Where Does Your Genius Lie?

While homeschooling people often assumed I must have really smart kids.

Well, yeah. Sure.   Academically, I'd say my kids are pretty average.  They do well in school, but they are not what we'd put in the "genius" category.  But I've been thinking about what it means to be "smart."  When I tell my kids, "You're so smart," what am I really saying?

To me, being "smart" isn't about knowing stuff, or acing tests.  To me, being smart means a person is utilizing the gifts they have effectively.  Each individual is "smart" in their own way.  Many "smart" gifts are featured in our home:  musical, academic, analytical, organizational, creative, etc.  These all play a role in our home.

With these thoughts on my mind, when I heard Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk a couple of weeks ago...WOW!  I was struck by her message.  You'll really  just need to go listen to it yourself, but she says this:

In ancient Greece and Rome, "people did not believe creativity came from human beings.... People believed creativity derived form a divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source for distant and unknowable reasons."

In other words, a genius was not an individual, it was a magical identity who invisibly assisted the artist.  This in turn protected the artist.  For example, if the work was brilliant, the artist couldn't take full credit  (good bye narcissism!);  if the work was awful, it was the spirit's fault (good bye fear of failure!).

Isn't that brilliant!  Yes, we need to praise our children for their goodness, even their greatness.  But maybe the how we praise needs to be fine tuned a little bit in our culture. Do our kids worry too much about being the best?  Or are they concerned about taking risks for fear they will mess up?  Do we give too much credit to ourselves for the things we accomplish and blame ourselves too much for the things that go wrong?  This idea of a genius being an out-of-body entity sounds so liberating to me.  (And realize, I'm talking in the creative sense, not the "making bad choices in life" sense - - for those we obviously need to take responsibility.)

I find myself then asking, "Does this concept fit into my spiritual paradigm?"  I think Ammon had the right idea when he says, "I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God."  When we praise our children or ourselves, are we giving credit where credit is due?

C.S. Lewis also purports: "Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.  And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere."  Weight of Glory, p.31 (see p. 30 also for more on this).

So, no.  My kids are not smart.  My kids have simply been given different gifts with which to navigate and share in this life.  When I hear my son play the piano, I relish in the gift he was given, I don't usually think of how amazing he is...and I tell him that, too.   Rather than saying, "You are so good!"  I prefer to say,"You have been given such a gift, don't waste it."  (Maybe that's a different kind of pressure I need to explore??)

I'll end with more from Elizabeth Gilbert.  She poses the question, "Is it rational, is it logical that anybody should be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this earth to do?"  If we believe we are put on this earth to really do something, then let's do it!  And then, as we find success in that personal mission, let's remember to acknowledge from where we got that gift.

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For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.  To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
 Doctrine & Covenants 46:11-12


What Do You Want?

It's a simple question really.  Or is it?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow tell us, "It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement (The Temple Experience, Wendy Ulrich, p.169)."

So, what do you want?

Do you even know?

Our family frequently shops at thrift stores.  However, I have one daughter who currently refuses to do so.  She wants "nice" things, she says.  Though she wants to be thrifty (and have money for other pursuits), she also has a desire to have new and nice things.  So, I am trying to teach her that it is OKAY to want "nice things" and that choosing such will limit her options in the future.  Neither is wrong.  She works hard to make money, she saves money, how she spends it is really up to her and what she truly wants.

Sometimes in our culture we are afraid to ask for what we want.  We may feel that doing so is selfish or silly.  Like my daughter who feels "bad" that she wants nice things, we question our desires and think maybe we are bad for wanting what we want.  Sometimes, therefore, we shove down those wants, hiding them away and feeling ashamed they even exist.

Likewise, there may be some negative connotation with wanting things because of the teaching that we must give up our will for the Lord's will.  Now, before I go further, it is true that we need to submit our will to God, understanding that ultimately He knows what is best for us, but I think we sometimes look at these wills as though they are always in conflict with one another.

Doesn't the Lord tell us, "Ask and ye shall receive?"  Similarly he asks, "Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?"  I truly believe the Lord wants to give us what we want.  I have come to understand that it is we who do not know what we want, therefore we don't really know what to ask for!

I think it is human to want a lot of things.  I want to travel.  I want to watch movies all day sometimes. I want to read books all day sometimes.  I want junk food.  I want lots and lots of money (so I can travel).  I want nice clothes.  I want my children to be healthy and to not fight with each other. I want people to like me and to like all people all of the time.

And then there's the fact that many of our desires actually contradict one another.  I want to sleep in and I also I want a quiet morning before the kids wake up.  I want my husband to work less but I want him to work so we can have money (to travel, haha).  I want to serve my neighbors and I also want to have time for myself. I want to be a mother and I want to have some sort of career.

All of these conflicting desires actually then make it very difficult for us to know what we really want, deep down inside.  And yet, the conflict also gives us the opportunity to "educate our desires," as Elder Maxwell would say.   It's this educating of our desires, this fine-tuning, I think that brings us closer to the will of God.  He has blessed us already with certain gifts and personality traits that lead us to want certain things - - good things.  Also coming with us from heaven are weaknesses and traits that may lead us to want not so good things.  If we are truly seeking to righteously follow God, we will move more toward the good, thus following His plan for us anyway.  Right?

I have recently been on my own search for what I truly want.  Heavenly Father has given me time (too much, in my opinion) to kind of "go it alone," to seek out what I truly want. I have had some conflicting thoughts and ideas of what to choose and where to go in my life.  I've also been asking what His will would be for me.  His answer has pretty much been, "It's your choice." (Sometimes I dislike agency!) Though painful, hard and a little lonely at times, this experience has made me more confident in what I've always wanted, yet forgotten.

We need to remember that Satan is the one who wants us to be miserable.  Heavenly Father wants us to have joy.  Seeking what we want, in accordance with what God has already given and desires further for us, brings us closer to that joy.  When we keep this open conflict with God - - my will vs. Thy will - - then there is misery, we are left to "kick against the pricks."  Though we ultimately will submit our will to the Father's, I don't believe we'll find our righteous desires much different than His in the end.

 - - - - - - 

"Glory...turns out to satisfy my original desire 
and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed.  
By ceasing for a  moment to consider my own wants 
I have begun to learn better what I really wanted." 
C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory p. 39
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