The Tragedy of Living Below Our Capacities

I came across a quote today that really resonated with me.

“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.”—Benjamin E. Mays

I was not familiar with that name, so I spent some time reading more about this fascinating man.  Benjamin Mays was a pastor, college professor, dean, and college president.  His most famous student was Martin Luther King, Jr.  King referred to Dr. Mays as his “spiritual mentor,” and he said he saw in Dr. Mays “the ideal of what he wanted a minister to be.” Dr. Mays delivered the eulogy at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. (source: Wikipedia)

The quote by Dr. Mays above speaks to a common tragedy in the lives of so many: the tragedy of what could have been.  Too often, I believe we trade what could be for the comfort and supposed security of what is.  How many people, near the end of their lives, look back with regret over relationships not reconciled, decisions not made, or actions not taken?

Leaders are not immune to this.  Often, after a season of opposition, a leader’s tendency can be to throttle back, to coast and not make too many waves.  The tragedy is that when a leader begins to coast in complacency, so do the people they lead!  The mission is not advanced; the ball is not moved up the field; and a maintenance mindset begins to take hold.  Be careful — once that mindset takes root, its tough to dig it out.

Last Sunday at Southview, I taught on how God has wired us according to our spiritual gifts, our passions, and talents, and if we are serving in the intersection of those, we will find fulfillment that will last.  Our spiritual gifts are given to us by God for the benefit of others.  The question we should ask, concerning our gifts, is how can I use this for others?

The tragedy is “not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little.” How often is there a dream in the mind and heart of a leader that goes unseen, unheard, and unrealized? By playing it safe, you create fewer waves, sure, but the tragedy is that the dream is left in the land of potential, and all those who could have benefitted from it will not.

I don’t want to live “below my capacity” – I want to top out!  I want to see God use every gift He has given me for the benefit of others.  I don’t want to do too little – I want to leverage every moment I can for the work He has designed me to do.  I believe when I do that, He is glorified and I will find the freedom and contentment that come from being who God designed me to be.

And I want the same thing for you.

In 2015, what are you doing differently to top out your capacity for what God created and designed you to do?