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December 23, 2011

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Beautiful, Whitney. I'd never thought of the parable of the talents quite that way before. I especially liked the line, "This Christmas, may we give that portion we cannot quite yet give.". Thanks for sharing this here, and I miss wreath making!

A beautiful post, Whitney. Thank you. The Parable of the Talents is new to me. (I am not surprised it comes from the lovely @terezan.)

You wrote, "Because my parents were often unavailable, I constantly struggle to shake the belief Heavenly Father won’t come through for me either. Consequently I spend much of my life angry with God."

My experience was similar - often unavailable parents who, when they were available, often pointed out my ineptitude and likely lack of talent. This made me angry with them (I'm not anymore), but not angry with God. I just thought (and I still do) that if He put me in those circumstances, then I would fix it all myself, through my own doing, and then someday, He and I just might have a talk about it.

I'd like to share my thoughts on the word 'talent," and the word often used as it's synonym - "gift." To me, using those words come with some danger. I take "talent" to mean "natural ability." I take "gift" to mean "talent" given by God (or the universe or by whatever force instills ability in us when we're born).

I grew up hearing these words all the time. Never referring to me (except for when it came to my one obvious skill - gymnastics). As I see it, the inherent problem with these words, especially when it comes to children, is that believing we do or may have talent or a gift in something can lead to all the maladaptive thoughts and actions described in Carol Dweck's book Mindset, which I blog at length about. These words fuel what Dweck calls the "fixed mindset" - which is precisely what keeps people from learning, growing, and developing skill.

I believe Mindset is one of the most important books we can read. i recommend it to you and your readers, especially those who are parents, teachers, and/or mentors.

Our focus, Dweck believes (and I agree) belongs on developing skills and abilities that are important to us - regardless of how much natural ability we have at them (which is impossible to quantify anyway). As her book makes very clear, the world is full of: 1) people who may have been born "talented" or "gifted" in something and made little of it - through their own inaction; and 2) people who don't seem to have been born with much "talent" or 'gift" in something who became quite skilled at that very thing - through their own efforts

So, in sum, I think "talent" and 'gift" often lead to misguidedness. Dweck's 20 years of research bears this out. The more instructive inquiry, according to Dweck, is more like ...

"What's important to me? What do I want to do? What skills do I need to learn so I can do that? What is the best way to go about learning skill? How much effort will it take? Am I here from the start to show everyone how good I am at it already, or am I here to learn?"

Many people don't know this one very important thing: that the process of learning skill is the same for all skills. That's what Daniel Coyle's book The Talent Code is all about (I blogged about it in my Jackson Pollack post).

When we want to learn something and continually improve at it, it's precisely the process Coyle writes about (i.e. deep practice) that makes it happen. And, happily, embracing this process is so beautifully consuming that it quiets our limiting thoughts.

All this said, I'm pleased to discover here The Parable of the Talents. Its essence is wresting the good from ourselves. I really admire your many efforts in encouraging and helping people do just that.

Merry Christmas, Whitney.

Susan

Thanks for this post Whitney--this really spoke to me because I have had similar feelings towards God. In fact, just last week, I feel I got an answer to a prayer I had been praying for 5 years now. And after a moment of excitement for receiving an answer, my thoughts automatically went to, "oh, I would love to go to this place, but God will probably make me go somewhere I really don't want to go and I will just have to make the best of it, so I won't even get my hopes up." Then my mind did a 180 and I had the thoughts of pitting my will against God, making sure that He knew that I was boss here and would be making my own decisions. Then again a 180 to the thoughts of " But why? Why don't you want to bless me? Why does everything have to be hard, don't you want me to be happy? Why won't you let me go ___.

As I write this, I realize just how crazy it all sounds.

But I've been thinking about talents and investing and with that in mind, thought I would share a scripture I came across in the BOM. "And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not." 3 Ne. 9:20.
I was thinking about how when we feel we are lacking, we need to "experiment on the word"--just try something very, very small and see what happens. In investing terms, I guess we put our "lack" in a bond or other low risk, low return investment, until we build a bit of a nest egg of assurances and then have the courage to invest a little more. The key though is in the verse above--God is often giving us return on our investments (our willingness to put our faith and trust in Him), but, like the Lamanites, we don't even recognize it. The baptism of fire and the holy ghost is taking place one cent at a time, a little interest compounded daily if we but look for the evidence.

So, because I find it hard to trust, I have been experimenting on this and each night before I go to bed, I review my day and write down a few things in a journal--evidences of how the Lord is investing in me and giving me gifts, obvious and not obvious. And on those days when I feel I can't trust Him or that He is giving me a stone, I open up that journal and read about all the small and simple ways He is blessing my life and how in often unnoticeable ways my heart is being changed.

Merry Christmas

First I want to know about the community wreath making. That just sounds like a lovely Christmas tradition we could do here.

Second the pictures you chose are beautiful.

But the best is the truth you speak and its refreshing perspective. I've told you this before but "Be Still and Know that I am God" is really my favorite scripture. It's in those moments of silence - and stillness - when I want to jump in a fix it all - when my brain wants to find several possible solutions - but if I just wait a few more seconds - and listen to the silence, I can find Him. Merry Christmas my blogger friend. I'm a pipeline girl now.

Teresa - Thank you for continually showing up, and sharing your thinking and ideas.

Bonnie -- Wreathmaking is a lovely tradition. It's been done in Belmont for decades. There's a brief program with music and talks, and then hundreds of women from the community head into the gym to make wreaths. And yes, thank you for sharing this advice of "Be Still" again. I love this -- listen in the silence, and I can find Him." Finally, I LOVE that you are a Pipeline Girl.

Jenny -- Thank you for carrying the investing analogy further, for your advice of recording each night evidences that you were invested in, and for such a warm, heartfelt response.

Susan - Thank you too for your honest response, and for your statement, "I thought that if I were in a tough circumstance, that I was just supposed to figure it out." You are now the 3rd or 4th person who has recommended Mindset to me. I even have the book. Your suggestion was timely too. I need to remember that if we love something, we will put in the work, and work trumps talent over and again. So important with my children as I try to get them to do what I think they should do.

Finally, I didn't know how this post would be received, pushing publish with some trepidation. Thank you for helping me see my concern was unfounded.

I think you're spot on in how we put our earthly parents personas & relationships to us onto G-d. Blessedly, I was given parents that were (almost) perfect for me so that quite positively impacted my relationship with G-d. However, even so, trust remains so hard. If I look back on my life I have NO reason NOT to trust Him - yet I always worry - if I don't nudge enough, maybe He'll think its not that important to me (like He doesn't already know!). For any other type of analysis, given the track record, I'd have a strong faith in future performance - tho of course it's not a given. Yet I don't apply that to my L-rd and Savior. Why? I have no clue - except perhaps that since I trust Him with the most important things/people in my life, the stakes are higher so my fear of 'failure' is higher.

The parable of the Talents is powerful. I often think of Salieri who was so jealous of Mozart's gifts, he neglected to use his own. I've also known people who are so gifted that they are paralyzed because instead of thinking they can use 1 or 2 at a time, they feel they must use all at all times. G-d has given us gifts, we are to use them - we are to trust Him that when He gives us the opportunities to use them, share them, we wont disappoint Him and will use them to His glory. And there's the kicker - I believe G-d gave us gifts and talents to be used to glorify Him, to cause Him joy - and as a byproduct, it makes a difference (positive) for others - but our audience is Him and Him only. If we try to please those around us, we are destined to fail.

So, the mantra of my life, learned/adopted/adapted from my parents and Judaism, is to Cause G-d Joy. I really try (and often don't' succeed) to be concerned about just Him - have I caused Him more joy today than not-joy? And you know, the wonderful gift He gives us is Grace & Mercy (hesed in Hebrew - combined, 1 word, not 2 words - interestingly enough). The L-rd delights in my just existing - in just being His - not in works - what a relief! what a gift....at Christmas and every day

Thank you for this wonderful, touching, honest post -

Just read this post--really, really moving--I love that idea that each of us has the 1 talent gift--that we bury instead of invest. Profound.

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About this blog

  • When I took a sabbatical from Wall Street to pursue a different dream and help others live theirs, I learned that women in the U.S. may be placated, even pampered, but because we aren't dreaming, we are also desperate and depressed. Drawing on a variety of sources, ranging from academic studies to pop culture, dare to dream encourages us to dream. And then to act on our dreams.

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