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Why Using Your Gifts Is Heroic

Do you ever wake up in the morning and wonder if it really matters if you use your gifts? After all, there are other people out there who are more talented than you, more experienced, who have more resources and more Twitter followers and more influence.

It’s just a book. Just a small business. Just music. Right?

Is worrying about our gifts and chasing our dreams just selfish?
I know it matters. I do. I tell people all the time how much it matters. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes I wake up wondering why it matters. Am I just trying to be happy? Should I leave the writing to the “professionals”?  Should I just get any old job that would pay my bills?

I know that dreaming isn’t selfish. I do. I feel it in my gut.

But how do I know?

Recently my husband and I went to a friend’s house for breakfast. He cooked eggs and bacon and pancakes and we all stood in the kitchen drinking coffee while he worked his magic. Our friend happens to be a songwriter, and an incredibly talented one at that. And because this friend is someone I consider to be even more selfless than he is talented, I couldn’t help but ask:

“How do you do it? How do you keep your gifts from becoming self-centered?

photo: brendan-c, Creative Commons
photo: brendan-c, Creative Commons

We talked about several things—about thinking through your audience, and considering how you can serve others with your craft, which of course brought up the question: “how do you balance considering your audience with staying true to your ‘art’?” (That was me asking the question, in my best hipster voice).

And when I asked that question, he looked at me out of the corner of his eye while he flipped the bacon.This is what he said: Let’s say we were in a war, Ally, and you and I were trying to escape from an enemy attack. Let’s say a bomb exploded and you lost your legs. Let’s say I wasn’t injured. What would I do?

I looked at him. I wasn’t totally sure what he would do, honestly.

I would “lend” you my legs to get you out alive, he said.

I would throw you over my back, and carry you to safety.

Wouldn’t that be heroic?

I nodded. It made sense. He was right it would be heroic, but I didn’t see the connection between saving someone from the inevitable death and writing music or books. He went on.

It’s really no different when it comes to our creative energy. “I can write songs,” he said. “It’s actually quite easy for me. It’s like having legs. But it’s really nothing special to have a gift, or to have legs. On the other hand, it’s something extraordinary to lend your gifts—to lend your legs—to someone else.”

That’s why I can’t stop thinking about the people who are listening to the music I write. Because writing songs is nothing. But lending my legs is heroic.

Ever since he said those words I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what would happen if we each thought of our gifts like this—like something we have that others don’t, like a pair of legs we can lend to someone who doesn’t have any. I wonder the kind of tenacity this would give us in sharing our gifts, and in strengthening them, so we would have even more to give.

I can’t stop thinking about what would happen if I got over myself and just started sharing what I’ve been given, started lending my legs.

I can’t help but think about how our gifts would turn from self-serving, to others-serving.

I’m not sure what your gift is.

Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s songwriting. Maybe it is managing finances, or growing companies or making kids feel precious and loved.

What would happen if you thought of it like a set of legs? What if you opened your eyes to the people around you who are in need of what you have? What if you lent what you have to them?

What if you lent them your legs?

I think it would be quite heroic. In fact, I think anything less would be selfish.

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Allison Fallon

I write books. I help people write books. I believe a regular practice of writing can change your life.

19 thoughts on “Why Using Your Gifts Is Heroic”

  1. Ally, I love how you just proved your point by “lending you legs” to all of us who ready your words. The “create-o-meter” in the universe just ticked up a few notches.

  2. I really love this way of thinking about gifts. We spend so much time thinking that there’s no need for us to use our gifts because somebody else already is and not enough time realizing that we can touch somebody with what we have to offer. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Thanks Ally, for speaking to this struggle. It is one I know all too well, but am coming to realize that maybe the abilities and/or creative talent I have been given is actually a gifting. I am realizing that what I consider an easy thing is really something much more than that. . .but maybe not everyone has this “pair of legs” to lend.

  4. Love the way you’ve got me thinking about this from a new perspective. I’ll be on the lookout for ways to lend my legs now. Thank you!

  5. Started reading this, realized I was going to love it, and read it out loud to my husband. Had to pause to regain my voice a few times due to tears (the good kind). He listened attentively, nodded, and commented, “What a great perspective.”

    So thank you from us both!

  6. What an interesting way to look at our gifts! What your writing does for me is that you put my thoughts, feelings and ideas into words. I don’t always connect with your post, but when I do it is like, “Wow, that is how I feel.” It give me validation for feelings and thoughts that I had not been able to express.

  7. Thank you so much for this! Sharing your insights on such an important subject, really is giving us legs too!

    I think that this is a cultural-, if not world-wide, lack… the ability to feel we have something to share, and also the ability to see why it is crucial for us to “be ourselves” and give our talents, no matter how undeveloped they are. We have so much work to do, teaching ourselves and our children to value their individuality and leanings in their hearts and minds.

    I will be 60 at the end of the year, and it has been in my mind that it’s about time I expressed myself more as an individual, so that the rest of my life can be more complete and what it was meant to be. Giving of what I am, whether that be my enthusiasm for various pursuits such as music, or the source of my spiritual being, is what is most important. It is a gift to myself and to everyone else.

    Thank you so much for this article, which is spurring me on toward that mission.

  8. I was just thinking of this myself… sort of. I was thinking of dreams, and how sometimes we’re afraid to dream big. What if your would-be rescuer stood over you and said, “My legs aren’t good enough.” or “Someone with better legs will come along, I’m not strong enough to help you.” Or handed you a dozen other excuses? You wouldn’t think them humble, you’d think they were cowardly, selfish – as you said.
    Lots to think about. Thanks!

  9. Beautifully articulated! I’ve been struggling with this subject. When something is in the fabric of your being, sharing it, and even knowing what parts to share, can seem entirely unnatural. Your gifts inspire me daily.

  10. Thank you for this, Ally. Over the last few weeks I keep asking myself, “Do I bring value?” This article spoke to my thoughts of insecurity, and once again I am grateful for your writing.

  11. Because I can no longer do so many things I could do when young I need to figure out what “legs” I have left. Thanks for helping me see that might be important to others.

  12. Years ago, I realised that in whatever area I have a gift or skill, I become a servant to others who don’t have that gift. Each of us is here with whatever gifts we have to contribute and if we hold back, people will miss out on those particular gifts.

    God didn’t put each of us here for no reason. He didn’t think the world would be complete without each of us. We just waste time if we spend it wishing we could have someone else’s gifts.

    My dad, a musician, used to have this saying, attributed to Antonio Stradivarius (but in fact from a poem by George Eliot) on the wall of his office: “If I slack my hand, I rob God, for God cannot make a Stradivarius violin.”

  13. This post made me think of a line in one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping. Lucy says to Peter, “You give up your seat every day in the train”, to which Peter replies, “Well….but that’s not heroic.” Lucy then says, “It is to the person who sits in it.”
    In lending our gifts to others it might be what comes natural or it might seem like no big deal but it can be a world of difference in someone else’s life.
    It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day that we forget to share our gifts, whatever they might be. Thanks for sharing this story reminding us to lend our gifts to others. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately and something I need to do more of.

  14. I’m new to your blog, but this post spoke volumes for me. I struggle with taking time to “use my gifts”, thinking it is purely selfish. I guess I’m not the only one. Thank you.

  15. And yet again, I receive the message that I MUST use my talents! Thank you for such a great post!

    God gives us our gifts for a reason. It is a crying shame not to share them with others.

  16. Thank you, Allison, for this insight. I dabble in “art” and have always felt a bit embarrassed and reluctant to give my art as a gift. I wrangle over and over in my head…..I’m ‘forcing’ this item on them – thrusting it into their lives – what can they do with it if they hate it?? I think from now on forward, I’ll choose to see it as a gift from MY heart to THEIRS. Whatever they do with it after that is their business! 🙂

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