Are You a Thinker or a Doer? (P.S. This is a trick question.)

Do you have a scripture or an inspirational thought that you turn to whenever life is tough—one that uplifts and comforts you? I can think of a few of those. Now let me ask you this: do you have a scripture or an inspirational thought that completely terrifies you? I have one of those, too. It’s Doctrine and Covenants 82:3: “Where much is given, much is required.

We have been given much. We have been given life in an incredible time in history. We have been given miraculous physical bodies. Most of us, at least most of the time, don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, or whether we will have a home tomorrow, or whether we will survive another day of war and political turmoil. Most of us have been given vast opportunities for education. Most of us have loving and supportive family, or friends, or even both around us. Many of us who have religion in our lives enjoy the peace, purpose, and perspective that it provides.

We have also been given intellect, talent, ambition, diligence, and curiosity—gifts that enable us to take advantage of our privilege and opportunities. Sometimes we are hesitant to acknowledge these gifts for fear of being proud. A friend of mine recently posted a quote from C.S. Lewis, who said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Not only is it okay to acknowledge our gifts, we must acknowledge them. But we must also recognize that they have been given to us for more than just our own benefit. Just among the people who will read this post are the talents, perspectives, and experiences that, if used with purpose, could change the world.

The philosopher Rene Descartes coined the Latin phrase cogito ergo sum, or, “I think, therefore I am.” This short phrase encapsulates the idea that our ability to think is what assures us of our existence. In my mind, often coupled with this statement is an image of Auguste Rodin’s bronze statue, The Thinker. Sitting on a rock, crouched over, with his chin resting on his hand, the pensive image of the Thinker has become a worldwide icon of the power of thought.

The thinker.jpg

Many people have recognized, however, that thinking alone does little to solve the problems that the world faces. The Thinker on his pedestal may be brilliant, but he does not accomplish much from there. I recently saw this comic depicting The Thinker:

The Thinker and the Doer.png

The post was shared on Facebook, where a few comments followed, hailing the virtues of the doers in the world. Yet I couldn’t help but think that the world has plenty of “doers” who don’t think…and they’re usually the ones creating the problems that the “thinkers” are trying to solve! So the Thinker has great ideas, but doesn’t accomplish much. The Doer, on the other hand, accomplishes a lot—but not necessarily for the better. Isn’t that depressing? But it doesn’t have to be, because we can choose to be both.

Now let me draw attention to one other figure, who was not alongside the Thinker and the Doer in this comic, but who perhaps could have been. This figure is the Feeler. I don’t know what the Feeler would have been doing in the comic—perhaps crying over a tub of ice cream and an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. But we can’t ignore the value of our feelings. As human beings, we have been given an immense capacity to feel—to feel love and care for others, to feel sadness for the misfortunes of our brothers and sisters (and for our own misfortunes), to feel righteous indignation at the injustices in the world, to feel wonder and joy and hope. Though we sometimes dismiss them as weaknesses, these emotions are often the motivating forces to turn our brilliant thoughts into productive actions. Eventually, as those thought-out and heartfelt actions pile up, we find ourselves waking up to a better world.

You can be a thinker—and a feeler—and a doer. The brighter future that you want to see is waiting right now in your mind and in your heart. I look forward to seeing it.

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