Talents of the Heart
Competition is huge in our society. From reality TV shows to Monday Night Football, from Facebook pages to elementary school fundraisers…even Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and youth groups at churches hold somewhere in their practices an element of competition. Ads for child nutrition supplements show soccer moms comparing the energy and performance of their kids. In high schools all over the country, teenagers vie for the best looking college application by achieving the highest awards and positions in extracurricular activities. Moms of young children are always concerned with the development of their children compared with other kids of the same age.
Even without trying, we compete daily. We compete with ourselves, with our family members, our friends, our colleagues, and in our communities. “Keeping up with the Joneses” wouldn’t be such a well-known saying if it weren’t universally true. Don’t get me wrong – being competitive is not a fault. Competition is healthy in moderation. But even if you are one to normally shy away from a challenge, competition is part of our being, whether we like it or not.
Natural Esteem and Hidden Talents
We judge information by the same token. If it’s met with critical acclaim, a documentary or published study becomes that much more important and recognized. If it gets onto The New York Times Best Seller List, we’ll be more likely to trust the integrity of a book and its author.
But this element of competition, this natural esteem that comes from being acclaimed, known, and excellent – only measures outward talents: how many books are sold; how many experts agree with an idea; how effective is a certain product – or how beautifully and masterfully a violinist plays, or a dancer moves. Outward talent, easy to see and appreciate, is extremely valuable in our society.
More difficult to recognize – and much less publicized, honored, and cultivated – are talents that cannot be measured by a competition. Talents like being a good listener, a comfortable collaborator, a dedicated caregiver, or someone who boosts the esteem of others. These sorts of “inward” talents can be seen even earlier than outward talents like dancing, musical aptitude, or giftedness. They manifest in daily interactions with others, and continue for a lifetime. When an inward talent is highlighted and nurtured, it can be such a boon to the person who possesses it, and to all of those the person knows.
How blessed would our society be if these talents of the heart were nurtured and supported as much as outward talents are!
Becky also has something to say about this subject in her post, Be A Daisy at Old New Legacy. It’s definitely an idea worth some thought, especially for those of us who strive to be authentic and nurturing parents. Our society is so driven by competition and success. Qualities like determination, ambition, and excellence are fine qualities to encourage – but they’re not the only types of qualities needed for a healthy society. Qualities like compassion, collaboration, loyalty, and cooperation are talents that are frequently overlooked, but incredibly important!
Shining light on these inward, unique talents of the heart (both in ourselves and in our children) could be integral in creating a more cooperative and compassionate society.
Recognizing Talents of the Heart
Personally, I can tell that my three-year-old daughter would be an awesome collaborator. She always has something interesting to say, enjoys conversation, and negotiates and elaborates like a pro. We make up songs together, create stories, engage in role-play games, and talk about what could be…. In addition to her enthusiasm, agile nature, and rhythmic sensitivity (all of which can be measured and pertain to certain outward talents, like singing, dancing, and gymnastic strength), I can see her collaborative ability, and I try to nurture it and help it mature as she grows.
Can you see a talent of the heart in your child?
What types of activities encourage your child’s unique inward talents?
Here are some ideas to help you see your talents of the heart, and those of your child:
- Think about your child’s independent choices. What does your child like to do when you’re not looking? (For example, when she’s playing independently, my budding collaborator likes to get out all of a certain group of toys, and talk to each and every one of them, putting them into a circle and letting them chat with each other and with her.)
- Think about your child’s play. Which activities does he frequent, and how does he interact with the toys he plays with? (i.e. does he talk to them, sing to them, question them, “listen” to them, care for them, etc.?)
- Think about your child’s relationship with others. What role does your child play in her group of friends, or when interacting with siblings or cousins?
- Think about your child’s most challenging behavior. What helps your child handle huge challenges? What type of coping works for him? How are you (or another caregiver) able to provide effective comfort, or help him find a solution to a problem? These answers can help you see how your child’s heart and mind work together, and can lead to insight about inward talents.
Thinking about your child’s inward talents of the heart is a fun and interesting way to understand them better and to nurture a compassionate personality. It’s fun to pinpoint your unique talents of the heart, and those of your partner and friends as well!
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