Monday, June 17, 2013

DISCOVERING OUR TALENTS

Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life is a truism that we all should aspire to.  If we’re doing something we’re passionate about, work is no longer drudgery.  Even if we’re not paid very well, the sheer joy of getting paid to do what we love more than compensates for the low pay.

This is how Christians explain why some people persevere in low-paying service professions like teaching, law-enforcement, or public-safety; it explains why some become religious ministers and missionaries; and, it explains why some choose to live austere or altruistic lives.  So if we hate our jobs, it’s probably a good indication we haven’t discovered our true calling in life.

The recognition that we all have different innate gifts, talents, personalities, and temperaments dates back to 370 b.c. in the writings of Hippocrates.  In the 1920s, the famous Swiss physician Carl Jung, published a book called Psychological Types where he claimed that people have multiple instincts that drive them internally.  In the 1950s Isabel Myers and her mother Kathryn Briggs rediscovered Jung’s book and they devised a questionnaire for identifying different kinds of personalities; they called it The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

According to Myers and Briggs, there are 16 possible combinations of Introversion or Extroversion (I or E), Sensors or Intuitives (S or N), Thinkers or Feelers (T or F), and Perceivers and Judgers (P or J).  These 16 combinations, however, can be categorized into 4 dominant categories: NT, NF, SJ, and SP.

Since the 1960s, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been used to help employers better understand their employees and customers.  Organizational psychologists have developed even more in-depth testing to identify certain traits that will make an individual more likely to succeed in a position such as management or sales, and most human resource departments are trained to match individual talent with job openings.    

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans and first letter to the Corinthians describes various spiritual or innate gifts or talents that God has given each of us (chapters 12 respectively).  These are:

1. Perceiver or Discerner—the ability to quickly and accurately discern good from evil as well as the ability to reveal truth for understanding, correction, or edification; people involved in law enforcement, the legal professions, teaching, or the religious professions may have this gift.

2. Teacher—the ability to clearly communicate truths and applications in such a way that others can learn and understand; not only would pre-school through college teachers most likely have this gift, but also managers, corporate trainers, or soccer coaches to name a few.

3. Mercy—the ability to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals who suffer distressing physical, mental, or emotional problems and to translate that compassion into cheerfully done deeds; people involved in the healthcare and mental health professions such as, physicians, nurses, psychologists, or counselors may have this gift.

4. Server—the ability to identify the unmet needs involved in a task and to make use of available resources to meet those needs. This is not one-on-one, person centered like mercy but task-oriented; people involved in the various customer or food service professions may have this gift, as well as managers and other people who plan things. 

5. Giver—the ability to understand the material needs of others and then meet those needs generously—above what is considered to be a reasonable standard for giving; philanthropist, social workers, clergymen, missionaries, or charitable volunteers may have this gift.

6. Encourager—the ability to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement, and counsel in such a way that others feel helped and healed; the religious clergy, professional counselors, teachers, coaches, or mothers may have this gift. 

7. Leadership—the ability to set purposeful goals for the future and to communicate these goals to others in a way that they harmoniously work together; politicians and business managers may have this gift.

St. Paul also described the one capacity that everyone shares—our capacity to love others (I Corinthians 13).  Love is the glue that holds us all together, and without love, spiritual gifts and talents are meaningless. 

The point of all this is that God gives everyone different personalities, temperaments, interests, gifts and talents in order to make the world go around.  Whether it’s Hippocrates, St. Paul, Jung, Myers and Briggs, or just plain common sense, it proves that we all have unique talents we can share with the world.  

Delving into the subject of personality types is beyond the scope of this blog.  To learn more about this subject, I’d like to recommend the following books: 
Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey; 
Do What You Are and The Art of Speed Reading People by Paul and Barbara Tieger; 
First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman; Now, 
Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.; 
Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts by Charles V. Bryant.


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