The Parable Of The Talents. What Offers Should You Accept? What Should You Do With The Gifts You’ve Been Given?

Women Wolves

What do you think of this quote?

“When seeking guidance, don’t ever listen to the tiny-hearted.  Be kind to them, heap them with blessing, cajole them, but do not follow their advice.”

   ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés, from her famous book “Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype”

If you think the quote provides a good or bad premise, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.

“cajole” –  v. – to persuade someone to do something by sustained coaxing or flattery.

I remember reading “Women Who Run With The Wolves” and not liking it.  The title didn’t help.  My dislike for the title had nothing to do with gender distinctions or issues.  If the title had been Men Who Run With Wolves,” I would have equally disliked the title because wolves are predatory animals who have little consideration for any creatures, even other wolves who are not in their immediate pack’s hierarchy.  So, the thought of “running with wolves” was unappealing.  Had the title been “Men Who Run In Packs” or “Men Who Behave Like Incorrigible Wild Animals” – all would have been slow starters for me.

Nevertheless, here are some thoughts that came to mind when I read the above quote.

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The Parable Of The Talents.  What Offers Should You Accept?  What Should You Do With The Gifts You’ve Been Given?

The “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30 tells of a master who was leaving his home to travel, and before going, entrusted his property to his servants (property worth 8 talents, where a talent was a large unit of money).  One servant receives five talents, the second two talents, and the third one talent, according to their respective abilities.

Returning after a long absence, the master asks his servants for an accounting.  The first two servants explain that they have each put their money to work and doubled the value of the property they were entrusted with, and so they are each rewarded.

The third servant, however, has merely hidden his talent in a hole in the ground, and is punished.  ~ summary from Wikipedia.

Commentary:   I’ve heard that parable many times.  Like most parables, it can be interpreted in different ways.

I am “one more option,” so I tend to often not go along with the pack.  I am less likely to nod my head in conforming agreement.  So, I tend to question the parable’s implied “moral of the story.”

Personally, I don’t have a problem when people, who have little money, “bury” their savings, keeping it safe.  I can easily understand why a person with only a small amount of savings would be more likely to safely hide their savings, because when you invest your money (or put your talents into play), you greatly increase the chance of losing all or some of them.

It is convenient, and probably unrealistic, that in the parable, the servants who put all their money (and talents) at risk ended with a 100% return on their investment.  But realistically, they also could have lost some or all of their money, ending up with less than they were given.

I can understand why someone who has little money would be cautious to risk their talents and be more likely to preserve them.

A beautiful characteristic of the parable is the double meaning of “talents,” meaning either a large sum of money or a gifted skill.

The parable implies a good servant should put all of their talents into play (at risk), and I don’t think that is always the best option. 

One more option to consider might be putting only part of your talents at risk (or into play) until you see what kinds of consistent returns you receive in response.

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Things to consider before you accept someone’s offer of a gift:

1)  Be true to your desires, priorities, and preferences.  Don’t accept a gift that will lead you to not be true to yourself.
2)  Don’t worry too much about your culture’s god’s supposed religious preference.  Often that is determined more by the geography of where you were born than on actual merit.
3)  Don’t put the opinions (or consent) of your friends and co-workers above your ability to do more good for others in general.
4)  When you can continue to do great good for others, still be as good as you can to the people close to you.
5)  With almost no exceptions, when you receive a gift of great wealth, you take on an obligation to be a good steward of those assets, to protect them and put them toward good purposes.  And often, you take on a willingness to return equal wealth back to the giver in some like kind.  So, if you don’t want to be indebted, and if you don’t want to return equal benefits back in like kind, you may be better off declining the gift.
6)  And maybe most importantly, consider the good you will (not just “can”) do for others with the wealth you receive and can share.

As I have said before, great wealth is not simply having many assets.  Great wealth is evidenced by your abilities to help others create their own great wealth for themselves and others.

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“To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Or as Stan Lee updated it:  “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

I would add this additional consideration:

People who create good for themselves and others from the “small” gifts they have received tend to be people I admire.  And when people see the good they create from the little they have received, people tend to want to give them more.

From the large or small gifts you have received, what good have you created?

I don’t evaluate a person based on the size of the gifts they have received.  I’m more interested in how much they did with whatever they were given, large or small.

It is not the size of the gifts you have received that matters.  It’s not the size of your heart or brain.  Rather, it matters what you do, what you create, with whatever you have been given.

Be open-minded, giving offers thorough consideration.  Don’t pre-judge someone because you perceive them to have little potential.  As my favorite college English professor once told me:  Even a fat doctor can give excellent health advice.  Don’t discriminate.  Consider the merit of each set of words and actions.  Kindness is not revealed in a disingenuous smile or a nod.  Kindness is revealed by giving others responsive, genuine consideration and feedback.

Sometimes your talents, your wealth, and the quality of your advice, are revealed by how much good you did with the small amounts you were given.

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If someone said you had a tiny heart, too small to receive any of their time or genuine affections, how could you ever prove them wrong?  Could you show the size of your heart by continuing to love them long after they left you? 

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When I disagree with a person, I still listen to them.

I don’t agree with much in Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ quote atop this post.

First, I’d never suggest anyone has a “tiny-heart” because:

a) I’d likely be wrong,
b) How could I ever accurately assess such a thing?  To do so would be presumptuous, and
c) I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.

But just because I may not agree with some of the things Clarissa Pinkola Estés asserts, I don’t stop listening to her.  I don’t cajole or patronize her.

I still consider each of her ideas on their individual merits.

One of the benefits of continuing to listen and not being discriminatory is you may often discover great ideas from people you disagree with in other areas.

That principle is supported in the following example.  I’ll end with this great poem by the same author: Clarissa Pinkola Estés:

“A Prayer”

Refuse to fall down
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart
toward heaven
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.”

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