'God-given' talents

I don’t really believe in talent. I mean, of course, we can marvel at a person’s aptitude for a particular task. But I’m convinced that what makes someone excel at something—what makes someone so capable and noteworthy that people remark, “Wow, they’ve got talent!”—are two things: love and practice. Without these, any born IQ genius, able-bodied athlete, or spiritually minded individual will suffer from lackluster achievement. But if someone gives of their heart, mind, and soul in order to master an activity, they will unavoidably discover vast supplies of talent and the scriptural maxim will be confirmed: “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38, New King James Version).

In his 2008 book Outliers, the popular social psychologist Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly de-emphasized the idea that we’re born with talent (defined as the capacity for success) for the more utilitarian and pragmatic theory that genius is earned. In 2011, David Shenk followed suit with an equally convincing exposé on talent in The Genius in All of Us. Both of these books crystallized my belief that every individual is innately talented and capable, and that love and hard work are the primary components in activating that “God-given” talent. This certainly was the viewpoint of Mary Baker Eddy, the industrious New Englander who discovered the Science of Christianity. She wrote, “Success in life depends upon persistent effort, upon the improvement of moments more than upon any other one thing” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 230). That “any other one thing” could certainly include genetic gifts or physical aptitude.

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