“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness …’” (Genesis 1:26).
Imagine! We are made in the image of God! It follows, then, that if we are made in the image of the Creative Architect of the entire universe that we must have inherited some of that capacity for creativity, right?
Yet how many times have we said, “I’m just not creative!” What is wrong with this picture? Could it be that we all have the capacity for creativity but aren’t utilizing what’s been given to us? Or could it be that for some reason we’re unable to recognize our particular areas of God-given creativity?
It’s not really an issue of whether or not we’re “born” creative. It’s more a matter of what happens to hinder or stifle our natural creativity. A story is told about Walt Disney when he was a child. As his teacher gave the art assignment, her instructions were clear: “Draw a flower.” The children obediently drew the expected straight lines with loops on the side to represent leaves. When the teacher approached Walt Disney’s desk, however, she noticed that his flower had a smile on it. “Walter, flowers don’t have smiles.” He looked up at her and said, “Mine do!”
Research shows that creativity is stifled when children are restricted in their drawings (told to color inside the lines) and in their play. Children need to be allowed to roam and experience new things. There is a world out there for them to discover. Of course, it is important for parents to childproof their homes, but this should be for the safety of the child and not just for the convenience of the parents. Firstborn children are frequently the smartest, but they tend to be less creative – because the parents are so uptight and particular about boundaries.
Breaking Out of the Box
Much of our creative nature is contained in the right hemisphere of the brain. It also contains our thoughts and feelings. The left hemisphere contains the factual areas: sequential knowledge, mathematical and language skills. The definition of something, like love, comes out of the left side of the brain; the meaning and experience of it comes out of the right side.
A creative person is one who simply processes ordinary information in different, nontraditional ways. This person takes the sensory data that’s available to all of us and looks at it from a variety of angles and perspectives – not just the “taught” perspective or the normal, traditional approach.
The more rigid in our thinking we become, the more difficult it is to be creative. Too often we limit ourselves because we’re afraid to make mistakes. We feel we need to be perfect. If a person’s self-esteem is based on always doing things right, then life is defined by boxes and never taking risks. Creativity is flexible. It says, “If it doesn’t work, try another way. No big deal.” Creativity is freedom of expression.
We can quickly increase our creativity by reprograming our thinking. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to explore. Everything doesn’t have to be set in cement for life. Our basic left-brained characteristic tells us to make everything A-B-C and that’s it. To develop more creativity, take that “A” and elaborate on it. Explore all the angles. Get into the mental habit of never accepting the traditional “one answer” solution. Don’t just automatically think, That’s just the way it is. Figure out other ways to look at things.
This doesn’t mean that life should be totally lived without structure or barriers. There are times when rigid rules are necessary for safety and order. There are also certain things that are God’s absolutes. We don’t budge on those. What shouldn’t or cannot change, let’s not try to change. But God has given us tremendous freedom to explore many other areas of expression.
There’s an old saying, “What I don’t know can’t hurt me!” But is this true? Stifling our expression and creativity over a lifetime may result in filling our emotional buckets with frustration and anger. Constantly having to suppress nontraditional and creative feelings and ideas can give a person a feeling of worthlessness. Sooner or later, this suppression develops inner frustration that may cause depression, anxiety and other kinds of physical complaints.
Suppression of inner creativity has spiritual ramifications as well. When I was in college I heard a psychologist say, “Where the Holy Spirit is, there is creativity.” We know that the Holy Spirit is not bound by boxes! If this is true, then failing to express our God-given creativity hinders the Holy Spirit within us. In a very real sense, then, it becomes a matter of stewardship.
What will you do to nurture the creativity that has been given to you? Don’t bury it as the man did in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Use your creativity for God’s glory.
Dr. Rick Fowler earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Theology (Greenville College), a Master of Arts degree in Social Science Education (University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point), an Education Specialist degree in Social Science (University of Georgia), a Doctorate of Education in Social Psychology (Highland University), and received his LPC, LMFT certification (University of Texas at Tyler).