As your life unfolds, your gifts begin to emerge. You begin to see more clearly what you are good at, to know what you truly love, to appreciate the talents of personality and intellect and the practical skills that God has given you.
As well as your own perception, of course, you need the help of others in discovering your talents and verifying them. Their comments and observations can open your eyes to what you may not see yourself, and they can also prevent you from fooling yourself! Sometimes we can overestimate our talents, and a corrective from outside is necessary. More often, we are inclined to underestimate our gifts, which others may see clearly.
Once you become confident that your gifts are real and valuable, you need to have a good look at the world and see how your gifts can be best employed. How could you contribute to making the world a better place? How might you make a difference? Our gifts are intended for others, and if we don’t use them in service we can easily lose them altogether. As the saying goes, ‘use it or lose it’!
This seems to be the message of the parable of the talents (Luke 19:11-28).
Here is an exercise that may help you in evaluating your talents in order to make concrete choices. Write down what you think your talents are. Don’t be afraid of being boastful: your talents are unearned gifts from God. Then, ask friends or family members – people who know you well and whom you can trust – to write down the talents and gifts they see in you. Ask them to be as concrete as possible.
Compare and contrast the answers. The same gift mentioned several times can be taken as an affirmation that you have that gift. Occasionally, you may be surprised that people see in you some gifts that you weren’t aware of in yourself, and that should give you reason to pause and consider. On the other hand, it may emerge that something you considered a gift of yours was not so apparent to other people. This too can give you food for thought. Another, more complete, list of your gifts and talents might be a good thing at this stage.
Next, you might go through the same process again, asking yourself – and your trusted friends – where your gifts could best be employed in the service of others and the larger community. As before, this process may well confirm what you already know, but it may also suggest new opportunities that hadn’t struck you before, or make you question what you took for granted.
Putting together the two sets of answers should help you in choosing how best to offer your gifts in the service of others.