On Giftedness

If I may, I would like to offer a thought or two on the term gifted, meaning the possession of an exceptional natural talent or ability. With this definition gifted is a relative rather than an absolute measure. It can be applied to any talent or ability. There are not gifted and ungifted people, for we all possess an amalgamation of talents and abilities. We all have gifts. But our hearts are particular. And it is the heart that fires the passion, motivation, and the indefatigable persistence of effort needed to manifest a gift into an extraordinary ability. There is, however, more to this story. While a person may develop an exceptional ability, say as a virtuoso violinist, they may yet struggle with the less musical aspects of life where others may not. I would like to place emphasis upon this point and add another using a brief anecdote:

The Traveller

A knowledgable traveller who had spent a lifetime in study was on a journey to offer wisdom to the eager students at a prestigious place of learning. The traveller was walking along and pondering the age old questions when he came to a river he needed to cross. A hard rain had fallen and to the traveller’s surprise the bridge had been washed away. The river was swollen and turbulent. Looking up and down the riverbank the traveller spied a villager unfastening a boat from the shore, preparing to carry a load of stranded passengers across the river. The boat was full, and the traveller asked the villager to return and take him across. The villager agreed even though the water was rough and the crossing dangerous. After leaving the passengers on the far bank the villager returned and helped the traveller into the boat. They began the crossing and the traveller sought to reveal to the villager the great depth of his knowledge. The villager was impressed but said little as the water was difficult and required the utmost concentration. When in the middle of the crossing a tree branch dislodged by the torrent struck the boat and it began to swiftly flood with water.
The villager took the traveller by the arm and said to him in an urgent voice, “Come, the boat will sink, we must jump!”
Overcome with fright, the traveller looked into the rough water.
“I can’t swim!” he exclaimed in a panic.
As the boat sank the villager, a strong swimmer from having spent a lifetime on the river, pulled the traveller into the water and carried him to the far shore.

The story demonstrates different talents and abilities are not comparable regarding worth or merit. It also demonstrates the concept we frequently refer to as leadership is not a quantity or quality inherent in a person, but is an expression of behavior dependent on the problem faced.

We live in an incredibly complex world. As we go about our lives the sheer variety in the problems we face is enormous. One ability or talent is not necessarily more valuable than another. Too often do we give messages, especially to the young, conveying the idea some talents or abilities have more or less worth than others. In so doing, we weaken our overall adaptability. In so doing, we disparage the innocent heart, the bringer and the driver of dreams. The damage may be incalculable.

What we all have in common is we are unique, and this is one of those wondrous and amazing and very necessary conditions of life. If it were any other way we would be missing pieces of the puzzle, the whole of which enables us to meet face to face the complexity of the world. When working together all the varied talents and abilities grant us the capacity to generate a range of ideas and employ many different abilities to solve problems, or to accomplish or create the most amazing and beautiful things. Our individual strengths balance the weaknesses of others. The strengths of others balance our weaknesses. We need one another to be whole. We must work together.

The greatest potential for developing our individual talents and abilities resides in the heart, not the intellect. The heart is the wellspring of the unceasing motivation needed to overcome the inevitable obstacles on the path of life. When we have inspiration, passion, and opportunity, and when are supported and encouraged by those around us, we may attain relative mastery of a skill or discipline. And when we place our abilities into the service of others, whether through teaching, healing, inspiring, performing, inventing, counseling, researching, and so many other ways, we become gifts to one another and fulfill our role as one unique piece in the very grandest of puzzles.

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