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The Hidden Dangers of Talent

The Hidden Dangers of Talent

Talent is a wonderful gift but beware of the hidden dangers of talent. Entertainment magazines and television programs celebrate the successes, the talents and the accomplishments of creatives, but resist telling us about the woes, the pitfalls and the trapdoors for every creative. We recognize the talent of writers dripping from the page, actors and directors pouring through the screen and musicians, DJ’s and musical producers pouring through our earbuds. We know talent when we encounter it because it stands out against the thousands of artists whose art fails to move us, or falls short, and disappears over time. The truth is this: Everyone knows talent is essential to succeed, and we love to celebrate the talented, but we ought to also consider the hidden dangers of talent that arise along the way.

Arrested Creative Development

The first danger is arrested creative development. Many of us have met people with incredible natural talent. Some are natural athletes, while others are naturally great singers and performers. These people tend to excel in high school, where so few students have spent the proverbial 10,000 hours developing their talents, but when they get to college that natural talent falls short. Or maybe they stood out from the crowd in their small hometown, but are humbled when they move to a major city where they are finally competing with the best.

In either case, there is a point where they realize their talent is no longer enough to impress others or stand out from the crowds. They realize they need training, discipline, experience and constructive feedback. It is in those moments where they realize that talent isn’t enough. Stephen King’s words are instructive:

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
― Stephen King

Creative Atrophy

As we see in the parables of Christ, the talents we are given come with responsibility to develop them and become good stewards of our gifts. This requires taking risks, being shrewd, and seizing opportunities to stretch and grow as we develop our talent. We may learn from teachers early in our career, but if get to a place where we rest on our talents, we will fail to keep growing and our creativity will atrophy. Like muscles that deteriorate when they are not used, so our creative talents deteriorate when we fail to keep growing, learning and stretching ourselves. Talent is great, but we also need character, which comes from discipline. Consider the words of John Maxwell:

“Talent is a gift, but character is a choice.”
― John C. Maxwell

God never calls us to sit back on our giftedness or past achievements. God wants us to keep growing in every area of our life. We should always be growing in our spiritual life and creative life. This means never resting upon what gifts or accomplishments were realized yesterday. We should celebrate our successes, and give thanks to God for our gifts, but we should never rest upon our gifting. If we stop developing, we will grow stagnant, and fail to continue glorifying God with our gifts in the way he called you to use your gifts.

Creative Isolation

Those who trust in their gifts lead a life that ends in creative isolation. The more we believe we have what it takes and fail to see how much more we can grow, the more we will become prideful, unwilling to listen to others, and unable to have deep relationships with other creatives.
Those who are humble enough to keep learning from other artists are the ones who develop lifelong friendships with mentors, colleagues and collaborators. One approach leads to a rich community while the other leads to isolation, arrogance and loneliness.

Spiritual Isolation

The most serious danger for those who are talented is the temptation to forget the one who gave you the gift. You were not given your gift to make money, accumulate awards, and gain applause. You were given your gift by God to communicate something of God’s character to other people.

For some of you it is a call to communicate the hope of redemption, as you depict the arc of justice amidst the evil in the world. For others, it is a call to communicate the love of God through therapeutic art that brings healing to the wounded and broken. For others, God may have called you to provoke people to think and to shake them out of complacency. There are a myriad of ways that God uses artists, but we cannot say God does not care how you use your gift. He cares deeply.

If we forget that God gave us the gift for a reason, we are tempted to think our gifting is simply about us. Then, we start to buy into the cultural myth that you will be happy when you use your gift to do what ‘feels good’ and ‘whatever your heart desires.’ This mindset ignores the reality of sin and temptation. It portrays all desires as good, and thereby fails to recognize the selfish desires that lead to sin, painful consequences and a loss of intimacy with God. Such trusting in your own desires and your own gifting will lead to spiritual isolation- from God.

Our Remedy

Don’t lose hope! There is a remedy, so we can overcome the hidden dangers of talent. The good news is found when we recognize our gifts as a gift from God. Then we can begin to see we have a responsibility to develop them, to use them to bless others, and to draw us closer to God. We rarely speak of art in this manner, but if your art does not reflect this over the lifetime of your work, you are out of step with the very purpose God had in giving you your talents. God did not give you talents for you to be isolated spiritually or creatively. God did not give you talents in order for you to use them without developing them. That is a form of sloth.

Take Stock

No matter where you are in your creative life, take time to examine your creative disciplines, and the implications of the way you live and create. Ask yourself if your life and art are leading others to love God, to see God’s work in you. Ask yourself if your artistic process is leading to isolation or community. Take stock, and get honest feedback from ones you love and ones in your life who are mature spiritually. If you do, you will benefit greatly because you will know where you are on target and where you need to adjust.

God is with you, longing to work in your life to make you more spiritually mature and to make you more like his son, Jesus. He is also longing to work through your artistic process to bless you and to bless those to whom you share your creative talents. God is there, waiting for you to invite him deeper into your life, to bring more joy, hope and richness to all of life. Even your art!

Be sure to leave a comment below or ask us any questions you have about the hidden dangers of talent. Join our ongoing conversations on art and faith HERE. We’d love to have you join our community of artists of faith.

Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

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1 comment on “The Hidden Dangers of Talent”

  1. Drek Reply

    God has been my rod, my staff and my paint brush. In times both good and bad l give thanks.

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