Falling Short of One’s Potential

The Unerutilized woman

Webster’s dictionary:  Underutilize
– to utilize less than fully or below the potential use; to fail to utilize fully.

I know a woman who has it all.  She’s smart, naturally beautiful with olive skin and long dark hair, and graduated college at the top of her class.  As if this were not enough she also has two handsome, tall, athletic, smart, college bound sons.  Yet, she is underutilized.   I know this doesn’t make since, but it’s true.  How can a woman who has it all be underutilized?  The answer is she has hidden from her own potential most of her adult life.  How has she done this you ask? By allowing her mistakes, disappointments, fear, insecurity, and the negative life commandments spoken to her throughout her life to be the foundation she uses when making decisions.

Hiding behind the responsibility of parenting she has walked on the periphery of all social activity saying she was too busy to get involved.   She has neglected developing her creativity because it might take away from focusing on her children.  She has also neglected the development of friendships.  Socially she is reserved and slightly detached only allowing a few into her thoughts and this self-protection has contributed to her being an underutilized woman.

We are all born with potential to be creative, vital members of our society and it’s our responsibility to nurture this potential.  Throughout the Bible there are verses stating that it pleases God when we use our talents to help others, be creative, and contribute to our community.  However, life has a way of knocking us down, disappointments can make us bitter, and abuse whether verbal, physical, sexual, or religious, can take away our belief that we have something to offer others.  This is what happened to my friend.

During her life my friend has experienced many hardships, as a child she was sexually and verbally abused.  As a young college student she conceived her first child out of wedlock, having been brought up in a Christian home she felt great shame but determined to keep and love her child.  Eighteen months after her first child was born she married an energetic, ambitious, dynamic, and successful man and became pregnant almost immediately.  This marriage became verbally and physical abusive and she lived in fear for her children and her lives.  After five years she divorced him and moved back into her parent’s home broken and defeated.

A few years after the divorce she met a wonderful Christian man at church and they started dating.  After about eight months of dating she found herself pregnant once again.  Too ashamed to admit this to anyone she had an abortion.  The guilt she felt from the abortion led to resentment towards her boyfriend and soon they broke up.  Now, twelve years later we find my friend living with her parents, working low paying jobs, still bound to failure by the shame, hurts, and disappointments of the past.  Her one constant has been the unwavering dedication she has given her children, living vicariously through them while neglecting herself.

My friend has lost sight of her potential.  Without the deep rooted belief that she has something to offer the world she has lived an underutilized life.  She sees herself and the world around her through a lens of disappointment, insecurity, fear and defeat.  But God sees her as a beautiful woman full of promising potential and he wants to help her develop that potential so she will become a fully utilized woman.

Like my friend each of us has scars from past mistakes, abuse, disappointment, shame, and a feeling of loss over abandoned goals.  We have also been given a combination of talents and gifts to develop, nurture, and use as we navigate life.  The question is, will we let the hardships of life derail us from using them to their fullest potential? There is beauty in our hardships when we gain understanding from them and then use this understanding to compassionately help and encourage others.    

God forgives our past and asks us to move forward holding onto his hand, clinging to his word and his promises.  As we move forward in Christ, God can and will use all our past mistakes, hurts and disappointments to help others; he will open up the flow of creativity and will help us forgive ourselves.  In his capable hands our lives will be created into lives that are fully utilized.  He will turn an underutilized woman into a fully utilized one.  We, as women need to let go of our past mistakes, accept God’s forgiveness as complete, forgive ourselves, and diligently use our talents to honor God.

Debora Shelford Hobbs