Receiving Others as Gifts: Embracing Their Giftedness


For as long as I can remember I have had some understanding that different people are, well, different. We don’t all like the same things, we don’t all behave the same ways, and we don’t all have the same ideas. Different people have different gifts and strengths and these should be honored and celebrated, not seen as a threat.

School Days
When I was a kid in school I remember being really jealous when certain select individuals were considered “gifted” and got to go to special “enrichment” classes while the rest of us did our usual routine. I wasn’t the most enthused about school work and admit to often just doing the minimum needed to get by—as smart as I thought I was, I wasn’t exactly “enrichment” material.

As I progressed through elementary school, other kids distinguished themselves in athletic achievements. I, on the other hand was challenged to meet grade level minimum standards on the annual physical fitness achievement test.

Seeing other students excel in ways that teachers recognized and for which awards were given in school often led me to wonder whether I had anything distinguishing or remarkable about myself.

Being Unique

Now, looking back on that time I can see trends of the types of things that I really put myself into whole-heartedly and truly enjoyed. These were creative pursuits of all kinds, a little entrepreneurship, and church-life. And now I’m putting all that together in my writing and speaking ministry!

Whether we get recognition or awards or not, we each have unique gifts. The traits and experiences that set each of us apart make it so that, like snowflakes, no two people are exactly alike. And that’s a good thing!

But sometimes we see our differences as a threat. And this is not altogether unfounded as there are indeed risks inherent in accepting the uniqueness of others.

Measuring Up

Sometimes we feel threatened by the success of another, like I did when other kids went to enrichment classes or got physical fitness awards. Sometimes to minimize this risk we try to be something we’re not. We can get ourselves awfully stuck by measuring ourselves against the strengths of others.

It’s difficult to fully embrace the giftedness of others without also understanding our own giftedness. To that end, there are numerous professional assessments—the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory to name a couple.

I encourage all people to spend some time learning what makes them unique. A book that offers a comprehensive overview is LifeKeys and I highly recommend it.


But sometimes the differences of another feel threatening because we cannot predict or control what they will do. To minimize this risk we often try to reduce others down to how they are supposedly “just like us.” We think we can tame the threat they pose by finding what we have in common with them.

Patrick R. Keifert, in his book, Welcoming the Stranger, warns against this leveling of the other. He advocates an understanding of the “irreducible other” arguing that to truly value others we have to let their otherness be what it is.

It is important to be open to the strange and surprising aspects of others. Rather than minimizing differences we do well to embrace them.

Risk Management

The differences among us do not have to be threatening. Gaining clarity about our own strengths helps us feel more secure and less apt to measure ourselves by an impossible standard. And acknowledging that others are never going to be quite like us or within our control can free us up to the ways that they will surprise us. As we navigate these risks we can then more fully embrace the giftedness of others.

Read all the posts in the Receiving Others as Gifts series:


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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Julie Tinker on April 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I used to relate to this when I was younger, but as I have matured I have come to see that worrying about my own giftedness just distracts me from my real purpose which is to serve others through my gifts. The closer I get to God I don’t need to worry about it. In fact I see them more clearly when I let this vain part of myself go.

  2. The whole “gifted” thing always bothered me. Most everyone has a short list of pretty remarkable gifts. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

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