Do you know what your gifts are?
Sometimes when I ask people this, their first response is to ask “What gifts?” or to stall and say something flippant like “I can fry an egg.” I think that’s one of the most heart-wrenching things I hear on a fairly regular basis. So many of us believe that there really isn’t anything unique about us, that there’s nothing special we can offer the world, that we don’t have an aptitude for something useful or interesting. We think we’re boring, normal, or mundane, and even if we do recognize some good qualities in ourselves, we think they are too small to do any good. Gifts? me? I don’t think so.
But everyone really does have gifts. Some of this is part of our personalities, and if you’re a Christian you probably believe in Spiritual gifts as well. I guarantee that there’s at least one thing (and probably several) gifts that you have. Even if you can’t see it yet there really is something that you are ridiculously good at, or a core part of yourself that offers something good to you and the world, or a talent just waiting to be used.
I recently read an article titled How Your Greatest Insecurities Reveal Your Deepest Gifts by Ken Page (a psychotherapist, lecturer, and author who studies intimacy). He argues that the core parts of ourselves that we try to hide because we think we’re “too much” or “too little” are where our gifts dwell.
Over the years, I realized that the characteristics of my clients which I found most inspiring, most essentially them, were the ones which frequently caused them the most suffering.
Some clients would complain of feeling like they were “too much”; too intense, too angry, or too demanding. From my therapist’s chair, I would see a passion so powerful that it frightened people away.
Other clients said they felt that they felt like they were “not enough”; too weak, too quiet, too ineffective. I would find a quality of humility and grace in them which would not let them assert themselves as others did.
In his definition, your gifts are essential qualities that make you who you are. Most of us distance ourselves from our gifts and create “safe” versions of ourselves that don’t show the world who we really are. Ken Page’s focus is on expression our core gifts in intimate relationships, but if we discover who we are and what we have to offer it will impact other aspects of our lives as well.
His tips for discovering your core gifts are to look at the things that cause you the most joy, as well as the things that cause you the most pain. You will be most moved and inspired by positive experiences related to your core gift, and most hurt by negative experiences that touch on those sensitivities. For example, if one of your core gifts is honesty you will be drawn to other people who are honest and hurt deeply when someone you’re close to violates your trust. Here’s a link to one of Page’s more in-depth articles exploring this topic.
We spend quite a bit of time on this blog talking about personality types. Since I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, I’ll use my personality type as an example yet again. We can’t all be equally good at everything, and different personality types have different strengths. Some gifts that would be consistent with an INFJ personality type are a talent for reading other people, easily practicing empathy, and generating an inspiring vision for the future. On the other hand, most INFJs will not have a strong gift for impersonal evaluation of pros and cons in a situation, or for interacting with huge groups of people. For those tasks, you’ll need to track down a thinking type with a gift of logic or an extrovert with a gift for interacting with people.
Learning the strengths and weaknesses of your individual type is a good way to start tracking down your own unique gifts. The profiles on 16 Personality Types have a list of typical strengths and weaknesses associated with each type, and there’s also a free test you can take if you don’t know your type yet.
Often, the strengths of our personality types come to us so easily that we don’t think of them as a gift. It’s so easy for INFJs to pick up on other peoples emotions that it can seem like a slightly annoying thing we do automatically, rather than a unique gift we can use to relate to other people. ETSJs take charge of situations almost without thinking about it, and might not list leadership as a gift because it seems so normal to them.
God doesn’t make useless people. You are a child of God, and no matter how weak and helpless and even useless you feel God can work with you and make you strong (2 Cor. 12:10). If God is calling you and working with you through His Holy Spirit, then you’ve also been given one or more spiritual gifts. Paul tells us that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:7) and trust me, you’re not the exception to that rule.
Finding out what your particular spiritual gift is can be quite a challenge. Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck has a chapter devoted to a spiritual gifts questionnaire. It’s more of a guideline than a definitive answer, though. When I took the evaluation, it told me I had and potentially used somewhere between 2 and 8 spiritual gifts. Didn’t really narrow it down much.
Other tests, like Spiritual Gifts Test, can also give you an idea of what your spiritual gift might be. It ranks your top three gifts, and gives a description of each. Ultimately, though, I think to discover what your spiritual gift really is requires prayer and action. Thinking about your spiritual gifts only gets you so far — you have to start using them and serving and seeing if you have a gift for that particular way of serving.
Learning about your particular gifts can give you more confidence in yourself, improve your relationships, and give you an idea of how you can serve others more effectively. I’m still discovering my gifts, but they’re already bearing fruit, including this blog. I wish you a similarly exciting journey!