Climbing Into Your Skin

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Growing up, one of my greatest struggles was not understanding how it was so difficult for others to put aside themselves and fully understand someone else’s perspective. I assumed, naively, when first learning about the functions, that any Feeler type could put their bias aside and know how someone else feels. This, apparently, is not true, because only Intuitive Feelers seem able to achieve it. It happens without us intending it to, but can also require our deliberate intervention. It allows us to “feel” others’ happiness and pain and to be happy or sad for them. It makes us weepy about emotional arcs in television shows and movies, even if we don’t happen to like the character going through it. Most of all, it has the intense power to completely change how we see someone; to push aside resentment for love.

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Before we pride ourselves on being superior to other types in our ability to be impartial and see all sides of an argument, I’ll add that at times our own emotions can get in the way. To truly embrace impartiality, we must learn to “die to self.” It is difficult for me to put my biases aside, and truly “understand” how someone else feels when it comes to debating an issue that I feel strongly about. It makes it even harder to think about how I can literally see and understand their perspective, but they are incapable of doing the same for me. As a selfish sinner, I don’t think that is fair. They can’t see my point of view, so why should I see it from theirs? Why must I be the selfless one?

Once I see their perspective, mine is never quite the same again. It makes it hard to hold on to a grudge or feel angry over their decision. It’s impossible to hate others when you are able to understand their point of view, and what led them to form those opinions. Atticus in this sense is the embodiment of what an ideal, mature Intuitive Feeler should be… someone who puts aside his own biases to see others for who they truly are, to learn not to judge them but empathize with them. He stands firm on his moral values, but in all else, encourages impartiality. He knows he is going to lose the courtroom case, but he does it anyway because the defendant deserves a fair trial and a good lawyer. Atticus, in the end, sacrifices himself and what he represents (the law) out of compassion for Bo’s need to be protected in his shyness. He sacrifices justice for mercy.

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How does this even work for an Intuitive Feeler? Describing this ability is best expressed by referencing an episode of Friday Night Lights. The series revolves around a football team in a small town. A visiting team was completely out of hand and abusive toward “our” team. The coach did nothing to reprimand their behavior and even started a fight with “our” coach. Resentment builds toward him among everyone, even the mild-mannered Coach Taylor. He finally gets mad enough to go over and confront the visiting coach, but just when he’s about to blow a gasket, he learns that the visiting coach’s wife is dying of cancer. Just like that, our perspective as the viewer shifts. Everything changes. The anger goes away, replaced by intense compassion. His behavior is all explained. Our empathy replaces our rage. We can’t hate him anymore.

This is the kind of powerful emotional clarity Intuitive Feelers are capable of at all times. It requires tremendous personal sacrifice to do it, because we have to let go of all our old resentments, prejudices, and opinions, but it lets us see people from an entirely new perspective. Much as I resent it at times (I can’t seem to hold on to a grudge for any amount of time), it has also given me some of my greatest experiences and gifts. Only an Intuitive Feeler could see Pontius Pilate in a new light, through unbiased eyes, and come to love him as a character and have great compassion for his plight. It’s easier to think him evil, or foolish. It’s much harder but also more rewarding to step into his shoes.

It’s a great gift that we possess, if we only have the courage to use it.

36 Replies to “Climbing Into Your Skin”

  1. I don’t think we’re the same types, but I can echo a lot of what you say here. We’re not exactly the same, though, because I tend to judge people and can hold onto a grudge like nobody’s business (something I’ve been working on for years, and something I’ve definitely gotten better on). But once I’ve seen the story from the other person’s perspective, even if I still hold the same view, it’s colored by his.

    1. The essential difference, I think, is that Ni-users tend to be disconnected from events; whereas Si is a very personalized function, based entirely on one’s own experiences, Ni is an impersonal “what if?” function, so INFJs have a tendency to disconnect from a situation to view it objectively — something ISFJs have a harder time doing.

      1. That makes sense. I tend to become very emotionally invested in whatever the issue is, even stupid little things that don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things.

        1. Sometimes, I get annoyed at myself for having an emotional reaction to something. I then have to distance myself, and analyze WHY I’m reacting the way I am. 😛

  2. Very insightful post, thank you for sharing! All of the comments were interesting, as well. I definitely get frustrated with how inconsiderate people can be. I’m married to an ISTP, and he is all about logic and facts, and machines. He is absolutely clueless to the needs of others or how they perceive him. Feelings might as well be a foreign language. For example: If I get up to get a glass of water, I always ask him if he needs anything, or I just grab his empty glass and refill it without a word; I am already up, and am always thinking of the needs of those around me. If he gets up for a drink, he walks right past my empty glass, refills his own, and sits back down without a word. Though I’ve never said it out loud, this frustrates me. I bend over backwards, even neglecting my own needs to meet his, and he doesn’t even think to meet mine. It is little things like this, all the time. It comes off as very inconsiderate. I think of others before myself, where most people are only thinking of themselves. It seems very selfish to me. However, most people simply don’t operate the way I do. I cannot expect that from them, it just isn’t fair. My ISTP guy would be happy to refill my water glass, but I have to ask. I have to spell everything out for him-needs, feelings, all of it. He doesn’t have the ability to sense those things. I just discovered MBTI and for years, I thought he was inconsiderate, and purposely ignoring my feelings or neglecting my needs. I now realize that isn’t the case, he simply isn’t capable of seeing those things unless I clearly articulate it. I feel like our personalities are constantly clashing and it is exhausting. But in those moments when they work beautifully together, it’s amazing.

    1. I think our tendency is to assume that everyone is just like us, so then we wonder why they can’t magically read our minds and anticipate our needs! It frustrates us that we have to ASK people to help us, because we just automatically know what they need and provide it for them.

      Maybe living with you will activate more of your ISTP’s Fe! Maybe both of you will become better, due to our relationship and learning to communicate with one another?

      1. I hope so! His Fe could definitely use some work. I know living with him has helped me a lot. He has really helped me live more in the moment. I also help him think ahead. In that aspect, it works beautifully. When he is working on a project, he will run his plans by me; he knows I may think of things here and there to make it better or easier. For example, he was building shelves and wanted to put it all together, and then stain the wood. I, thinking ahead as always, pointed out that it would be easier to stain the wood first, and then put it together. He agreed that it was a good idea, and told me that I really saved him a lot of trouble by thinking of that, as he never considered it. He is very spontaneous and lives completely in the present. When he feels like going somewhere on a whim, I am able to roll with it and not get frustrated. I have learned that there is value to living in the present, and have been pretty successful in developing that trait, while still looking ahead and seeing the big picture. I am not sure how to help him develop Fe. He doesn’t know how to handle the emotions of others, nevermind his own. When he feels something, he convinces himself that he doesn’t care or that the emotion doesn’t exist, and moves on. It’s almost as if he sees emotions as weakness, so I feel like he sees me as being weak because I am more emotion oriented.

        1. It’s good that you’ve found a nice kind of synergy together. 🙂

          Guys in general feel the need to be “tough,” so I don’t think him repressing his emotions is any reflection on how he feels about you. Most guys like girls to have a soft, compassionate side. If he thought you weak, he wouldn’t have chosen you out of all the women in the world to marry!

          Everyone develops their lesser functions more as they get older. Being around you, someone who uses Fe regularly, will slowly help him come to understand Fe-values. I imagine he is already using them, but they manifest so differently than your Fe that you don’t always recognize them. (Inferior Fe, I’ve read, is mostly concerned with being able to offer the right words of comfort to someone else, and desiring to protect them and their feelings.)

          I dated an ISTP for a little while, and he admitted to me that he does care about how people feel, he just doesn’t always know how to express that.

          1. Thank you for your insight! Very helpful! He does say I’m his softer, sweeter side. He is very protective when someone else hurts me…he used to have a coworker that said something rude to me once, and he flipped out on him for it, telling him to “never talk to my wife like that again!” etc. I am usually pretty good at figuring people out, but my ISTP is the hardest. Maybe I am drawn to that, because he is an enigma even to me. Maybe I enjoy the challenge, I don’t know. ISTPs have been described as “baffling” to others, and I can definitely see why. Mine pushes my buttons and tries to get a rise out of me when he is bored. He finds a weakness and pokes at it, which of course hurts my feelings or just annoys me, and I ask him why would he want to do that to someone he loves, and he honestly doesn’t know. He thinks its funny, and feels bad all at the same time. I have read that ISTPs crave adventure, and will seek out conflict out of boredom. Of course, I hate conflict so we definitely clash here. It doesn’t get to me as much anymore, but sometimes he will catch me in a bad mood and I don’t handle it as well. lol What else did you learn from your ex-ISTP? Why didn’t it work out? I hope you don’t mind my asking, I am curious about the dynamics between INFJ and ISTP. 🙂

          2. It’s nice when our guys stand up for us. 🙂

            I’m sorry yours tries to get a rise out of you when he’s bored; I can identify with that a bit, since it’s a habit I had to overcome myself. Only in my case, it was less boredom than passive-aggressive behavior to let people know how annoyed I was with them. I had to learn to stop doing it. (I was never cruel, though, just… pushed little buttons.) What happens if you ignore it, or don’t respond? Would he stop, or just push more buttons?

            Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to learn from my ISTP. The most I learned was that he loved to fix things and was a natural at it – he spent his weekends tinkering with his friends’ cars and was proud of fixing them. He loved doing exciting things (going for motorcycle rides, rock climbing, traveling, etc). He enjoyed a good debate, but always checked to make sure I wasn’t getting upset with him (I didn’t, I kind of enjoyed it). He liked me right away, and we seemed to get along over e-mail, but he was reluctant to meet out of fear that we wouldn’t “connect” the way he wanted us to. I convinced him after several months that we should see a movie together, so we did and had lunch and… I never heard from him again. I think maybe he was disappointed that we had no “sparks,” which I understand ISTPs really emphasize – they want that instant, immediate, physical synch and we didn’t have it, because while I am fun to be around and very good at keeping a conversation going, I’m also a little reserved at first.

            I wasn’t hurt at his unannounced departure, because I don’t form connections easily and I wasn’t sure it was a good idea in the first place; we disagreed on some very fundamental things that, for me, might have been deal-breakers – namely, my faith and his agnosticism. So, I’m okay with it, but part of me is also disappointed that I didn’t get to know an ISTP better! I’ve always liked the fictional ones! I excuse their rudeness as hilarity, but I can imagine living with your very own BBC Sherlock could be frustrating after awhile!

          3. So interesting! Thank you for sharing your experience. I am the same way–fun to be around, but reserved at first. I can be pretty funny and talkative if I am comfortable around someone. The INFJ and ISTP types are both kind of rare, so I haven’t been able to find a whole lot of in-depth information about the dynamics of that relationship, how to help each other grow, and how to overcome the challenges that come with it.

            As far as the button pushing, ignoring it only makes him push harder. He likes the challenge, I think. Distracting him with a project or getting him out of the house to help with the boredom is the only thing that works. I’ve tried pushing his buttons right back, but he doesn’t let things get to him so that never works. lol It is probably worse with him because of his job–they spend all day joking around making fun of each other. I think he sometimes forgets to turn that off when he comes home.

            My ISTP is a natural at fixing things too–always building something, or tinkering with his old truck and is a jet mechanic for a living. He is very handy around the house, can do everything himself (and enjoys it!). He is a jack of all trades and will have a lot to teach our son. If I want to learn how to do something, he is more than happy to teach me. We’ve gotten into archery, and he taught me everything I know. He pretty much runs his own archery shop in our garage. 🙂 Doing things like this together helps us bond, and it gets me out of my own head, as I tend to get very stuck in there. 😉 He kind of like a vacation for my mind at times, while other times he is the REASON I’m stuck in my head.

            He is very focused on how things work, while I pay more attention to how people work. My weaknesses are his strengths, and vice versa, so in that aspect it works great. He can help me see logic and facts, and I can show him the deeper meanings of things, and people. He can come off as rude a lot, and I don’t think he always means to. Since he’s not an emotional person, that translates to his voice sometimes, and he can come off as cold and uncaring, even though that’s not the case. Some people are very put-off by him, thinking him rude, even if he doesn’t mean to be. I try to excuse the rudeness for hilarity, as sometimes it really is comical, but I do get tired of it at times. I can only take so much of it until I need a break. He does have a great sense of humor, though! We both love to laugh, and being introverts, we don’t mind spending the weekend at home with netflix…until he gets bored, that is. haha!

            Thankfully, we do agree on fundamental things! I think that is part of what gets us through our personality clashes; when it comes down to it, we both believe in the same things. I can definitely see an INFJ-ISTP relationship going wrong if they don’t have these things in common. We actually met on a mission trip, so we definitely see eye-to-eye on religion, politics, parenting, etc. At least there is SOMETHING we agree on! 🙂

          4. I think the ISTP/INFJ pairing might be rather common, actually – some of the INFJs on PersonalityCafe.com have ISTP partners!

            I, personally, like ISTPs because I would feel “safe” with them – I know that they could probably solve any problem that arose, quickly and logically. 🙂

  3. Interesting! So, would you then say the difference between an ISFJ and an INFJ is that ISFJs don’t want to see everyone’s point of view?

    Because I’m an ISFJ, and I was reading through your blog post going, “But I do that too! I can see other people’s motivations and figure out what they’re doing and why — I do that all the time. Does that mean I’m not an ISFJ after all?”

    But then I started reading through the comments, and realized that I instinctively avoid seeing through the eyes of people and characters I deem “bad guys.” For instance, one of my writer friends and I were discussing a book she’s writing, and she mentioned that her favorite character was someone I had deemed a “bad guy.” I was like, “How can you like him! He’s evil!” And she said, “Well, everything he does makes sense. He’s just trying to protect himself and the people he’s leading.” And I felt like I could see that, but I very much didn’t want to. Like understanding him and his motivations was so repugnant my inner self just pushed him away.

    But if my husband comes home from work going, “I don’t know why my co-worker is reacting this way to something I said!” I can explain to him how they had interpreted what he said, what they were probably feeling, etc. And I do that all the time in real life — part of the reason I don’t talk a lot is that I’m generally very aware of how what I’m saying will sound to the person I’m talking to, and I want to not say things that might bother them or offend them. While he just charges straight ahead and then gets so confused.

    So, um, yeah, what do you think? What’s the difference between ISFJs and INFJs on this? Or, because I’m a writer and used to getting into fictional characters’ heads, do I behave more like an INFJ on this subject?

    1. ISFJs can do this, but it is harder for them. You have an extremely well-developed Fe, which makes it easier – I read a short summary from an ISFJ on this very topic, in which she said she has developed the ability to understand what motivates others and allow her emotions to empathize with them, without needing a common experience to do it. I think the reason so many ISFJs struggle to do this is because their Si-perspective is so strong; it anchors them in their own past experiences and memories, and can overrule their Fe-impartiality. Ni is strong too, but since it isn’t grounded in experience, it just… imagines other people’s motivations. It happens instinctively for us, and it isn’t always fun. (How not fun is it? Driving past road kill and knowing the fear and pain the animal experienced just before impact.)

      I do see more of a reluctance on the part of ISFJs to “understand” morally repugnant people. I suspect it is Ni’s “intellectual curiosity” that makes us curious about everyone, everywhere, in every situation – we see it as a way to learn and better understand. Your husband is an INTJ, right? Then you kind of know how his mind works… but he lacks the Fe to figure out the people-aspect of his environment. Fe brings universal understanding; Ni and Si are merely how that information is accessed. Si is practical, hence why you’re so good at showing your husband others’ emotions and motivations; Ni is more imaginative, so it theorizes on why someone is acting the way they are. (It may or may not be accurate, because it is tied to nothing concrete other than the information Fe and Se collected!) But yes, for the most part I think Ni-Fe is less discriminating than Si-Fe. It doesn’t care where the information comes from, so long as it gets it!

      In general, ISFJs are based in the present and past; the past reinforces their present opinions and they compare everything they’re experiencing to in the present to previous gathered information and experiences. INFJs don’t compare so much as predict, and they constantly think about the long-term. We find it extremely difficult to be present “in the moment,” because our mind is racing forward. What will we do next? What will happen in six months due to this decision? We get zeroed in on a short-term goal, that fits within our larger goal, but once that vision is complete – we’re melancholy until we find something else to fixate on and look forward to for awhile. We don’t revisit the past like ISFJs do, so while they (you?) can find contentment in the past, we are endlessly searching for something new in the future.

      1. That makes a great deal of sense. Like I thought, being a writer has either helped me know how to look at things from multiple perspectives, or else I’ve always been able to do that, and it helps me as a writer.

        My INTJ hubby’s very good at finding problems and fixing them, except when it comes to people, so that whole theorizing thing you mentioned is very much him. He can see how a policy or instruction could cause problems in the future very clearly, which is why he’s awesome at his job 🙂

        1. Aha! I had something I wanted to add to my last response to you, but I was in the middle of something and forgot what it was. This response triggered it — do you ever become so involved with your characters that you take on their emotional state as your own? I’ve had that happen once or twice, and it scared me how DIFFERENT I was afterward. I once had this character go off on a hate-filled tangent against God, and … I had to work through feelings of anger toward God as a result. It was freaky!

          1. Yes. Moreso with my own characters, and it doesn’t happen often, but sometimes.

            I’ve also twice had fictional characters throw me very off-balance. The first time was when I was reading Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat. Lestat was so venomous toward all ideas of God, so despairing and yet delighting in his despair, that I spent several days going through severe internal upheaval. I quit reading the book and haven’t touched one of Rice’s since.

            The second time was when I saw the movie The Prestige in the theater. I was so appalled by Hugh Jackman’s character’s actions toward the end that for months and months, I could not stand to watch any of his movies or even listen to my CD of the production of Oklahoma! that he was in. And Hugh Jackman is not only one of my favorite actors, he also portrays one of the 5 characters I hold nearest and dearest, namely Wolverine, so not being able to stomach him at all was very wrenching. I felt betrayed that he could play this despicable character. It wasn’t until years and years later that I realized that I identify very deeply with Hugh Jackman himself, and so him playing a character like this made me feel like, “Could I play such a character? Could I behave that way?”

            Which is not exactly what we’re discussing here, but kind of 🙂

          2. You are not missing much, with regards to Anne Rice. I’ve found her books distasteful in many ways, which is a shame because I love Lestat, Louis, and Claudia as characters. The only book I’m really comfortable reading that she’s written in the Vampire Chronicles is Interview with the Vampire.

            FINALLY. Someone else who was disturbed by The Prestige! That movie was awful. It bothered me on so many levels — from the cruelty toward animals to the callousness of life; wondering if the twins shared their wife bothered me; knowing about all the corpses bothered me — and I’m not overly sensitive, either. But the rampant adoration for that film made me wonder why it bothered me so much more than everyone else.

            Like you, if I see an actor I admire play a character I really, truly hate, it takes me awhile to get over it. I have never recovered in some instances. I think, inevitably, we all compare our favorite actors’ behaviors and chosen roles to what we would have done in their place; so for them to choose a part that appalls us is hard to take, because we admire them so much that it’s hard to remember that they do not share our moral views.

          3. YAY! You get the distaste for “The Prestige” too! I have known so many people who thought it was amazing, and I was like, “No! Awful! Horrid!” The part with the tanks full of corpses was what really spun me.

            Thanks for the warning on the rest of the Vampire Chronicles. My vampire phase has waned a good deal, but I might have been tempted to try a different book in the series. Now I won’t bother.

          4. Two movies about magic came out that year — The Prestige and The Illusionist. Most of my friends loved the former, but I loved the latter — a story of love and hope in happy endings, rather than moral decay and death.

            Anne Rice was a bit too explicit with her homosexual overtones in most of the books for me to comfortably read them. But I do enjoy Interview With the Vampire, even though it’s sad.

          5. You know, I’ve heard The Illusionist compared to The Prestige so often I’ve had no desire to see it. But if it’s that different, maybe I should!

            I really did enjoy Interview with the Vampire. And the movie. Back in 1999 when I first discovered Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I got very fascinated by vampires and watched as many movies about them as I could. Interview was the only one I liked so much I bought my own copy. Eventually, my fascination with vampires waned and I have away my copy, but I still think of it fondly.

          6. I think The Illusionist is wonderful. It’s one of my favorite films. It’s a love story, but it’s more than that, and Ed Norton gives a wonderful, romantic performance. I was a little hesitant to show it to my mother because I thought the perception of it would throw her off (the séances) but I told her in advance that not all is what it seems, and it’s one of her favorite films now too.

            Ha, ha. Your experience with vampires sounds a lot like mine – I went through the Bufy / Angel phase, which led to other vampire stories. I enjoy the movie of Interview as well – particularly Armand. I quite like what Banderas did with him.

          7. ::Makes goggle eyes:: Armand is my favorite too! And I almost mentioned him in my last comment, but I was like, “No one ever even remembers who Armand is, much less likes him, so I won’t bother.” I was actually trying to read all the books just so I could get to Armand’s book, but gave up in disgust as aforementioned.

            Banderas was hands-down my favorite part of the whole movie. But then, he tends to be my favorite part of any movie he’s in. Except “Assassins.”

          8. Of course people remember who Armand is! He’s that super-hot, emo, dark-haired vampire with the fabulous accent and the terrific clothes. Armand is an even better character than Lestat, in my opinion — much more nuanced, private, reclusive, and smart. Lestat is amusing, but he can also drive me nuts!

            I never found Banderas attractive until I saw him play Armand. I have since reached a conclusion that every actor is made even sexier with fangs. 😉

  4. First off, I’ve always loved that quote, and now that I realize it’s connection to my being an INFJ, it makes sense why. I always assumed it was because I have a deep affection for the the story (and its wise Gregory Peck father figure).

    I don’t want to get all arrogant and claim that our subclass (or particularly, me) always do this, or do it perfectly. I think because we try to think things through from the other person’s perspective, sometimes we overdo it and have difficult understanding that, alth

    1. Well, that proves that phone typing isn’t always your best option. Never know when your finger’s going to slip and submit something before you are done. Back to the lovely keyboard. Where was I? Ah, yes, how I overthink things…

      I think I try to think things through from the other person’s perspective, but then sometimes I get to where I understand “why” but don’t understand why they don’t react the same way I do. That seems crazy to me. I mean, if I understand them and have empathy for their current situation, why don’t I understand why they don’t react like I do. Why do I, irrationally, expect them to respond as I would. If I can get to where I “understand where they are coming” part, I should also understand “where they are going” is going to be (usually) down the same path.

      Is this falling short in being empathetic for them? Or is it just holding them accountable to my sense of justice? (Please note, I am certainly not saying I think I have the authority on the moral high ground, I’m just communicating that we make judgments in our mind without realizing it sometimes).

      And that is where I relate to your comment “as a selfish sinner, I don’t think that is fair. They can’t see my point of view, so why should I see it from theirs?”

      I feel that if I’ve gotten in their mind, then they should be able to see things as well from my perspective and react as I would. Is this making sense at all? :/

      Or maybe all this means is I’m not as “feeling” as I think I am.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Charity.

      1. I think many people love Atticus Finch, because he’s one of literature’s great father figures. But I do think that only the NFJ knows what that experience is actually like. There is a reason we are so easily impacted by others’ emotional experiences; we “borrow” them without even realizing we do it. I’ve always had an easy time “imagining” how people must feel, particularly fictional characters, which means I’m dramatically moved by their experiences. I cry very easily. I practically cried yesterday proof-reading an article in our magazine about the admiration the writer had for his father, and what losing his father meant to him. I don’t know this person, but I can imagine how it felt, and it made me tear up. I cry when other people lose their pets, for pete’s sake!

        Anyway… I get hung up on the same nail you do, in that I can SEE why they made that decision, and even UNDERSTAND it, but can’t understand WHY they didn’t handle it the same way I did. I think, sadly, this is largely owing to Ni and Ti working together; first, looking a LONG WAY ahead and then analyzing the problem for a solution that has long-term benefits. Most people (all non NJs) do not think in the long term, they make decisions based in the present. We’re so used to looking so far ahead that it’s second nature to us, so others’ inability to do that is frustrating.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is – we have the greatest capacity for true understanding, but also the greatest potential for being judgmental in spite of our empathy. I struggle with that a lot. In spite of being a dominant perceiver, I am very judgmental. I draw fast, sometimes inaccurate conclusions… and have to wait for my Fe to catch up with me and force me to truly withhold criticism until seeing both sides. The problem is, Ni usually knows what’s going to happen next, so before I get around to LISTENING to someone else’s problems, I’ve already foreseen them and passed judgment. But hey, if Elizabeth Bennet can learn to revise her opinions under the influence of new information, I can too! =P

        Honestly, I think we all struggle with judging people based on how WE would behave in their shoes. It’s not fair, but it happens. We are the only moral compass we know, so it’s natural we’d compare others’ behavior to our own. But… the truth is, until we have to make a decision that someone else does, no matter how imaginative we may be, we don’t KNOW truthfully how we would react. In Atticus’ shoes, I’d be torn between my desperate desire to see justice done for an innocent man, and concern over the consequences of my actions in a small, racist-driven town. Atticus either has more courage than I do, or more faith in humanity.

        1. I’m glad that it’s not just me. I’ve often wondered, how can I be so sympathetic, but also the most judgmental and “pull up your bootstraps” (although if I’m honest I rarely say that to people – but I often think it).

          You are very correct, we don’t know how we will react until we are in the similar circumstances. It’s easy to say “thus and thus” until you are there. But I think I try to be conscientious of this as I evaluate “how would I react” and prepare myself mentally for those moments. I just pray when I reach those struggles God will give me the grace to respond as I have mentally prepared according to His Word.

  5. Ooh, this is a bit spooky!

    I just read your recent analysis of Atticus Finch on your MBTI Fiction blog and wanted to comment in particular on your description of Finch’s use of Extraverted Feeling. So, I checked out this site, only to find your latest post “Climbing into Your Skin”, which covers exactly the issues I wished to talk about!

    I honestly have not read a better description of how Fe operates from the perspective of an INFJ. I particularly identified with Atticus Finch, because as a forensic scientist I also have to work within the legal system as it exists (not as I wish it was). As part of my job, I have to attend court in person and give verbal evidence as an expert witness.

    I realised some years ago that my own Extraverted Feeling function was invaluable in these situations. It allows me to be fair and objective by giving priority to the needs, values and rules of the Court over my own personal feelings. Like Atticus, I strive to remain polite and courteous to all parties in a trial, even when facing intense cross-examination from opposing counsels. This is not to say that I don’t experience strong feelings on occasion, but they don’t tend to surface until some time after I have given my evidence. It seems that Fe has the ability to postpone my personal feelings and emotional responses until I am in private and can express them appropriately.

    I once read somewhere that the Extraverted Feeling function (as defined by Jung) forms the foundation of the modern legal system in many Western nations. Given that Fe’s remit includes such broad areas as fairness, compassion, social justice and collective standards of behaviour, this view makes a lot of sense. The archetypal figure of Lady Justice as a blindfolded goddess holding a sword and scales also seems to me to be a representation of the highest principles that are associated with Fe.

    Of course, the technical aspects of the Law owe a lot to Extraverted Thinking as well (for example: legal definitions and terminology, and the interpretation of complex statutes and rules), but Fe can be seen to govern the way in which the rules are applied by the system to one and all (in an ideal world). Think of the whole concept of guilt or innocence being decided by a jury of one’s peers – it doesn’t get much more Fe than that!

    As for “Climbing into Your Skin”; like yourself I have been experiencing that my whole life – long before I knew anything about personality types. I would also add that it is the combination of Introverted Intuition and Extraverted Feeling that makes INFJ’s naturally inclined to do this. I have several ENFJ friends who also share this trait. My manager when I first became a forensic scientist in the UK was a highly empathetic ENFJ. He later became one of my best friends, and we spent many happy hours discussing NFJ-type concerns such as philosophy, psychology and spirituality.

    Stewart

    1. It’s funny, I had been thinking about writing on impartiality for awhile, and then re-watching To Kill a Mockingbird gave me an anchor in description through Atticus. It really is like climbing into someone else’s shoes and living their life. I’m taking a little bit of argument / heat for asserting him as an INFJ, but I see a lot of compromising and gentle understanding in him, which is the epitome of what an INFJ SHOULD be. It is what we CAN be, if we choose to adopt the method of judging only after investigating. Either way, he’s one of literature’s greatest figures.

      Your thoughts are really intelligent and thought-provoking, so thank you for commenting! I’ve never thought about Lady Justice in that manner, but you’re right – the call of juries (and judges) everywhere, and the legal system in general, is to put aside personal biases and see a situation through its impartial facts. Racism, sexism, prejudice, and bias have no place in a courtroom, yet we struggle to keep them out because of our own experiences and belief systems. The system knew what it was doing when it appointed 12 peers… 12 conflicting value systems, trying to be impartial. Poor Atticus, however, was working within a system predisposed to racism in spite of the undeniable evidence of his client’s innocence. I would find that immensely frustrating, yet he is an optimist who tries to convince Robinson that they still have a chance on appeal … as if the system will work better next time. Sadly, it wouldn’t have, but he needs that hope, both as an individual and as an attorney.

      So many people perceive Fe wrongly, as being a “compromising” function; it is, but that is not, as you pointed out, all bad. It allows us to put aside our feelings to do what we must that would benefit others and/or the situation. I feel… unbalanced if my own emotions emerge in public. I don’t like it. If I need to cry, I would rather do it alone. I can hold those things in if I truly try, but I’ve learned not to in some instances because it can lead to meltdowns later.

      ENFJs are wonderful… at least, from my limited experiences with them. My ENFJ and I seem to understand one another’s thought process very well. Out of everyone I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with, I think she “gets” me the most.

  6. I get where you’re coming from, even though I don’t entirely agree.

    Some biases are bad, true. Just look at racism and sexism and any other ism out there where judgment is held over someone else for reasons that have no basis in any type of scriptural foundation. That is a bad bias to have, and most people have at least one, probably more than one, that needs to be overcome before we can move on and be truly whole.

    However, I don’t care to see the perspective of the murderers, pedophiles, rapists, abortionists, and any other long list of sickos you can think of who’ve done so much damage to society and are unrepentant. I fall short of love in that regard. It’s not my place to punish or to judge (sometimes I wish it were), but I know judgement is coming down the line. It won’t be me who brings it, but it will come. And I don’t want to see their perspective on why they do the things they do in the meantime.

    Seeing other people’s viewpoints is valuable, it truly is, and I’m glad you’re gifted in that way. The world needs people like you to make up for people like me who just can’t see everyone else’s perspective.

    Can you tell that’s why I’m not a missionary or an evangelist? 😉 Hope I didn’t come on too strong, but I needed to have my honest say. I do that every once in awhile, and it must be a bit of a shocker. I guess that’s the moment when Captain America crops up in my brain and spews forth his ideas. If I could, I would be an avenging angel, God’s honest truth.

    1. So, I take it you won’t be reading Lolita anytime soon? 😉

      I’m curious as to what drives people, so I care even about the motivations of “evil” people. Understanding does not mean agreement with their actions – it is simply that, understanding.

      Part of me wants judgment for the people who do bad things, and the other part of me mourns that judgment. I felt sick after Sadaam Hussein’s execution, seeing everyone – even Christians – online celebrating his death. The man is DEAD. He has no more chances for redemption. Yes, he did awful things and deserved punishment, but we should never celebrate the loss of a soul.

      1. I actually did try with Lolita, I seriously tried, but it made me nauseous so I stopped. I’m not even sure why I tried, actually, since it’s such a twisted topic.

        And the Lord did a little brow-beating on me in chapel today so you can essentially write off my first response. God has great timing. *eye roll*

        I’m imperfect. I want the rest of the world to see things through the same lens as me. But they don’t, and I’m frustrated when they don’t. But that’s not what God wants from me. The thing is, i know I can’t start loving people just out of the blue. I have to love God more deeply first and that love for Him will spread to loving others. Love for others is born out of love for Him, and I’m ashamed to say that I’m not there yet. I doubt I’ll ever be able to see others perspectives like an INFJ, but that’s simply because I don’t have the capability. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be loving, merciful, and forgiving.

        Speaking of understanding the motivations of evil people, I watched Red Dragon last week, and was stunned by how much more whole Will Graham is as a person. He does the same thing as Dancy’s Will, puts himself in the shoes of the killer, sees through his eyes and from his perspective, but he doesn’t lose himself in it. He understands the killer’s motivations without sharing them. He’s a terrific INFJ and really makes your point.

        1. Our internet has been out for two days (not good, when we’re on a PT deadline, but happily, it’s now working again) so since I couldn’t do anything else, I read Lolita. Gorgeous prose, a bit thick at times, and an interesting novel. I’m still not sure what my sum total of thoughts are about it, but I think it shows the evil psychosis involved in the mind of a pedophile rather well. You can’t trust the narrator. He’s manipulative, and deluding even himself, but specks of the truth show through now and again. Creepy read, though.

          … don’t you just love God’s 2x4s?

          Yeah, me neither. =P

          I can understand people; I don’t always love them. God has to work on that with me a lot. It’s not enough to feel compassion for them; genuinely loving them requires more than my selfish little heart wants to give. Basically, we’re all on this life journey together, and we all have to learn to love others “more than” ourselves.

          Red Dragon in comparison to Hannibal is a prime example of why I love one Will Graham so much more than the other. It has nothing to do with the actor, and everything to do with the portrayal. I’m not entirely pleased with the television show’s “deconstruction and reinvention” of Will. In a sense, I think they’ve done him a grave injustice… which is probably why a friend of mine quit watching in the first season. Oh, well. It’s an interesting intellectual exercise regardless.

  7. * applauds *

    Fantastic post!

    Admittedly–I sometimes wonder if it’s so much that many people can’t understand another perspective–but that they won’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m just sitting and staring at people as they recount how they “won” a recent dispute, and then proceeded to “show them a thing or two” and I can’t help thinking that if the situation were reversed, they’d be bawling about how the other person was “so mean” and argued them down, and then not satisfied with winning, followed it up by humiliating them.

    To be perfectly honest–I think this a major reason behind why so many human interactions don’t go well. When we don’t hear from a friend often enough, they’re being distant, shutting us out, when we do it–well, we just need our space, a little time off! When we give someone a recycled or used gift, we’re “thrifty” when somebody else does it they’re chintzy, and it goes on and on.

    Then again, being able to see an alternate perspective isn’t fun. How do you tell your friend/family that uh…maybe just maybe…they’re being biased? That if you were a third party who didn’t know them, you’d say they were in the “wrong” in that big argument they recently had with their boyfriend/parent etc;? Oh, and don’t even get me started on politics…

    It happens in so many cases, though, when “our” favorite celebrity/religious leader/politician etc; gets caught up in scandal, we plead for forgiveness, claim that people are blowing things out of proportion, we have to move on from this! When “theirs” messes up, we’re almost gleeful, pointing the finger eagerly as proof of how corrupt “their” side is.

    * sighs * I remember reading once that part of it is the whole us vs them mentality–or rather–a sort of group mentality–that starts with “me” (whatever “me” thinks is always right and most important) and branches out to include family/community–and is associated with loyalty. So maybe that’s what it is–but if we only view one perspective, that of our side, and above all, “ourselves” we’re missing out on so many other perspectives and experience–and most of all missing out on the human experience as a whole.

    1. I think there are people on both sides of that issue; there are those who literally cannot overcome their own bias to see another’s perspective, and those who don’t want to. I just plain don’t want to sometimes, because I’d rather hold on to my anger than watch it deflate like a balloon. We are all selfish in our own ways, and that selfishness causes us to treat others badly and have no interest in listening to their opinions. Since we’re so wrapped up in ourselves, we don’t realize that our anger when others do the same thing to us is hypocritical, since we do it to other people! =P

      Basically, we’re all flawed and it’s a good thing we don’t have to earn our way into heaven, because MAJOR FAIL.

      It is fairly easy to see a bias in someone else, and much harder to see it in oneself. I am all too aware of the people around me’s prejudices, motivations, and shortcomings. It’s much nicer for me to think about their problems, than to address my own. (Of course, if you REALLY want to get annoyed – think about your own biases and how irrational they are, and then beat up on yourself for being so shallow!)

      The political bias is sickening. I used to be a huge part of it, too. Oh, that’s a bad idea. It came from the opposing party. They’re stupid, so I won’t listen to them. Fortunately, I no longer think that way, but EVERY DAY I am fighting against all my in-born or taught biases. I catch myself thinking, “Oh, I could never vote for that person, he’s a *insert religion / political party here*.” It’s sad. It’s sick. It’s not how we’re meant to live. Jesus said “love one another,” not “ignore anyone’s opinion you don’t agree with.”

      Being able to see the other side isn’t always fun. It can be disturbing. I’ve put myself in other people’s shoes and, like Will Graham, been horrified at how I can “lose myself” in that person. I do it sometimes with fictional characters. I once had a character spew out all his hatred and resentment toward God, through some very real concerns – and I felt awful and angry for the rest of the day, because I saw his views as legitimate. I dealt with them. I had to repent of them. But then, understanding them, I could begin to address them within the context of the story. But that raw, emotional rant? It shocked me how much it impacted my entire day!

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