I am a thinker. To a fault. I can compartmentalize, talk about subjects and situations completely removing all emotional attachment and excel at problem solving. This is extremely beneficial in the work place, academia and the logical side of life. However, I often assume people are processing situations the same way that I am and I might speak to a problem or situation without considering another’s emotional involvement in that situation, because to me problem solving is the default.
One of my best friends is a licensed counselor and is working on her PhD in counseling. We had a terribly interesting conversation a few months ago about the counseling world and how we, as a society, are trying to force thinkers to be feelers. I was told once that I need to practice “feeling statements” and get in touch with my feelings. “I feel _____ because _____ “. We, as a society, equate relational ability with feelings.
I believe that God gave us feelings. He speaks to His provision of grace and mercy being the foundation for our joy, and that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh 8.10). Solomon says that there is a season for everything:
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”
– Ecc 3.1-8
We are also encouraged, in community and relationships to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12.15). So there is a very real emotional connection and building up of one another that we are admonished to embrace and practice within the Church.
But two women have spoken into my life clearly this week: We need to understand and embrace the person that God has created us to be. He has gifted each of us differently, and “if the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body” (1 Cor 12.15). If He made you a thinker, be the best thinker for His glory. If He created you as a feeler, feel to His glory! Now I am not saying that we do not need to continually be learning and growing as individuals and as Christians. But I have, for a long time, considered myself less of a woman because I am not emotionally oriented. Being a thinker or feeler by disposition is not inherently sinful, and thus we do not need to seek to change those attributes about ourselves. We need to seek to change our sinful responses that are expressed because of those dispositions. And we need to value one another in the unique ways He has gifted us!
Jonathan Edwards wrote a book called “The Religious Affections”. I highly recommend it to both thinkers and feelers. Everyone. He notes that there is an intellectual and emotional response to God in the outworking of salvation and he offers twelve tests by which we can evaluate our conversion to see if it is genuine. He then observes the fruit of the Spirit as outlined in Galatians 5 as the emotional and appropriate response for all believers in relationship to God, with love being the primary response:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
– Gal 5.22-23
What is important to remember is that the way that different people express and experience love is different. And there is no “right way” to do it. We each enjoy relationships and we each enjoy God differently. And the different ways that we think and feel makes full and complete the body of Christ. Embrace your gift. Embrace your disposition. Ask God to reveal to you the fullness of your experience with Him and fall more in love with Him every day, in the way that He expresses Himself to you and you to Him. And use that to edify the body and push one another on to good works (Heb 10.24). Do not consider yourself less of a body member because of your disposition. But do consider one another’s interests above your own (Phil 2.4), and put aside the things of the flesh (Rom 13.12, Col 3.8).