What Do You See? The Forest or the Trees?

07 Mar


Photo by td2 on Morgue File.

Sometimes, we act on impulse: it could be something as small as ordering that special dessert on the menu, maybe asking out that cute boy or girl, or as large quitting your job and selling everything you own to become a shepherd in New Zealand. What’s the most crazy, outrageously impulsive thing you’ve ever done? If you’ve never succumbed to temptation, dream a little. If you gave yourself permission to go a little crazy, what would you do?

I do not think I would say I am an impulsive person by nature; though, I do not always follow all the rules either. Typically, I do think through my actions ahead of time, attempting to make good and wise decisions. However, there are those moments when I just wing it and do whatever comes to mind (within reason of course!). 

The more I think about it, I may be a bit more impulsive than I would care to know or admit. My personality type is one where I see the big picture. I am a can’t see the trees for the forest kind of guy. I see the totality of something. I see the end goal. Basically, I prefer not to have everything planned out and ordered. I like to go by the seat of my pants in many situations. Just point me in the right direction, tell me where I should end up and I’ll figure out the rest for myself.

I think these two things are related; that is, those who are more forest people probably tend to be more impulsive or spontaneous. While those who are more tree people tend to be more orderly and detailed; and, thus, less impulsive. Of course, these are generalities and one size does not fit all! As a forest person I can easily allow for such exceptions!

I remember being made aware of the difference between those who see the proverbial trees and those who see the forest. I had been accepted to Beeson Divinity School to finish up my graduate degree, the M.Div. As part of their new student orientation, we all took the Myers-Briggs personality evaluation (MBTI). The leader of this exercise then discussed the differences in personality types and even had us perform certain tasks to highlight these differences. One such exercise that sticks out to me was demonstrating the differences between those who are Sensing (S) and those who are Intuitive (N).

She separated the groups into two rooms. I, being an N went into the room with all the other N’s. Then, she gave each room a copy of the same picture to look at and discuss. A person was selected for each group to write down the comments and findings of that group. The picture was a rather odd one. It had many different symbols and characters on it.

My group, the group, came up with themes and conceptions we saw. We came up with such things as: romance, life and death, new world, struggle, pain, triumph, good and evil, quest, searching, exploration, pain and suffering, conquest, immortality . . . etc. The other group, the S group, came up with: ship, man, stars, sword, water, land, beach, sand, wood, coat, crown, sail, birds, moon, sun, sky, grass . . . etc. Wow! What a difference in perspective. What a difference in looking at the same picture!

So, this is how I tend to see things: in big picture. I see themes and concepts. I do not pay as much attention to the individual details. The ship, for instance in the picture, represented to me conquest and exploration. It was a means of adventure and daring. I took no stock of the wood planks or the fabric of the sails or the keel or mast.

Itineraries, while a necessary evil, tend to bore me. I do not like feeling restricted or confined. I like freedom and independence. I like being my own person and doing my own thing. I do not always follow all the rules; after all, what fun is there in that!

I often times do things the opposite of what most, perhaps sane, people do them. For instance, and this is a very small and insignificant example, I often times eat dessert before the main meal. Or, if it is not dessert per se, I may eat something sweet, like a cookie or a piece of candy, right before eating a meal. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me why I do this. By the inflection in their tone of voice, you would think I was breaking one of the sacred commandments!

The simple explanation is I like to eat something sweet first, then the meal so that the sweetness does not linger on my palate. I like sweets, but I would not say I am a big sweet eater. I like chocolate okay, but I am not a big chocolate eater. I, in fact, prefer white chocolate. So, while I do enjoy a sweet from time to time, I like to eat it first, savor the sweetness for a few moments and then, remove it with the meat and potatoes of the meal.

My wife, poor soul!, is a planner and a rule follower. She likes things planned out and all in order. Now, I am not saying she is a slave to a schedule, she has some bend to her, but she is far less flexible and free-spirited as I. You can imagine this sometimes causes some, let’s just say comical, episodes between the two of us!

Also, I have never been one who has minded change. I often times will change things up, perhaps rearranging things or the like, just for the sake of change. Now, I am not saying I want every part of my life to be utter chaos. I do appreciate and welcome order on the whole. But, everyone, at least time to time, needs a little adventure, needs a little twist to the monotony.

Often times people view religion in the sense of rules and regulations. And while it is true there are things we are to do and things we are not; one finds far more freedom than may have been imagined. The apostle Paul speaks openly about the freedom we, that is believers, have in Christ. I dare say many of us have not fully realized this freedom. Does this mean Christianity is a religion of lawlessness and anarchy? Of course not. But, it does mean that because of the life and work of Christ, we have liberty before God.

While I admire those who live an ascetic life, even under voluntary austere conditions; Paul says we are free in Christ. He paints the picture that before we came to faith in Christ, we were prisoners. We were prisoners to our sin and rebellion against God and his will. But, through Christ, we have been redeemed and made right (righteous) before God. Now, in Christ, we have freedom and liberty to live and serve and praise the Eternal God.

Some are fearful of such liberty. Some see only the abuses to which it could possibly lead. But, when we follow Christ, we will experience and live this liberty and we will do so faithfully and godly.


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15 responses to “What Do You See? The Forest or the Trees?

  1. Beth Murray

    March 7, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Nanny also ate a sweet before her meal. She would get a dessert at Morrison’s and then would eat some of it before the meal!


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