I am quite clearly an idealist. That is to say, I try to live out of ideas . . . principles that are as true as I can make them to my own understanding. I guess it goes with being an idealist that one then tries to order life according to those ideals, which means that integrity is the consistent application of those truths. For an idealist, to lack integrity is to not aspire to the truths one knows. In other words, to know, but to ignore and do otherwise.
One thing I have learned, that has tempered my idealism, is that my hold on truth is flawed. Furthermore, the exact nature of where my perception is flawed is hidden from me. So my idealism is for me the way I must go, while I must also be constantly ready to adjust that idealism to new understandings of truth.
We had a guest last Sunday, a Roman Catholic scholar who spoke (among other things) about Aristotle's view of man. One of the fundamental characteristics of man is his desires, which is quite different from the mind. For me it is natural as an idealist for my desires to be for a life ordered more about the mind seeking truth - and as a Christian truth is the person of God.
However, I see that others order their lives around their desires, and the mind for them works to support their desires. I am not talking about sinful, fleshly desires, just that they seem to want, not as the result of thinking, but just out of who they are. I am also not suggesting that their desires are selfish. Perhaps I could contrast their approach as more intuitive versus my idealism. This is, I assume, as natural for them as my idealism is for me. But it sure drives me nuts!
So here's the confession . . . being with those who think and live this way is work for an idealist! I just don't know how to do this well (at least "well" in the way I think of it). But that's another whole subject . . .
So here's what happens: I think about how we should be based on seeking truth, my desires not being as important as finding truth - at least as well as I can grasp it at this moment. These other people, most unlike me as they can be, seem to desire a way to be. I am not saying this is wrong, just talking about how foreign our processes are to one another.
While my thinking is toward discovering how we should be, their thinking seems to run toward finding ways to say why we should be as they desire to be. I can see all sorts of inconsistency in their thinking. What is put forward to "support" a desire would be disowned by them in an instant with regard to another of their desires that it would not support. But I realize that "consistency" in thinking is important for me in ways it is not likely as important for them.
This drives me bonkers. For me, living by my thinking (flawed as it is, but what else do I have?) is my end; for them, thinking is a means to support the ends they desire.
The weird thing for an idealist to realize is that their desires have as much a chance of being "right" as my grasp on truth. Since my best efforts to order life around a search for God, in a particular manner, is always flawed, their desires might be as true or even more correct. Whose to say?
So we are left to muddle through, living as inscrutable creatures to one another. And so here is God - creating space for the practice of grace, patience, love, acceptance, and all other aspects of his nature by shaping some of us as idealists and others as intuitives. That we live in this tension is likely more important than sorting out our different approaches - which probably will never happen anyway. There isn't much chance of me ever not being an idealist. I can't expect to turn intuitives into people like me.
An intuitive probably wouldn't have spent the last hour trying to sort out a cognitive framework for understanding this dynamic.