In dominant US culture, worthiness is not assumed; it must be proven. Some of us work hard to prove it; some of us never try or give up trying when the effort proves futile. Our worthiness is typically measured by its value in the market place. If you have skills that can be exchanged for money, then you are deemed to be an asset to society. The hope is that the money you make allows you to be “self-reliant,” someone who is not a “drain” on society, someone who can “earn their keep.” In a monied economy, your “net worth” is a number.
In our hearts, we know this way of being valued has little to do with us. As Malidoma Somé writes in The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual and Community:
Whether they are raised in indigenous or modern culture, there are two things that people crave: the full realization of their innate gifts, and to have these gifts approved, acknowledged, and confirmed. There are countless people in the West whose efforts are sadly wasted because they have no means of expressing their unique genius. In the psyches of such people there is an inner power and authority that fails to shine because the world around them is blind to it.
Spiritual leadership assumes that each of us has genius — gifts with which we are born and by which we can bless the world. Spiritual leadership recognizes that each of us comes into the world with a longing to deliver our gifts for the good of community. When our gifts are exploited, unnoticed or dismissed, we lose a sense of our worthiness.
In an earlier post, I lifted up “dream” as a an element of spiritual leadership. Gifts are another. Our spiritual leadership involves discerning our gifts and delivering them. It also involves helping others discern and deliver theirs. This is the reciprocal relationship between the individual and the community: the community supports individuals to recognize, hone and deliver their gifts; the individual delivers their gifts for the good of the community. The community gratefully receives the gifts which the individual gratefully offers. In beloved community, there is no such thing as “unemployment” or “retirement.” As long as we are alive, there is opportunity to deliver our gifts.
Genius is not about being super smart. It is about having super powers. And each of us has these. We might not even know our own super powers because we think they have to be hard to exercise or earn us money. But what makes them super is that while others may find them difficult or impossible to deliver, we deliver them with effortlessness and ease. What makes them super is that delivering them does not deplete us but energizes us. What makes them super is that their impact ripples out beyond counting.
What makes them super is that they are the only worth that matters.
[Next up: You Are Pre-Approved on the element of divine authority]