Some Barriers to Discovering our Giftedness

Book / Produced by Individual TOW Project member
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Doing the above autobiographical exercise and making your own analysis will be easier for some than others. Many of us, for a number of reasons, have lost touch with our sense of what we really enjoy. It seems incredible to say that, and yet it can easily happen. Here are some reasons…

We have pursued interests and developed skills according to early influences on us.

Our parents, teachers and other significant people gave us messages that had some degree of bias:

  • The mum or dad who wants a child to succeed to the family business... It’s all too easy for parents to selectively encourage their child whenever he or she shows any relevant talent or gifting – and at the same time to ignore or neglect those talents/gifts that don’t fit the mould, even if they are stronger.
  • The mum or dad who wants a “chip off the old block”… In the same way, parents may selectively encourage the interests in their child that match their own, ignoring those that don’t.
  • Caregivers can easily have biases about what is a good job and what isn’t, with no regard for “fit” between a person and a job.
  • The mum or dad who missed out. Dad wanted to be a pilot, but never received the encouragement or resources. Now he is encouraging his son to do so, fulfilling his own ambition rather than his son’s.

This is not to say that as a parent or teacher you should not provide any kind of encouragement or guidance for your children. You should certainly help them find their talents and interests. But you should also be aware of your own biases. You need to learn to “read” your children. The key positive response to look for is enthusiasm. What is it that your child loves to do?

We have received messages that undermine the value of those things we really enjoy:

  • The child wants to do creative “work with their hands”, but Mum and Dad think the real money is to be made in working with figures or computers. So they’re steered away from natural interests.
  • Or the opposite. Children sometimes positively want to follow in their parent’s footsteps, but all Mum and Dad can see are the obstacles that they themselves faced along the way, or their own disillusionment. So they try to discourage their child.

We have been influenced by stereotypes:

  • The woman who has an administration or leadership strength … but she chooses to ignore this because she has been taught or believes that leadership is a man’s job.
  • The man who wants to work with children … but is afraid of being ridiculed for taking on a “nurturing” role.
  • “All lawyers are money-grabbers” … so a young woman steers away from a career she could have made a difference in.

We have developed competence in areas that don’t necessarily match our own desires.

In conscientiously rising to meet a certain need we have developed areas of competence that we become known for. Before too long we find ourselves being type-cast into certain jobs, just because we showed we could do them:

  • Like the woman who takes on the job of treasurer for an organisation when she really longs to be involved in training volunteers… She is competent at handling the finances but she really wants to be involved elsewhere. Even when she joins other organisations she finds herself asked to offer her services as treasurer.
  • Or the young father who regularly solves technical and computer problems for his friends, but really wants to be outdoors doing something physical.

What others think takes on too much importance:

  • Some people have been raised to believe we should defer to others for all our major decisions. They surrender the responsibility of their own life to those who they think will know better than they do. While others often have helpful advice and information for us, this should be weighed up against what God has revealed to us about who we really are and what we can do with our lives.
  • We can become so caught up in what others want of us that we lose sight of what we enjoy.

We have bought into the belief that if it feels good there is no sacrifice on our part:

  • Enjoyment has had a “bad rap” with some Christians. They think that the less they like something, the more they should do it – so they will grow in obedience and submission.

The truth is that any job/role/career will bring challenges and demands that stretch us to new growth. Yet if we enjoy what we do, we would be able to so much more effectively express who we are, and grow spiritually at the same time. Yes, there are times when we need to do tasks which don’t particularly match our Fit. Does it make us more spiritual if most of our life seems taken up with these roles? Absolutely not. God has made us for a purpose. A car manufacturer doesn’t design a heavy duty 4WD for use on sealed roads – though it will drive perfectly well on them. It’s built for the off-road. That’s where its unique design will most find expression. So it is with us.

So it’s important to:

  • Relish those activities that you really enjoy, that energise you, and that you find fulfilment in.
  • Look for clues. As a child what activities did you naturally gravitate towards? What was your favourite play activity, or a play activity that set you apart from most people? Examining your play activities is a good place to start because it usually points to what it was you loved to do and may be a good indication of your own longings. There’s another reason for looking at your childhood. Parents didn’t always associate your play choices with a likely future career and were more likely to leave you to do what you excelled in.
  • Identify the voices that try to influence you, and ask God to help you sift them. Pay attention to what you thought or felt about a particular option, not what others thought. Realise it may take time. Sometimes we have made a lifetime habit of taking on activities, jobs, and even careers for the wrong reasons, some of which are listed above. It can take a while to re-connect to the person God created you to be. Commit your future direction and your searching to God, and trust that He will provide the clues you need to keep moving forward. Remember: “Don’t neglect the gift that is in you…”