Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2003 December 6 -- Feeling Unwanted

Never in my whole life have I felt so alone and unwanted.

All this week long I have been depressed. Sick too, but I think that is a result of the depression, not a cause.

I have always known I'm different from other people. When I was a kid, I figured it's because I grew up in a foreign country, and revelled in the extra insight that gave me in languages and logical thinking. When I was in college, well, I didn't have much time to think about it. For 20 years writing software for a living, I was different from my peers not so much by how I thought as by the fact I called myself a Christian. They all knew religion is for people who cannot think clearly; I don't know what they made of me, since they respected my clear thinking (and bought my software :-)

In church I attributed the difference to social ineptness: everything Robert Fulghum needed to know he learned in kindergarten, and I didn't go to kindergarten, so that must be why I didn't know those things. My father taught me math and science; my mother (or probably, both parents) taught me to read and trust God's Word. I don't see much of either quality in the church. The scientists stay home, and the people who go to church mostly don't read their Bibles, or if they do, they try not to make it too relevant in their lives. In adult Sunday School the guys talk about sports and cars and house repairs and (here in Missouri) tractors and fishing. The Bible lesson is always very abstract and distant, not real people solving real problems God's way. So I'm still different.

Five years ago I picked up a new book that explained those differences in a different light: I really am different! The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) identifies four pairs of polarities, for a total of sixteen different personality types. One of those polarities has a statistically significant gender difference: men tend to be Thinkers, women are more often Feelers. This is not a "value judgment," it's just the way God made us. The book did not say, but I began to notice, that the same polarity correlates even more profoundly with church membership and attendance. There are no Thinkers in church, or if there are, they sit uncomfortably with their Feeler wives and leave quickly.

The evangelical church in America is run exclusively by Feelers for Feelers; Thinkers are not welcomed as Thinkers. They are nominally invited, but they are expected to check their brains and their God-given personality types at the door and become Feelers while inside. All evangelistic materials are designed to appeal to Feelers and turn off Thinkers. Even the so-called "Men's Movement" started in PromiseKeepers is largely aimed at making men into Feelers, and thus largely misses its intended target. I know of only one other Thinker in the whole USA, unashamedly Christian and not in denial about his personality. It's a big country, there must be others, just not many and not vocal.

Because Thinkers value truth and logic above feeling good about yourself, I expected to find Thinkers in a Christian university -- or at least in the computer science department, where without truth and logic the software won't even work. I was wrong. Worse than that, honesty and integrity are actively discouraged. I was told (with pride!) that hearsay and innuendo (he used euphemisms, not those words directly) were the preferred means of getting an uncomplimentary message to somebody who needed to hear it. I have seen a lot of this in the church, too. It must be a Feeler thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, doing that is not even Christian!

This is certainly a hostile environment to a Thinker like me. I started to collect my thoughts and feelings into an essay for my "Revolving Church Door" debate topics series, but it was censored (read it here). The Feelers really don't want us. We make them uncomfortable, which is a denial of their own highest value. [Just reading this blog entry will tend to make Feelers (but not Thinkers) uncomfortable; whichever you are, you might try getting into dialog with one of the others.]

The Bible is not a Feeler book, it is really pretty balanced. But you would never hear that in church in America. I guess you would never know it in a Christian college or university, either. And you certainly won't hear it in the secular universities! The church has nothing at all to offer to us Thinkers.

I'm still a Christian. I came here to teach and to support the SBU Mission Statement (scroll to bottom of SBU home page), which I still believe is a good one. It is not made worthwhile if everybody smiles and tells me what a Nice guy I am and gives me "pretty good" evaluations uniformly across all criteria no matter whether I did good, bad, or awful. It will be worthwhile if the product I am working to help create (educated students who know how to write good software) actually get out there and become "servant-leaders in a global society." It's nice to be liked, but I'm not here to be liked. Athletes know, "No pain, no gain." That's true everywhere. Pain is a God-given part of growth. My last performance evaluation tried to take that away.

In a world where Tolerance is the crowning virtue, the one thing they cannot be tolerant of is an honest person.

I feel so alone.