brigitte kathleen

rediscovering my heart


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The Art of Not Giving Yourself Enough Credit

I’m just beginning to write this post, but I already know it’s going to be a difficult one. Why do I know that? Because I know that I’m one of the most self-critical people I’ve ever known. So really, this could be the equivalent of dog writing about how hard it is to be a cat. While it may seem a little hypocritical, I’m going to go for it anyway. This will either prove to be a therapeutic experience, or it’ll prove that, while I’m not great at acknowledging my strengths and talents, I’m good at recognizing those traits in other people, and this is more for them than it is for me. I suppose this writing is going to come from a sense of first hand experience, but also being open and watching those around me experience the pain of self-criticism as well.

As a part of my Master’s Degree, I did a lot of intensive work on individual leadership development. In fact, my 100+ page thesis was a three-part work on the idea that everyone contains the capacity to be a leader. The first part of my thesis (which I’m referencing for this discussion) can be found here. Since it’s a little long, you might not want to read the whole thing, so I’ll sum it up: I believe that everyone possesses five characteristics that they channel into effective and quality leadership: Passion, Initiative, Courage, Creativity, and Humility. It’s when these five things come together (in a Captain Planet sort of way) that a person emerges as the leader they are meant to be.

In my thesis (and probably in a future work like a dissertation or other post-graduate study), I talk about how passion is truly the catalyst to help the other characteristics fall into place. If you’re passionate, you’ll want to take initiative, you’ll want to have courage, you’ll want to be creative in your problem solving, etc. The tricky part of this equation is finding that passion and clinging to it, knowing that making it into something great is going to take work– but work you’ll be willing and excited to do.

Just like we all have some kind of passion burning inside of us, we all have gifts, too. Some of our gifts are greater or more prominent than others (i.e. I’d consider myself a decent chef, but a good baker), but that doesn’t mean any are invaluable. How you use and develop them is up to you. Unfortunately for us, American society hasn’t done us many favors in the whole ‘developing and discovering your gifts’ department. Here’s why I think this:

1. The most accessible gifts inventory in most high schools is the ASVAB test. I don’t know about you, but I answered questions to get a specific outcome.  I was supposed to be some kind of performing artist…. and look at me now.

2. Colleges and the higher education system are expecting students to choose a career path at the ripe age of 18. Then they’re charging an arm and a leg for school, basically threatening students with the impending doom of life-long student loan debt if they can’t get their degree done in timely fashion.

3. American society glorifies both the celebrity lifestyle, and the participation award. How many times have we asked ourselves, “Why is Kim Kardashian famous?” And, don’t get me wrong, I loved getting participation awards, but no– I should have never received a medal for being on the turquoise soccer team. I was TERRIBLE at soccer. They should have given me a hand-written note (to show sincerity) saying that I should never don a pair of shin guards ever again. Tough love, people. Let’s try to recapture that.

While there may be a lot of things you’re not exceptionally talented at, keep in mind that in order to embrace the gifts you DO have, you have to trust that God had a least a little bit of an idea when he was creating you. To forgo your gifts and constantly wish for someone else’s gifts is not only doing yourself a disservice, but dishonoring the work that the Holy Spirit is continuously doing in you. Have a little faith (albeit, sometimes easier said than done) in the work that God is doing in and through you.

So what? Here’s what- I think too many people count themselves out because they’ve tried things that haven’t worked. This shouldn’t be our mentality at all. With hesitation, I use the failure (I have a love/hate relationship with this beautifully terrible word). Failure brings with it opportunities for greatness (I blogged about that, too). The best thing about failure is that it points me away from things that are wrong for me and opens up a thousand more opportunities. Don’t look at failure as an end, embrace it as a new beginning.

What else? This means that you can’t sit around moping about your inadequacies and expect to be successful. You have to try in order to fail or succeed. You’ll never know which one it’ll be until you get off your couch. If you don’t know where to start, ask your friends (who you can be candid with, and who you trust) what they think some of your strengths and talents are. Ask them what they think you might be good at, or if they can think of things for you to try. Your friends (who love you) will give you honest and worthwhile feedback.

You have some incredible gifts, whether or not you know it. Just because you don’t think you’ve found them yet, whether your 7 years old or 107 years old, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The beauty in waking up every day is the uncertainty of what you’ll discover about the world, God, life, but even more exciting, yourself. And if you’re still looking for that ONE thing to cling to, that ONE thing to be passionate about, go look for it, but be patient in the search. And realize that you do have other gifts- cling to those things that give you hope and joy and realize that you are a gift to people around you.

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Should you have weaved?

The new year always brings with it a massive amount of celebration, change, and newness. Along with the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, I also get the joy of celebrating my birthday on Epiphany (January 6th), which I think does a great job of capping off the stressful (albeit survivable) holiday season. This holiday season was a bit different, though.

On December 14th, I was officially done with my Master’s degree. I managed to wrangle a 3.84 GP out of it, too. After that came the Christmas holidays. We spent the weekend prior to Christmas in Ashland, WI with my dad’s family, and then we came back to the cities for Christmas Eve and Day with my mom’s family. Although it had a weird vibe this year, everything went swimmingly. As soon as I realized it, Christmas was over and it was time for New Year’s. I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with a new friend, and many of his friends. This was, quite possibly, the most free I’ve allowed myself to be (under the circumstances of meeting a trillion new people in 2 days) since college. Following New Year’s Eve and Day, my 27th birthday came creeping right around. 27 was going to be a big one for me. 27 has always been that age that I’ve attached to “adulthood,” and here it was, staring me in the face.

Like I said before, my birthday falls on Epiphany, and this year, everything came together on a Sunday. Going to church on the day we talk about God’s revelation was a really great way for me to start the age of 27 because I’ll be honest- I was a bundled up mess of emotions. For those of you unfamiliar with the church celebration of Epiphany, it is the day we celebrate God’s revealing of himself to us.

Since most of my closer friends from school are currently on internship, I often get text messages asking a question that will help with their sermon writing. The week before Epiphany was no exception. During the week, I received two text massages from different friends asking what Epiphany means to me. I used a smart-ass answer like “It means it’s my birthday…,” before getting serious. When I got into serious mode, I realized I’d never really thought about it, and I finally had an opportunity to dwell and reflect on this (often over-looked) church celebration . After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that, for me, Epiphany celebrates the fact that I have no control over God’s revelation in my life, as much as I’d like to think I do. I have found myself searching constantly for God to reveal himself to me in a way that makes sense, and I think I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that God doesn’t work that way.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me this question: “Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve gone off-track from fate? Like you should have bobbed instead of weaved on a big decision in life?” I couldn’t help but laugh because I don’t know anyone who DOESN’T feel like this at least once in a while. For me, I could relate because I feel like this on a daily basis, constantly asking myself if I missed the boat somewhere, and if it’ll ever be back to pick me up. It’s a scary feeling to think that maybe you took a wrong turn somewhere, especially if you think you’re the one in control of your life.

My answer to him was honest and sincere, but as I kept thinking about it, I realized I really believe what I said. I replied, “All the time. Seriously. At least once a day, I convince myself that I f’ed up somewhere with no clue how to get back on track. On the other hand, I don’t believe in a God that works like that, so my only option is to have hope in what the future holds.”

As I was reflecting on this conversation and the season of Epiphany, I think it finally hit me: For most of my post-high school life, I’ve been constantly searching and seeking out God’s revelation in my life, wanting it to look a specific way, and being disappointed and distraught when it didn’t. I’ve lived my life trying to find a happy medium between what it is I want, and what I think God wants for me, and surprisingly, what I wanted always seemed to be what God wanted (or so I made it out to be). But hindsight, always being 20/20, has shown me that any control I thought I had over God and his revelations in my life were completely bogus.

I have learned through many, many hard lessons that I have no control over God’s activity in my life. The only thing I can control is allowing myself to be free to what the Holy Spirit is empowering me to do. Now, this doesn’t make bobbing when I should be weaving impossible, but it gives me the gift of faith and hope in the certainty that God will continue to work, whether or not I get on the boat. If I miss this boat, I have faith that God will send another one.

Do I believe that everything that happens is planned and destined by God? Absolutely not. I believe that sometimes bad things happen, and God weeps with us when they do. Do I believe that sometimes I make mistakes like bob instead of weave? Absolutely. But I don’t believe in a God that only gives us one opportunity to get it right. I believe that God’s undying, steadfast, and unconditional love is a love that wants to see us succeed and be the people God has created us to be. Sometimes it takes a couple tries.

In this season of revelation, I pray that you allow God to work and reveal himself to you. Instead of constantly working to seek out God, be open to God seeking you and your heart. Be open to accepting the faithfulness and love he is freely giving you.