I see a sort of filter in our minds, where everything that we hear, think, feel and believe is filtered through something like a mesh screen in our mind, which once it has passed through this filter, it then becomes mixed into what we already are programmed to hear, think, feel and believe based on a whole lot of junk that has been accumulating in our belief system for most of our lives.
For example—our definition of God, based on something Michael Wells calls our “unique identity,” and combined with the identity messages that others have programmed into us, will result in a filtering system. So, say our unique identity—that unique personality that we were born with—is a high feeler. Some typical characteristics of a feeler are:
Some Filters of a Feeler:
Relationships equal their identity • highly subjective (often saying “I didn’t say that”) • everything is read through a grid of emotion • will pout when rejected • emphathizes easily • people pleaser • forgives easily—doesn’t keep lists • motivational • desires popularity • freedom of expression • can easily verbalize feelings • reacts to a person, not to the facts • becomes overcommitted • becomes sulky under pressure • accepts blame and withdraws from others into himself • becomes depressed if relationships are bad • in affection—hug him a hundred times and he wants one more • receiving affection raises self esteem • needs plenty of interactions with others • fears complex relationships • fears people who pressure him • fears feeling that he has harmed someone • in his relationship with God, a constant feeling of rejection • has a difficult time learning to live out of the facts of who God is, rather than the feeling he has about who God is • wants to run from God when there has been a failure • wants to feel God before believing • equates God’s “presence” with his feelings (“if I don’t feel God’s presence then He has rejected me or I’m being punished for something”) • is in touch with the hurts, needs, and feelings of others • sees the good in others and desires to give them one more chance • has the ability to encourage and enjoys that role • leads through persuasion, believing things will get better. (Wells, Michael, The Heavenly Discipleship Profile Test. Abiding Life Press, Littleton, CO. 1998, pp 20-23. www.abidinglife.com.)
These very basic personality traits that the feeler is born with, combined with messages they have been given from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and others will all combine to create a filtering system. The truth of who God is, will be filtered through this system and may end up skewed. If one were a typical feeler, and one or the other of his parents was a thinker (keeping in mind that none of us is altogether one or the other—we are usually a combination of the three, but with a higher level in one area), and this parent displays the following:
Some Filters of a Thinker:
Values truth and honesty and expects others to value them • needs quiet time alone each day (people drain his energy) • perfectionist • excessive mental energy • what he is thinking about determines his mood • high standards—higher than God’s • keeps lists, even invisible ones • internalizes anger • serious and quiet moods are sometimes confused with disapproval • biting humor • withdraws under pressure • becomes critical of others and himself • attempts to control the environment and others • becomes depressed • replays the hurts of others continually in his mind • low to moderate displays of affection • too much affection from others makes him feel suffocated • difficulty forgiving self or others • failure may be a “ten” for him, but a “one” for God since his standards are too high • equates hearing from God with intellectual insight. (Wells, Michael, The Heavenly Discipleship Profile Test. Abiding Life Press, Littleton, CO. 1998, pp 20-23. www.abidinglife.com.)
The Faulty Filter of God
So, in this hypothetical situation, you can see how the filter gets formed. The feeler filters his belief systems about himself and about others and about God, through this, affecting his ability to see God as He really is.
Since the thinker parent has such high standards, the feeler child will believe that God’s expectations are so high that he can never achieve them, and if he doesn’t feel God, he can’t believe that God is really present in his life. His need for affection, having been affected by the thinker parent’s lack of ability to show affection, will show up as he may grow up craving that affection and seeking it in other relationships, not always healthy ones. When the thinker parent goes silent, the feeler child would interpret that as rejection, or that the parent is mad at him. This filter is not formed only by parents, it is also formed by siblings, friends, teachers, other relatives, and even employers later on in life.
A feeler then might have a faulty definition of God that God is emotionally absent: “I’m locked out of His presence; I never feel Him, I wonder if God really exists; Where is God? When will I feel Him? He is silent—He must be mad at me.” He might also have a faulty definition that God is a distant God, a God of judgment, and so forth.
Changing the Filter
A Godly mentor comes along at some point to disciple this person into a mature and deep personal relationship with God, based on the truth of God in the Bible. This mentor will want to persuade him that Jesus Christ is the new filter and Jesus Christ feels, believes, acts and loves exactly the way he is shown in the Bible and this is exactly how Jesus feels, believes, acts and loves this person. But the filter will have to change before this person can believe God for Who He really is. This would be the first thing to come to grips with in the discipleship process. How does the filter get changed?
Understanding the unique identity does not excuse our behavior, but helps us to understand why we behave the way we do. (Our past explains us; it does not excuse us.) In this understanding, God is then able to come along and transform our thinking. I believe that personal discipleship among believers is of utmost importance for healthy, mature functioning of the body of Christ.
In the coming blogs, I’d like to take a look at how Jesus can change our filters.