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


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