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Are You In a Season of Growth or Season of Contribution?

St. John Paul II would often cite a phrase from a Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes. When I first heard it, it literally redefined how I lived my life. This phrase reads:

“Man cannot know himself except through a sincere gift of self.”

When I first heard those words they resonated deep into my soul. They changed me. I now had my mission—to be a sincere gift.

So, for every man and woman seeking to know who they are, their mission, and their purpose in life, it is going to come through a beautiful exchange of offering yourself as a gift to a willing recipient.

But how do we get to that place of sincerity? How do we develop our gift into a true pearl of great price, and in some special way, make it so sincere that it becomes an encounter with divinity itself?

One very practical way I have discovered is by dividing my life into two seasons. On one hand, there is a season of growth, on the other hand, a season of contribution. I go in and out of these seasons, sometimes multiple times in each day. The benefit of seeing my life in these seasons has helped me to grow in humility and take advantage of God’s grace in the present moment.

A season of growth is when you realize that, in order to be a sincere gift in the way you wish to be, you need to become more than who you currently are. That may mean you need more knowledge, skill, resources, or talent to really show up sincerely as the gift you wish to be.

A season of contribution is when you have gained the knowledge, skills, resources, and talents required to deliver on the gift that you promise.

The former season helps you to be the sincere gift in the latter. Oddly enough, our seasons of contribution can also teach us about the people we serve, their needs, and their desires, inspiring us to return to seasons of growth as well and continually refine the sincerity of our gift.

As a coach, I often see my clients create all kinds of trouble for themselves when they try to skip the often painful and humbling season of growth and jump right into contribution.

I see it a lot when men and women get a promotion. Suddenly, they find themselves in a new role facing brand new challenges, but instead of admitting incompetency or that they need help, they feel ashamed, throw up a façade, and hide their shortfalls. They don’t learn, they don’t get help, and they don’t get to a place where they feel confident in their role.

By denying the reality that their change in status has thrust them into a humbling season of growth, they never do the work that allows them to truly enter a season of contribution.

“You have to be Marian before you can be Petrine!” I recall the words spoken by Theology of the Body theologian and best-selling author, Christopher West, on the opening night of my first TOB immersion course. He continued, “Before you can spread the gospel to all nations, you must first quietly receive the Word and allow it to form into new life within you.”

Wise words, which parallel philosophy’s law of insufficient reason—you can’t give what you don’t have.

So, next time you find yourself feeling incompetent, consider…maybe you are—and that’s ok! By choosing to embrace life’s seasons of growth when they come, we can embrace the humble path that will mature us into the sincere gift we long to be and season of contribution we long to enter.