Orthodoxy Today
Placing Impossible Standards on Ourselves

Chaplain's Corner
Short essays written for the La Jolla Veteran's Hospital newsletter in La Jolla, California

Sometimes we set up unrealistic goals and objectives for ourselves that are impossible for us to attain. This does not mean that we should not aim high, that is: to work at achieving all we are capable of achieving. In fact, this is an important motivating factor in our lives. However, failure will follow if we strive to attain goals that are of themselves unrealistic based on a true assessment of our talents. Unrealistic goals are barriers to achievement and in the end serve to block motivation and frustrate hard work.

All of us receive different gifts or talents. The key to success is to use the talents given to us, rather than comparing and evaluating ourselves based on the talents given to others. We might also remind ourselves our talents may change with age and circumstances. Even experiences in dealing with our own challenges could be used in aiding others. We could recall the parable told by Jesus: "…to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away" (Mt 25: 15). To those who used the talents they were given, were told by their headman, as the parable continues: 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master" (Mt 25: 23).

The Book of Proverbs (10:4) states: "the hand of the diligent makes rich." The lesson for all of us is: 'be diligent in what we work at but do so based on the 'real' gifts God has bestowed on us.' The Koran reminds us that all gifts are to be considered as coming from God: As for man, when his Lord tries him by giving him honour and gifts, then he says (puffed up): "My Lord has honoured me" (Sura 89 089.015).

Another way of saying this is not to be "puffed up" but simply acknowledge God is the source of all we have. As the Epistle of St. James (1:7) tells us: "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights …"

It should be noted that training ourselves and our children should begin as early in life as possible. The Book of Proverbs (22:6) reminds us: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." However, no matter what time in our life we make the commitment to use our real God-given talents it is no barrier to receiving God's blessings: God is patient, so too, we should be patient with ourselves. St. Paul reminds us: "For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;" (Romans 2: 6-7). In fact, I have always counseled that the best way of making up for the past is to work diligently using the talents we have received from God from this time forward and into the future.

To quote a well known saying many will recognize from several years ago: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" - use our talents well-use all our talents for the rest of our lives.

Fr. George Morelli

V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.

Be sure to visit Fr. Morelli's new site Orthodox Healing  for the latest essays and information.

Published: September 18, 2008

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