Thinkers and feelers…


2 Samuel 19:1 It was told Joab (the commander of David’s armies), “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops; for the troops heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” The troops stole into the city that day as soldiers steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your officers who have saved your life today, and the lives of your sons and your daughters, and the lives of your wives and your concubines, for love of those who hate you and for hatred of those who love you. You have made it clear today that commanders and officers are nothing to you; for I perceive that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. So go out at once and speak kindly to your servants; for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night; and this will be worse for you than any disaster that has come upon you from your youth until now.”

David and Joab provide an interesting contrast. David seems to me to be a (Myers-Briggs personality profile) “feeler”, meaning his feelings often drive his decisions. He is resistant to take action which will be painful to others and/or jeopardize a relationship – even if it puts the overall mission at risk. This was never more evident than in his dealings with his rebellious son Absalom. Joab, on the other hand, seems much more a “thinker” in that he lets facts and logic drive his decisions. If strained or severed relationships are the cost of getting the best outcome, Joab has no problem with this. It’s the successful outcome that takes priority. Since both perspectives have value, David and Joab were a great team before they split.

I’m by nature a feeler. The impact of decisions on others and on important relationships takes a high priority for me. However I’ve also learned that when feelers shy away from difficult leadership decisions in order to protect relationships or feelings, an organization can get stuck. Not good. I’ve heard it said a change leader’s job is to disappoint people at a rate they can tolerate. That has certainly been true in my experience. In fact, sometimes I’ve disappointed people at a rate they cannot tolerate. As a natural feeler, I hate that.

As you’re reading this I wonder if you more closely identify as a “thinker” or “feeler”. Everyone has some of both in them, but most of us lean more towards one than the other. What’s important to know is that both perspectives have value. In fact, the best teams are those which include both perspectives. This is why David and Joab worked so well for so long.

Gracious God, today I thank you that you did not create people to be alike, for there is great gift in diversity. Your kingdom needs all kinds of people to prosper. I especially thank you today for the thinkers you’ve put in my life over the years, who have shown me how to see things from their perspective even if it’s not my nature. Give me grace to lead well. Even when it hurts. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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