It is not surprising that people can be very creative. We humans are made in the image of the Creator. What really is surprising is how so many of us do not seem to be creative!
Last week I suggested this is partly because our definition of 'creative' is too narrow when we can be creative in every aspect of life!
But is there another reason? Do we have the creativity - the image of God - knocked out of us?
When the US government was developing its space programme in the 1960s, NASA asked systems scientist and consultant Dr. George Land to design a creativity test to help select innovative engineers and scientists. The assessment worked so well he decided to try it on children. Starting in 1968, he used it to measure the creativity of 1,600 children ranging in ages from three-to-five years old who were enrolled in a Head Start program. He re-tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15 years of age.
The results were astounding.
Test results amongst 3-5 year olds: 98%
Test results amongst 10 year olds: 30%
Test results amongst 15 year olds: 12%
Over many years he has given the same test to 280,000 adults. The average result is a mere 2%
“What we have concluded,” wrote Land in a book co-authored by Beth Jarman Breaking Point and Beyond, “is that non-creative behaviour is learned.”
I don't know if he would claim to be a Christian but his insight is very scriptural. We are not boring, unimaginative creatures who have to learn to be creative. We are made creative in the image of the infinitely imaginative Creator, but have the creativity knocked out of us by living in a dysfunctional world spoilt by sin.
How does the creativity get knocked out of people? By judging, condemning and censoring ideas in a way that makes people feel they are undermined. They then become unwilling to try in future.
Every time we tell a child “We don’t do it that way” or “You can’t change the way things are” we knock out some creative imagination and make people confirm to a norm that is less than God intended. Some escape from this and give free reign to their imagination in creative arts, or listening to music, often while carrying on with a mundane life.
Other social scientists and psychologists have also studied how we can encourage creativity. Among the key things are:
- unlearning the conformist assumptions drummed into us
- growing in self knowledge
- becoming motivated to explore creativity
- making choices to be around creative people to be inspired and to have our imagination sparked
- overcoming fear of failure
- giving each other permission to fail (and permission to help us get back on track).
To me, it seems all these are godly things to do. But they all need the influence of the Holy Spirit if we are really going to make progress.
Our Christian calling includes enabling one another - and those who do not yet know the Creator in an intimate friendship - to become creative. Inspired and motivated by the Spirit we can provoke people to think freely and experiment ... to discover their full humanity as they follow Jesus, the ultimate model human.