Saturday, September 3, 2011

I Am Not Better than Others: The Difference between Talents and Worth

My New Year's Resolution for his month is to, "Recognize more fully that I am not better than others."  It is taken from Alma 5:54, which reads:

Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another?

My first thought was that this is a truly appropriate resolution for me this month, given the events of last month I described somewhat in my resolutions post throughout the month.  It's interesting that these two resolutions would be back-to-back, since a good old-fashioned beating with regard to not setting one's heart upon the things of the world leads quite naturally into a recognition that I am not better than others in my ability to avoid such beat-downs.  Life throws sucker punches at all of us, in one way or another, on a regular basis - so, in that regard, God does let the rain fall on all equally.

However, I need to look for deeper meaning in this month's resolution than just what I learned last month - especially since I really, really don't want to have to repeat the lessons of last month.  LOL

What struck me as I prepared to embark on this journey is that there is a HUGE difference between being better than others when it comes to certain talents and strengths and being better than someone in what really matters - eternal worth and potential in the eyes of God.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have had to make this distinction in my own mind largely because I do have certain strengths that make me better AT some things than many other people are in those things.  There is nothing wrong, imo, with recognizing one's strengths - and even recognizing that one is better AT something than someone else is at that same thing.  The key, I believe, is not a denial of comparative strength, but rather a balanced emphasis on the comparison where one is better than another and on the comparison where one is not as good as another.  It's understanding that all of us have strengths and weaknesses and that, ultimately, we all are equal in the eyes of God.

To be specific in practical ways:

I sing better than many people - and not as well as others.  I understand math intuitively better than many people - and not as well as others.  I see nuance and implication and potential outcomes better than many people - and not as well as others.  I am able to keep a prayer in my heart more easily than many people - but I struggle with formal prayer more than many others.  I am a very good public speaker - but I am not as good a private listener.  I could go on and on, but the point is that I need to be able to recognize my strengths and weaknesses, even in comparison to others, without allowing that recognition to cause classic pride that makes me feel like I am better than another intrinsically - that I am of more worth eternally than someone else.

I am planning on addressing more practical aspects of this in future posts this month, but I wanted to start with the foundational idea that I am a child of God - and so is everyone else in this world.  I am special and unique - just like everyone else in this world.  I can praise God for the talents he has given me (which is completely different than the Parable of the Talents, btw - just saying - *grin*), but I cannot develop an attitude of arrogance that is manifested in "praising Him" for making me "better than those poor people" who lack the specific talents for which I am grateful. 

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