Gift of Talent

“Do I really have talents?”

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked that question in talking with people about stewardship. The conversation goes something like this: “Time I get. I never feel I have quite enough of it, but I understand the need to give my time for others. Treasure, too. I always wonder how much money I should share, but I do understand the need to give of my treasure. But talent? Do I really have talents, and if so, how do I know what they are, or how to give them to others?”

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Perhaps wondering about our talents shouldn’t surprise us. Studies in talent tell us that most of us much more readily want to know our weaknesses, thinking we can somehow fix the inadequacies we feel when we try to do something that doesn’t come naturally easily to us. But the same bodies of research tell us we are at our best when we do what we do best, and that building on our God-given talents is a much better use of our time and attention. We will be filled with a greater sense of purpose and we’ll experience less burn-out. We’ll be more satisfied with our lives when we develop and use our talents.

What is a talent, then, and where is the connection with my faith? “A talent is a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving that can be productively applied.” Think about that in your own life. What naturally comes easily to you? What are you passionate about?  Isn’t something different for you when you get to do what you do best? Each of us has these natural aspects of ourselves that are planted deep within us by our loving God. Recognizing our talents is like glimpsing God’s grace within us. Once we have this insight, we will never be the same!

Knowing our talents is deeply personal. We see patterns in our past experience in which our talents have led to satisfying interactions with others or gratifying experiences in work or activities. Knowing our talents also helps us appreciate how much we need each other. It takes each of us doing what we can, being who we are, to have the impact we are called to have in our world. Becoming aware of our talents is freeing: we become more understanding and forgiving of others, and of ourselves. And we find special pleasure in offering our true selves within our parish community, at home, work, and with friends.

The challenge: Our talents are so natural to us, it takes some help to discover and develop them. Once we have a sense of our talents, it is important to build on them, not to go along “business as usual.” We are so accustomed to looking for our weaknesses, it takes a while to appreciate the abundance of talent with which God has blessed each of us.

Let’s be spiritual. We are uniquely created in God’s image, intended to be that image in our world. Each of us has been given a unique combination of talents, abilities, life experiences and interests. If we are not good stewards of all of this, something will be missing in our world.