The Ambiguities of ‘Being Special’

By: Mr. Craig Canfield, MA, LP, LCC Psychotherapist

“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”   Proverbs 13:4

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  2 Thessalonians 3:10                                                                                

We have heard…”We are all special in the eyes of God.” What exactly does this mean? If we are, are we any more or less special depending on the amount we try to help ourselves? But we are told that God helps those who cannot help themselves. If so, how much does God help those who are able to help themselves but choose not to do so? “Help thyself, and God will help thee” the poet George Herbert tells us. 

So maybe our degree of specialty in God’s eyes depends on the kind of effort we make, considering that we are able to make that effort. We then will be judged on the specialty ladder, gauged by how we use the talents and abilities that God gives us. Or are we all special to God no matter what we do or don’t do?

Riding my bike around the circle in Prospect Park one morning last month, I noticed a sign at the beginning of an incline. It read “Specialty route…last exit before a steep hill.” Avoiding the exit and continuing up the hill, I noticed an elderly man on the side of the road attending to his bike. He yelled something to me and I rode over to him thinking he needed help. Then I recognized what he was yelling, “Pump harder, pump harder”, encouraging me going up the hill, and giving me a large smile. He didn’t want me to help him at all. I laughed to myself at my false assumption and continued up the hill, indeed at a faster pace, leaving me panting at the top.

It was the second time around the park that morning, passing the specialty sign again, that I started making connections. The specialty route might just be for people who are not capable of going up the steep hill. However, serving my metaphor, it made me think of people who think they are special and therefore, can exit without exerting the energy to go up the steep hill. But too many exits away from confronting challenging “steep hills” in life, putting all faith in God’s help instead, may establish an inertia of inactivity that might be difficult to break. A “specialty route” may supply a direct route from “being special” to simply being “out of action”.

Often the same assertion can be made concerning mental health therapy. It is as if some see therapy as a sort of ‘god’: simply put yourselves in its hands and miraculous changes will automatically occur. Without putting in the work it takes to change, without any effort or change of behavior, not much gets accomplished. Such an attitude can invalidate the valuable assistance that therapy, complete with its suggestions of how to keep going up the “steep hill” can offer. There are many ambiguities concerning the idea of “being special” and of “specialty routes”. Unexamined decisions, an unexamined life, or taking the wrong exit on life’s road, might prove to be fatal.

Craig Canfield is a licensed psychoanalyst who counsels teens, adults and couples at LCC’s Bay Ridge, Brooklyn site. Click here to see his complete bio.

For further information or to schedule an appointment at any site, contact Lutheran Counseling Center at 1-800-317-1173 or 516-741-0994 or e-mail us at


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