Every person brings something to the table in the form of talents, proficiencies, or gifts. No matter how young or old, loud or quiet, creative or cerebral, each person can contribute in some way. Such a tapestry of insights and capabilities is a fascinating characteristic of civilization. We each depend on another for some aspect of life.
Unfortunately, another human trait tends to block this interrelation. Self-doubt or lack of self-awareness can blind each of us to our own unique set of skills and abilities. Familiarity with those things we constantly do can also make them seem run-of-the-mill and of little value.
If we do not recognize what we hold is a gift, why would we take action to share it?
This is where true friends come in. Our aptitudes are on display every day. Friends see us as we are. They live their lives close enough to know us but distant enough to remain objective. In a real sense, they are our life mentors and guides.
Michael Shenkman wrote a book entitled Leader Mentoring: Find, Inspire, and Cultivate Great Leaders. In it he challenges us all to find and mentor those around us with a creative fire willing to learn and grow. His description of mentoring includes seeing what people can do (even if they can’t see it themselves), demonstrating care and concern, and envisioning how a person’s skills match up to current challenges.
As friends, this is our obligation to those around us. Help someone identify things they can do, even when they would have never thought of it on their own.
Researchers Dean Cocking and Jeanette Kennett expand on this in an article entitled Friendship and the Self, 1998. Bennett Helm cites their work as follows. “To be interpreted by your friend is to allow your understanding of yourself, in particular of your strengths and weaknesses, to be shaped by your friend’s interpretations of you. Thus, your friend may admire your tenacity (a trait you did not realize you had), or be amused by your excessive concern for fairness, and you may come as a result to develop a new understanding of yourself, and potentially change yourself, in direct response to his interpretation of you. Hence, Cocking & Kennett claim, ‘the self my friend sees is, at least in part, a product of the friendship.’”
Leadership coaches and scientific researchers say in many words what Solomon tells us in a few: “The godly give good advice to their friends;the wicked lead them astray.”
We all have talents and gifts but we don’t always recognize them. Help your friends explore theirs. Listen as they tell you about yours. Once we are aware of the unique capacities we each hold we can confidently reach out through our personal ministries and take part in the fabric of support that surrounds us.