Are you a thinker or a feeler? If you’re a thinker like me, is growing into more of a feeler something you might want to be more intentional about? If you’re a feeler, how might you inspire a thinker to grow into more of a feeler? Or is that something we can change?
Before we go any further, what does it means to be a thinker? According to the Myers Briggs gold standard of personality testing…you know you’re a thinker if, when it comes to decision making,…
…you make decisions with your head and want to be fair.
…you like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved.
…you like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding, not letting personal feelings get in the way.
You know you’re a feeler if…
…you make decisions with your heart and want to be compassionate.
…you weigh what people care about and the points-of-view of persons involved in a situation.
…you like to do whatever will establish or maintain harmony.
Are you a fellow-thinker? Here are three reasons you might want to feel a little more:
1. We tend to consider being a thinker or a feeler as an either/or proposition. And in our finite, fallen personalities maybe they tend to be. But I propose that the main reason thinkers should want to feel more is because Jesus was so tender hearted. He was both a thinker and a feeler at the top of their energies.
He was the most sensitive, compassionate and caring person who ever lived. (He was also the most logical, reasonable and fair-minded.) He made decisions based on living the truth in love. With him there was no internal conflict because living in accordance with truth was/is always the most loving thing to do. And we should aspire to be like him. As church father Ireneaus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” God is most glorified the more we both think and feel deeply.
2. Jesus clearly said that the greatest commandment is to love God; love others. Our most important calling in life is to love well—with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength—everything in us. So to love well requires, among other things, empathy—the ability to feel our way into the shoes of another person. When we love with empathy we seek to show by our words and body language that we understand other’s sorrows, frustrations, joys and longings. To a certain degree we absorb their joy and sorrow and mirror it back to them. To love well also requires genuine affection. We should feel with them and for them.
We can love others out of an act of the will, but it does not honor them nearly as much as love that is wrapped in tender, genuine affection. Try giving someone roses and, when they thank you, tell them it was simply an act of the will. See how that flies.
That’s not the example set for us. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians that he was so “affectionately desirous” of them that he wanted to share with them not only the gospel, but his very life. People can feel the genuine warmth of our affection. Or not.
It’s the same with our love for God. We should “trust and obey” no matter what. But we honor him far more when we offer our praise, thanks or obedience wrapped in genuine “desirous affection” for him.
3. We should aspire to feel more because the world around us is changing from modern to postmodern. It’s almost as if the personality of our culture is changing. We have been a modern culture of thinkers now shifting to a postmodern culture of feelers.
The defining characteristic of the modern world (since the Enlightenment) is that we filter all of life through the mind. Through reason and logic. Making any decision has been a search for clarity. Understanding. You gather data, submit it to logic and reason and come up with the answer.
A postmodern person (most under 40’s) is more inclined to make decisions by feeling than thinking. Value the emotional impact of experience and compassion more than logic and understanding. I don’t want to know so much data on the issues at hand, I want to know your story–what you have experienced—and each person’s perspective. Then let’s make a decision based on what feels most considerate for all involved. Clearly there be dragons here. What about the principles and precepts of God’s word? We need to guard against the pendulum swinging so hard in reaction to the modern over-emphases on thinking that it becomes an over-emphasis on feeling.
Many over-40 thinkers might like to go back to the “good old days” where we took the modern approach of focusing on facts rather than stories, issues rather than empathy. That will not happen. We cannot put the genie back in the cultural bottle. We must find a new way forward.
One where we love well, gain trust and challenge others not to be swept into the drama of stories and appeals to empathy to the exclusion of revelation, facts and logic. God calls us to engage our reason and feel deeply. But in today’s culture especially we stand to gain a hearing for truth if we begin with sincere, loving relationships.
So, if God made you a thinker is it possible to become more of a feeler?
I am so grateful I can answer, “Yes.” I’ve seen God transforming me that way, slowly but surely. In fact, over the years I have even seen my score on the Myers-Briggs personality test reflect that change. I grew up such a thinker. With far more passion for the facts of my faith than a Person to cherish. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age twenty-nine I spiraled into duty, resignation and escape. If you’d like to read the long version of how God rescued me and exchanged my duty for delight in him, my daydreaming escapes for an outward, kingdom-building life, you’ll find it in my book Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of Our Hearts.
Out of sheer grace God pursues us. Grows us as thinkers and feelers. It’s not something we can simply act our way into being. But it happens as we make time to seek God’s face and walk close to him. Pray for him to enlarge our hearts. When we pursue spiritual disciplines that take us deeper into his presence we become more “affectionately desirous” of him and it naturally overflows to others. (Great article on this by Dallas Willard.)
This is my first post after my official launch. If you’re new here I extend a warm welcome to you. Each week my goal is to offer you content that will help you live wisely and love well in today’s culture. Deepen as thinkers and feelers. Next time we’ll take a look at reasons why a feeler should think more.
Question: Are you more of a thinker or feeler? Do you agree that we can change? How do you see God changing you? Please respond in the comments below…