The Semantics of Giftedness

A shorter post ( I know some heave a sigh of relief) to quickly clarify the semantics… because as is common we use the same terms to cover disparate sections of a broad topic. First, planes of gifting [I know that sounds very odd]:

  • the physical plane of talents and proclivities
  • the human souls plane of *advanced development
  • the spiritual plane of gifts of the Spirit, sourced and managed by God’s Holy Spirit

The three of these are all giftings that are resident in people ( although the third is exclusive to and remains under the oversight of the Holy Spirit- not every one has them, not everyone gets them). The first one I’d say everyone has to some degree or another, but when we speak of gifted individuals we are usually talking about exceptional in some aspect.

*Advanced Development is an idea explained in the book, The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius(tm) by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen. She gives three categories of this as “Humanistic Vision”, “Mandated Mission”, and “Revolutionary Action”. I will probably touch on some of those ideas as this topic progresses. I’m going to use her book as the basis for the semantics as they are found on the secular stage.

To move on…

Christian Semantics

When you go to a Christian bookstore and buy a book that is supposed to help you identify your gifts, or if you take a test that some churches offer, you are matching up the first two planes of your perceivable giftings and then it is categorized under the third set, the nine named gifts of the Spirit, and sometimes linked with the callings listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28. there is a reason this can work, although it isn’t accurate. The reason I think it can work is because the God who made you does have a ‘Plan’ and the desire to fit you into that plan. the big P being the overall plan of the ages, and the little p being the plan that will fit you into a part of that. Let’s forget that there are those who would argue with me on that… that is another topic. But most will agree that it makes sense that the talents you have in your given abilities, the inner motivations that seem part of your nature, and the spiritual gifts that are given for the purpose of your function in the body of Christ are likely linked through God’s wisdom and foresight. that is why I say those tests and books probably help you discern something of the spiritual gifts… but not always as God always reserves some surprises. Yes, good surprises!

I believe that the reason a book such as Jacobsens’ gets written is due to the fact that people with the first two planes of gifting tend to get very damaged when they are without the nurture and support that is necessary for human beings to develop properly. there are so many reasons for this that we will skip trying to put blame on anyone; there is enough blame for this all around. But Jacobsen does find much is centered in the misunderstanding of the surrounding culture for those who stand out as “different”, and many people who are exceptional in some way, even useful ways, are sometimes unaccepted because they are different in their relationship to the rest of the world…those who aren’t thinking or acting as the uniquely gifted person does. And we all know the cliched perception of “different as bad”.

I know that I cried when first facing and realizing the importance of getting this right for myself. I have been that damaged and that labeled as “bad”. I have internalized it, and use it as part of my “personal brand”. It forces me to go to that “humble place” when I really don’t want to go there! It also underwrites much of my underachievment and self-defeating behaviors. So it isn’t the type of humbling you want, the better part of humble is to produce it from within, not receive the humiliation from without. That is yet another potential post…

I cried because it touched on something I have felt deep within: so much is lost… so much time, so much potential, and I am not anywhere near what I had believed I would have been at this time of life. I cried with some relief, that perhaps I have an answer on what tack to take to recover what I can. The admonition of “redeeming the time” has always been an urgent one in my heart.

And finally, I cried because this is what God has been steadily doing: remaking me, and righting the wrong bends that were formed in my being.

Secular Semantics

Some people are still stuck in IQ when it comes to thinking about giftedness, but most respected sources of information and research have moved far beyond the initial ideas of IQ testing. Commonly spoken of are “multiple intelligences”.
Some of these have been called

  • body-smart
  • word-smart
  • spatial-smart
  • music-smart
  • logic-smart
  • relationship-smart
  • nature-smart
  • self-smart

These are further refined by traits such as

  • intensity
  • complexity
  • drive

You can start to see the way that multiple combinations and levels can combine to produce “genius” in people, of many differing sorts. You can also see how certain gifted people can be overlooked, and unknown as “gifted”, even though they have the personality quirks to go along with it and can suffer the out of sync problems that the gifts can cause.

Jacobsen has a list of Ten Criticisms that illustrate the problems such personalities run into…
have you internalized any of them in your life?

  1. Why don’t’ you slow down?
  2. You worry about everything
  3. Can’t you stick with just one thing?
  4. You’re so sensitive and dramatic!
  5. You have to do everything the hard way
  6. You’re so demanding
  7. Can’t you ever be satisfied?
  8. You’re so driven
  9. Where do you get all those wild ideas?
  10. Who do you think you are?

I know that last one is one I heard ALOT!

If we viewed people we reacted to through those questions (which we might find ourselves asking them), we may just get a small handle on what it is that they are trying to express from their valid internal makeup of gifts and motivations. We might understand where they are “coming from”, in other words. And if we view ourselves properly we might neutralize the pain those questions can trigger.

consider this “Part One”. I might switch to a podcast during one of these discussions.

9 thoughts on “The Semantics of Giftedness”

  1. The hardest question for me isn’t on your list of criticisms, “What were you THINKING?” or “Why don’t you think about what you’re doing?” When my problem is not that I’ve not thought about something before I do it. Actually, I think about it so much, but usually see so many options, and can look at it from many different perspectives, that it is hard to make the final decision. And usually, the way I end up thinking and acting is different from what other people would have done. So, they interpret it as I didn’t think about it, or am not paying attention to the obvious.

    And those questions (not usually asked that bluntly now that I’m an adult, but still asked in different, nicer ways) are really hard for me to synchronize with many people (often the same ones) who go on about how smart I am. I don’t particularly like that either, because smart is such a loaded word, and implies so many things, only some of which are true about me. BUT, the tension is between people thinking I’m smart and having these high expectations about what that means. And, then, looking at me like I’m the most clueless person in the world, and that’s worse because I’m smart?

    AND, it’s hard to find people to talk to this about. What are I supposed to say, “Um, I’m having problems with being too smart.” So, people have a hard time when I minimize their comments that I’m smart, but at the same time, no one is really comfortable with me talking about being smart (least of all, me!) Because saying, I’m smart and here is how that plays out in my life sounds way more arrogant than saying, “I’m introverted and here’s how that plays out in my life” (as I recently did on my blog).

    Plus, I hate rankings really, and I know smart isn’t all it’s cranked up to be. But if I try to talk about being smart it sounds like I’m putting myself up above everyone else, but all I want to do is talk about and figure out what to do with this part of me that’s different. I don’t want it to isolate me from people so I don’t talk about it, but it already does isolate me from some people, because they already think I’m smart and interact with me according to their assumptions about what that means. Obviously, my friends are used to me and accept that part of me along with the rest of the package deal, but I still feel kind of isolated because how I think is so different from other people.

    Even the way I’m “smart” is different than most “smart” people, which throws people even more. And there I am, not wanting to be any less me, but wishing I weren’t quite so different from other people that I pretty regularly feel missed and misunderstood.

  2. Not at all- I loved reading your insights. even though you think you are telling me your difficulty- I am hearing insight.

    I’m not completely through the book yet, but there are places that discuss just this dilemma. Being smart is loaded, and there are many types of “smart”. One reason I am writing about this is so you ( and I and whoever wants to) can embrace the things that made us different- to see them through the proper filter. Feeling missed and misunderstood is a different problem, however. My intuiting tells me that some of that can be dealt with as we accept ourselves by seeing where God has us fitting in… but haven’t worked through the thinking on that yet ( and it probably means some experience of it as well as the abstract thinking on it).

  3. It is comforting to be reminded that God does indeed mold us and our gifts to his glory. It is also important (to echo the last comment) to recognize that ‘being different’ is just fine.

    Hopefully I’ll see you at GodblogCon.

  4. Thanks, Ilona, for interacting with my thoughts. I look forward to more dialogue on this. I’m more at peace than ever before with resting in how God has made me, in feeling totally understood and known by Him. Yet, the pain of misunderstandings is still great. I’m learning that my sensitivity to this is tied into how God has made me. When people see “smart” in me, they are usually referring to “academic intelligence” and “interpersonal and intrapersonal skills”. The root of that, of how I’m “different”, it seems is that (1) I have an incredibly active emotional memory and some sort of highly organized, linear, and unconscious system for filing/retrieving those memories and (2) my brain makes connections between everything I take in–every experience, every relationship, every thing I read or learn. People are very often amazed at how well I understand what they are saying, and how my responses connect to their heart.

    It is hard for me to say these things, because it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn. But this is as natural to me as my nose smelling. That’s just what noses do–smell. That’s just what my brain does–feels things, files them away, and connects them to everything else in there. (That’s one of the difficulties of people “complimenting” me on being smart–it’s not something I DO. It would be like someone saying, “I’m so impressed. Wow, you’re a woman!” Like I have some say in that? That’s how God made me!)

    Anyway, out of that context, I also acutely feel the confusion and pain of being missed/ misunderstood. To others it looks like a hypersensitivity. And it is. But not JUST a hypersensitivity (like, can’t you stop being so sensitive?) That hypersensitivity is part of my vulnerability to understanding other people and what their heart is trying to communicate or what they are feeling.

    I also appreciate your honesty (and matter of factness) about your gift (I think you called it a talent for finding fault, or something like that, on the audioblog). Because I am “gifted” in emotional sensitivity, I am easily overwhelmed by intensity and criticism. But when I can be honest (and even laugh some) at my sensitivity and when I can hear someone laugh at their quick and accurate ability to see things critically, to cut through the chase, it helps me not be so overwhelmed by that. It reminds me that the intensity and critical eye is not about me, but is part of the richness and uniqueness of who that person is and why they can be a blessing in the way that they are. I do wish people could see my sensitivity in the same way rather than (as often happens) as a character flaw, rather than part of WHY I am the other things that they like about me.

  5. “it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn” does make it hard to share. We know, inside, that is not what we are doing while at the same time we know that is how we are coming off to others. What I wrote in the last post about the ‘false humility’ seems to be the only avenue that bridges those two things in our culture ( maybe most). I have developed an almost Pavlovian rejection of that type of communication. Perhaps “matter of factness” is the other route.
    “I’ve got this talent, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘all that’ ”

    Now that you have articulated it, I think the emotional memory plus brain connection is what makes your posts so attractive to me. Your gifts are perfect for writing I think… whatever difficulty arises elsewhere.

    I almost would say some of the difficulty arises from the fact that people generally get uncomfortable with too much intimacy- if we touch too deeply their own barriers arise. I find that with my levels of intensity- no one wants me to be as serious as I am at my core, so I have what I call my social persona- that is probably what you hear on the podcast, that social persona makes those who want a focused demeanor annoyed and prone to write me off . It is that dichotomy that causes some of the pain- we would like the whole person to be acknowledged, rather than the bits and parts that others feel are “OK”.

    My “talent for finding fault” is an analytical view of the logic and outcome of things, the problem has been the social aspect of how and when to exercise that talent. I automatically ask whether the desired end of the action or thought or attitude will be produced, and if not why not.

    Our challenge.. if it were you and I interacting closely in Real Life, would be that I harness my ability when it would unnecessarily alarm you and that you be able to have that “blessing view” when I seem to overstep my bounds and say something that seems hurtful. This sort of relationship work takes times, and often people are too rushed to engage in it.

    But we are stronger in relationship than we are on our own, and that is true of like groups that tend to be “birds of a feather”. True tolerance and diversity , in the true meaning of the words are powerful and effective. I think that is what the Church in its mature expression will define, true tolerance and diversity that achieves something very wonderful.

    so whereas I would give up on hope of ever finding that acceptance in the world system, I believe it is a reality in the Kingdom of God.
    the problem being the disconnect between the actual Kingdom of God and our present Christian lives.

    But we are working on it:) and we know this is what God is working at within us. So I have great hope! In the meantime, these efforts to understand and better cooperate with what is here, in terms of my personality and gifting is what I can do to keep from short circuiting my usefulness to God and everyone else.

    That hypersensitivity is part of my vulnerability to understanding other people and what their heart is trying to communicate or what they are feeling
    That is so needed, and it is so easily bruised by its very nature. It reminds me of a related thought: how much we should learn to cherish each other. Cherishing something protects those parts that are easily damaged, and that takes concern and effort. We tend to be so consumer oriented that it usurps our relationship view. People are not throwaways, and when we appreciate someone we must learn to cherish the whole of the person- it is not easy to do or learn how to do.

    so other oriented, you know? 😉

  6. alas John, I wish I could go to GodblogCon this year- it would do me great good and I would get to meet some of the people I so admire. It just doesn’t seem possible at this present juncture, altho’ I am thinking of “trying to find a way”.

  7. Ilona, you made me cry and that is always a very nice thing, I think. I took a quick break from my work to read your comment, and now I go back to work with good things to think about. I’m very glad you are discussing this topic.

  8. I cry that way myself- it is a release sort of crying and I find it healing. Your part of the discussion is working to form a greater understanding in me. It makes the ideas not so abstract when bounced back from another view and life.

    Thank you:) I appreciate the time you put into interacting here.

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