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feelings first

cigaretteadFast Company has an interesting article by Dan Heath, author of Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard. The article, Want Your Organization to Change? Put Feelings First takes on the traditional school of thought which says that you must educate people to get them to change, and suggests that instead you must make them feel something. It used to be “learn > think > change.” Experts now say “see > FEEL > change” will make true change occur.

It’s possible I’ve been watching LOST for too long, because I’m not sure if this is a flash backward or forward. It could be a paradigm-shifter, along the magnitude of the printing press, which moved us from a culture of storytellers to linear-thinking knowledge seekers. But I’m pretty sure it’s just the gravitational slide of today’s culture, which by all appearances has abandoned thoughtful discussion, opting instead for the emotional hyperbole of “I’m OFFENDED!” or “That’s HATE speech!” We’ve grown far more interested in how things make us feel.

I think Heath is drawing the wrong conclusion. While focused on “feelings,” what he actually describes is the ability of an image to make us “see” something instantly – the idea of a picture worth a thousand words. Yes, the picture of a limp cigarette in the video makes a young man feel something, but only because he’s visually understood – in a split second – a critical side-effect of cigarette smoking. It’s not about feeling, it’s about a shortcut to understanding the dull verbiage of a health warning.

Beyond that, how do you “think vs. feel” applies to the Church and the presentation of the Gospel? God made us to be both rational and emotional – learning styles in which we absorb information either intellectually or perceptively. The church would do well to intentionally target both, and demonstrate the necessity of both in the life of a disciple. Understanding theology is critical, and so is experiencing the depth of God’s love and forgiveness. And I think an argument could be made for creative channels – visual shortcuts – that might help us better “see” these important truths.

One thought on “feelings first

  1. Does a comment that says “You are precisely right!” have value? Well, you are.

    Feelings arise from our thoughts and images generate feelings because we have already attached thoughts to them. Remember the stories of the little girl who doesn’t know the creature she’s talking to is a monster? Why not? Because she has never attached the image “this being I’m talking to” to the idea of “monster.”

    Images are “processed” thoughts. Like refined sugars. The image of a cross will generate feelings in someone but only according to their experience with the image. You and I react differently to the cross than does a Jew facing the inquistor or a runaway Roman slave. The point of view, the experience of an image is entirely subjective.

    I’m reading the book Reason & Imagination in.” The author examines the “tension” between myth and reason in life of C.S. Lewis and how he resolved it in the book, “Till We Have Faces.” A very interesting read.


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