the case. I can write. You can do things that I cannot do. Math and cooking come to mind as abilities that do not come naturally to me.

Each of us has been gifted differently by our creative Creator. He enjoys the diversity within His creation. It is his intention to have people with vastly different abilities and skills serve Him through those various means.

When you downplay the giftedness you have, however, you begin to assume that others should be able to do those things as easily and as well as you. Like my son with writing, you get frustrated that the other person struggles with something you find so easy. It can be your child, your friend, your coworker or your spouse.

For so long you have looked at your gift as if it was nothing special, with the intention of trying to cultivate humility. Instead, you have cultivated frustration and anger within your relationships, by holding others to a standard to which they were never meant to live up.

Albert Einstein is purported to have said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Whether the scientific mastermind actually said it or not, the statement still contains truth. I cannot judge my son on whether he can write like me. God has gifted him in his own unique way.

You have your own special gifts, but when you downplay them you wrongly teach yourself that others should be able to do all that you can as easily as you can. You are only setting up them for failure and the relationship for trouble.

Real humility can acknowledge, without pride, a personal gift or achievement, while never doing so at the expense of others.

Recognize your gifts. Respects the gifts of others. Do both in reverence to the Giver of all good gifts.

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