Toxic skills are actually gifts that God has given us. However, they have been allowed to overstep their useful bounds. It will help us to consider that they are actually a means to an end. We are meant to use them as tools. For example, if you were building a bench, you would not consider the saw to be more important than the finished project, would you? Likely not. The finished bench would be the thing of beauty, not the saw. The saw is merely a tool to accomplish the task of making the bench.
Here is an example of how this worked out in my life:
I am an entrepreneurial artist, as well as an extrovert who has ever met a stranger. Unknown folks are merely friends that I don’t know yet. I have started a few businesses in my adult life. I need the skills of mathematical proficiency, investing and accounting in order to allow new churches, and other 501c3 organizations to thrive. They are tools for my broader, more strategic vocation of helping people find their voice. Accounting skills are like the saw… they are tools meant to fade into the background and support the end product.
Your toxic skill is someone else’s greatest joy and your joy is someone else’s greatest nightmare. I had a business partner who really hated talking in front of a crowd. Conversely, I come alive in front of a crowd. She loves administration, which makes me break out in hives. She was creative and fast in all things tech! I am unable to make anything on the back end of a website work right. I have another friend who is actualized, as in a spiritual experience, when she balances the books. Financial statements are her Van Gogh’s. There is someone who really loves to do what is toxic to you. Make it your opportunity to find that person. You will be happier and so will he or she.
I hope this short series on Toxic Skills has given you some ‘aha’ moments. There is more about this topic in my book Your Vocational Credo Practical Step to Discover Your Unique Purpose available through Amazon and Intervarsity Press. I would love to hear your comments and experiences with toxic skills.
Last week I introduced Toxic Skills, and gave examples from my book Your Vocational Credo, Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose. This you will discover how to recognize them in your life.
While they is easy to diagnose in others, it takes some self reflection to discover our own toxic skills. If one feels lifeless or depressed after a specific activity, it may be a toxic skill. When given too much of our energy, these skills have the capacity to locked us into a smaller world than desired. Toxic skills keep us from discovering more pleasurable pastimes and greater gifts. I am not suggesting that we have the liberty to always refuse to do those things that are distateful to us. Each of us will be required to do things in life that are not scintillating as part of our contribution. But we don’t want to get stuck there.
We need to become aware of what brings joy and what does not bring joy to our lives so that when we step into the job market we do not commit forty hours a week or more to something that is not emotionally sustainable.
Three clues alert us that a toxic skill is rearing its dreadful head. First, shame indicates that we may be walking into something toxic. When folks understand that we know how to do something well they expect us to do it as “your service to the Lord,” whether or not it is good for us. For example, I have been called upon to pick up the accounting chores in some organizations I am involve with. I do not do this, but I often feel shamed for not participating in the expected way. Shame often causes us to say yes when we should be saying no. I responded with a lot of yeses before I learned how to say no.
Avoidance is the second sure-fire clue that there is a toxic skill at work. Do you put it off until the end of the day? Does it end up at the bottom of the to-do list day by day and week by week? Hmmm… sounds toxic!
Secrecy is the third telltale sign. If you refuse to tell others about a skill you have it could be toxic. Example: I went to school for fashion design. I know how to do everything from hemming pants to designing a dress from scratch. For years I did not tell anyone for fear that I would be drafted into fixing broken zippers and hemming jeans. Keeping a skill under wraps is a strong indicator that it is toxic.
I hope this has been helpful and that you are ferreting out your own toxic skills. Next time we will see how these skills are actually gifts and what we should do with them.
What are your toxic skills? How do they show up?