Friday, October 28, 2016

Fear and Talents

I have been thinking a lot about talents lately and what it means when we hide those talents. I have in recent months learned a lot about hiding my talents. One of my talents is that of singing but I have not done all I should to develop and share this talent. Many months ago I came across an opportunity to audition for a sacred music choir in my area but had chosen not to do so. Then one evening, for reasons I cannot remember, this audition opportunity came up in a conversation with a friend of mine. She emphatically told me that I should audition and said, "I want to. It would be a good experience." This comment struck me. Here I was, a person who has been vocally trained by gifted instructors, who has had years of experience with singing, and I was too afraid to audition because I was afraid of the outcome. My friend humbled me and I realized I needed to repent. I realized that even if I were not get accepted into the choir, I wouldn't be making an effort at development if I didn't try--and perhaps that not trying is what would displease my Heavenly Father most. So I practiced, scheduled my audition, and went. I was accepted. I'm now going on ten months in this choir, with one concert under our belt, and I cannot begin to express the blessing it has been to me in my life. And as a choir we have received much feedback about the blessings others reaped from attending our concert. I'm ever grateful for my friend (who was also accepted in the choir!) for teaching me about hiding talents.

We have all been blessed with talents for the purpose of blessing and serving the lives of others. If we are keeping our talents dim by hiding them under a bushel, then we are missing great blessings available to us. Sometimes we shy away from talking about the things we do well. Talking about what we are good at it not a bad thing.

One problem created by not recognizing and sharing our talents is the creation a kind of false humility. There is a fear that we will come across to others as boastful if we talk about the things we are good at. In an effort to be "modest" we even go to the opposite extreme of putting ourselves down, mocking our lack of specific talents or pointing out our imperfection in the talents we do have. We aren't meant to have every talent nor are our talents meant to be perfect.  Talking about what we're good at is not bragging. There is no vanity in truth, only in trying to elevate the truth that is for you above the truth that is for others. When we use our talents with the Spirit of God, we will not become boastful because we will be using them for the right reasons.

My second point is we deny truth and blessings from God when we do not acknowledge and share our talents. Many are familiar with the parable of the talents. In the parable, the servants who increased what they were given were blessed to be rulers over many things and to experience rest and joy. They were blessed because they used what they had been given. It is a truth that all men (and women) are blessed with gifts. If we say we do not have any gifts or talents, we are denying truth. I also feel like it makes God feel sad. Elder Marvin J. Ashton has said:
One of the great tragedies of life, it seems to me, is when a person classifies himself as someone who has no talents or gifts. When, in disgust or discouragement, we allow ourselves to reach depressive levels of despair because of our demeaning self-appraisal, it is a sad day for us and a sad day in the eyes of God. For us to conclude that we have no gifts when we judge ourselves by stature, intelligence, grade-point average, wealth, power, position, or external appearance is not only unfair but unreasonable. . . . It is up to each of us to search for and build upon the gifts which God has given. We must remember that each of us is made in the image of God, that there are no unimportant persons. Everyone matters to God and to his fellowmen. ("There Are Many Gifts," CR October 1987)
My final point, and the one that has stopped me so often in the past, is the element of fear that comes in denying our talents.The third servant in the parable of the talents chose not to increase what he had been given. He chose to bury it, to forget about it, and his subsequent reward was to be chastised and sent away. What I think is interesting is what the servant told his master. He said, "I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine." (St Matthew 25:24-25, emphasis added)  
Fear does not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7)The adversary wants us to be afraid. He wants to be afraid that we will mess up. He wants us to fear our ability to measure up because if he can make us afraid, he can stop us from progressing. Progression is a great eternal truth; when Satan keeps us from progressing, he keeps us from moving toward God.

God does not want us to be afraid. He just wants us to recognize and use what He has blessed us with. He hasn't asked us to perform our talents perfectly, but to improve them and share them. A few weeks ago another friend told me that she had recently been feeling like she didn't have any talents so, rather than bemoan her perceived lack, she chose to make a list of the things she is good at and work on them. This inspired me so much! Our talents don't have to be obvious things, like music, sports, or arts. Maybe you have a talent for kindness or being positive or being able to see the needs of others. Maybe something you're good at is problem solving or decorating or understanding politics. My challenge to everyone (myself included), is to start making a list of things you are good at. If you can't think of anything, I encourage you to make it a matter of prayer. It's a prayer I believe wholly that God will answer, for He wants you to see and develop the good things He has given you.

Please share with me one of your talents. Tell me what you're good at! Let's start the discussion and find ways to share with one another our talents. Let's stop hiding our candlesticks under the bushel of fear.

 If you'd like to see something inspiring and be reminded of your divine gifts, I encourage you to watch this short video: