Going It Together

The problem with the seven deadly sins is they are so easy to commit. Avarice, for example.

A couple of weeks ago, I was admiring a basket of goodies someone had put together in that Martha-Stewart-has-nothing-on-me style that no gift I give will ever resemble. It’s highly unlikely I’ll even think of using a basket.

I said to whoever was there, “That is not a skill I have,” and someone replied, “Don’t be greedy, Rachel. You are very talented.”

I used to believe I had to be good at everything, even though I clearly wasn’t. I should have had the moral fortitude, for example, to be happy as a bus driver. Never mind that driving large vehicles terrifies me; clearly, this psychological weakness needed to be overcome. Luckily, I only beat myself up about not overcoming it rather than calling one of those “We’re hiring drivers” numbers on the back of a big rig.

This hyper-self-sufficiency is very American but not very helpful. We can get so focused on pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps that we fail to recognize that others are doing much of the heavy lifting (as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in Outliers).

Releasing the need to be good at everything has allowed me to appreciate people who excel in the areas that confound me. I can more easily see the beauty of others’ work when not putting energy into feeling insufficient instead. Becoming a little less greedy has also freed me to realize that my talents truly are talents, not just something all those doctors and lawyers could do if they chose to stop doing their more impressive work.

The best part of recognizing and accepting this diversity of gifts is being able to celebrate the reality that we actually need each other, that this whole life thing is way too big to be undertaken alone.

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