“Boil it All Down” and You may be Disappointed

Carl Jung probably didn’t actually write this.

Thinking and judging are connected, but it is not a strictly causal relationship. There are some very bright people for whom judging a situation or a person is the go-to response. On the other hand, there are some equally bright people for whom judging is difficult, for whom additional information is more than just a personal preference. Some personalities come down heavy on the J scale, they automatically Judge before they Sense, and, unlike some others, do not hesitate, feeling they need additional information.

As individuals and as a population, we encounter situations where quick action is not merely a matter of rhetoric, but is actually necessary. Some people deliberately place themselves in these dangerous or demanding settings.  Some professions that can require quick supervisorial decision-making include public school teaching, law enforcement, politics, manufacturing and assembly, etc. Anyone who works with people needs, among other skills, the ability to Judge a situation. This is true, despite the vilification of the word “judgmental.”

Situations where quick action is necessary, this is when J’s (people able to judge and evaluate easily) are good to have around.  But, as all my friends who are low on the J scale will immediately say, our mistakes often come from acting without thinking, from Judging without Sensing.

Judging and Sensing are indeed modifiable, distinct traits, and individuals have an assortment of preferred behavioral styles. I grew up believing that education, socialization and nurture were central. For some years I have found what some people rhetorically dismiss as “biological determinism” fruitful and enlightening. (Briefly, biological determinism is not identical with genetically determined diversity.) Genetic diversity is one key to understanding human conflict.

What I call being “hard-wired” is also called a “default mode.” This default mode is what some people call “instinct.” But our so-called “default modes” need a Venn Diagram. Some are learned, the result of socialization, school, family, television, and the like. Others are hard-wired instinct. But, like everything else, the strength of any particular instinct is measureable on a Bell Curve.

Most people are located in the large middle of a Bell Curve. A few people are hyper aggressive, a few are hyper passive. A few people are hyper maternal, a few are not maternal at all. A few people are hoarders, a few carry all their possessions in a knap sack.

People are generally not hard-wired in an absolute sense, but there are a few people at the opposite ends of the Bell Curve who are totally Unable to think and reflect, as there are a small number of people totally Unable to decide and act.

For some people thinking and reflecting is very difficult. For some people deciding and acting is very difficult. Unless strongly S people and strongly J people discover compatible situations that require either lots of reflection or lots of action, they are likely to feel misunderstood and unappreciated.

In Biology this problem is often discussed under the heading of “Nature vs. Nurture.” In Philosophy it is the core of the “Fate vs. Choice” controversy. In Theology it is discussed under “Predestination vs. Free Will.” It is, I believe, a universal theme because of genetic diversity. Some theologians repeat this inside joke, “I was predestined to be an Arminian.”

One of my favorite quotes reflects this difficulty. “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” I believe John Dewey actually did write this.

He makes it sound so simple. But it is not simple at all, unless you are favored by the gods of fortune and luck. I have mixed feelings about the caprice of the cold-hearted gods.

As I reread this post, and revise it, I realize once again that I am not a J but an S, that I am driven to sense, to analyze, to look at things from a variety of angles, Everything is subject to qualification, nothing can be once-and-for-all labeled, safe, with further discussion unnecessary. Rhetoric always, always, always enters in.  Rhetoric in the sense of discussion and persuasion. I read this post and ask myself, so what? Are you talking out both sides of your mouth? Can your thesis be disproven, or is it meaningless?

In a nut shell, division and conflict have been a life-long concern for me. That concern inevitably lead me to consider the roots of conflict, differences between individuals and between groups, and to issues of genetic diversity.  I know enough to know that not everyone is just like me, but also that I am not utterly unique. I write with the humble and arrogant hope that things that have puzzled me puzzle at least a few others as well.

My academic training is whispering in my ear. “You haven’t proven anything. All you’ve done is parade your ignorance. This is nothing but self-contradicting, meaningless drivel.”  I must tell you that they’ve been debating this in philosophy, theology, and biology for centuries. There’s a clue in there somewhere!

So I thank God for people who really can make decisions without enough time and without all the facts, I know there are situations that demand that ability.

And I thank God for people like me, too.

But I still look at our president and shake my head. Sometimes I think, “So sad,” and other times, well . . . I am not devoid of Judgment by any means.

P.S. One blogger suggests that the  “Thinking Judging” quote in the featured image probably did not originate with Carl Jung, that it’s too judgmental.

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
This entry was posted in Arrogance, Diversity, Humility, Personality. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “Boil it All Down” and You may be Disappointed

  1. The following, is one of the few quotes in Ecclesiates Chapter 2, that I agree wholeheartedly with. 2:24 “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Ron, as I see it, there is an abundance of foolishness masquerading as truth out there. If it weren’t for bias, judgmental-ism, hyperbole and rhetoric we’d have time for nothing more important, you know, like watching Fox News. There’s something to be said for being narrow minded and one sided. But of course Solomon might add his two cents and screw this up too with his famous axiom: “This to is chasing after the wind”.


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