Six of the gifts fall into pairs and have an ‘opposite’ gift that is the most different from it. (The seventh is the Giver.) The opposing pairs have the most trouble understanding the other, and often have to make a conscious decision to accept that the way a person with the opposing motivation sees the world is also valid and just as significant as their own perspective.
The difference comes from where each gift most operates out of. The soul is made of the mind, will, and emotions, and while we all have all 7 gifts to a small extent, we all operate out of all three to an extent, but strong primary gifts will operate largely out of one or two of the three.
If you have someone in your life who is the opposite motivation to yours, understanding the motivational gifts has the potential to revolutionize your relationship overnight. My best friend in graduate school, and my dad both have the primary gift of Compassion, which is the opposite of my primary Administrator gift; this awareness really helped me with both of those relationships. Also, my husband’s secondary Perceiver gift is opposite my partial Exhorter motivation, and my secondary Teacher gift sometimes conflicts with his primary Server. It has helped immensely to understand that dynamic in our marriage, especially in our day to day conversations and interactions.
These are the opposing pairs: Administrator/Compassion, Perceiver/Exhorter, Server/Teacher. I’ve put my summaries from my first post here with additional information, ordered in these pairs. Read through and you can see how these pairs come from opposite perspectives, and might have opposing expectations and assumptions. The growth area for one often matches a high value for the other. The gifts that are next to each other (in the circle above) tend to understand each other more easily because their motivations come from a similar place. (The giver has no opposite, and has something in common with all of the gifts, which can make it tricky to identify.)
Administrator – very organized and goal-oriented; can articulate a vision and organize long term projects; functions out of mind and will; appreciates clear boundaries and autonomy
Compassion – very empathetic and thoughtful, family-oriented; tends to be disorganized, believes the best in others, and are honest and trusting; function out of emotion, appreciate low pressure environment, a positive approach and contact with people
Perceiver – very perceptive, tends to see the world in black and white, right and wrong; they function out of their will; they are direct and intuitive and often right; they can have a tendency to be negative
Exhorter – very relational and encouraging, see the cup as half full; function out of mind and emotion; more interested in personal growth than that something is done ‘right’
Server – very practical and present-oriented, enjoy meeting needs, is a doer; function out of will and emotion; prefer to do rather than delegate; appreciates clear instructions and verbal appreciation
Teacher – inquisitive and analytical, enjoy research and problem solving, is a thinker; function out of the mind; put less emphasis on practical application; love sharing knowledge
The administrator will have a natural tendency to focus on systems and goals and how people can help make those things happen; weaknesses can include maintaining work/family boundaries and using people. A compassion person who values people over processes and resists the pressure of schedules and details may clash with an administrator.
A perceiver values correctness and sees issues as cut and dried and may view an exhorter as too optimistic and not realistic enough. The exhorter is more emotional, relational and positive and will see much more gray in the world. These types can easily see each other as too negative and too positive, too stiff and too flexible.
A server is a doer and loves to meet practical needs and get things done. They may get frustrated with the teacher’s tendency to spend time researching and thinking, and to value discussing and considering ideas without taking any action.
It is wonderful to go through some self discovery processes and learn about our own uniqueness, motivational types, strengths, gifts etc. I believe it is essential to finding our way forward. However, we must recognize the temptation to be proud and consumed by our own strengths, gifts and perspective on the world. The fundamental truth about the motivational gifts is that they are from God, and are ways that we each reflect part of God. Each gift is valid, and necessary for healthy community. We all balance each other out.
I’ve been through a whole process where I felt like I didn’t understand Compassion types, but understanding this concept helped me greatly to be aware of what I didn’t understand, but I struggled to accept the validity of such an opposite perspective on the world. But in recent years I have come to be truly and deeply grateful for the Compassion gifted people in my life. I see how they balance me out, by reminding me that sometimes people are more important than the processes and the details. They also remind me of the character of God because they love me unconditionally, they have the biggest hearts of anyone I know. I don’t know how I’d make it through this season of life without them, and I know now that I won’t become the balanced leader and mentor that I want to be someday without those friends to believe in me and to balance my driven, goal oriented tendencies and to keep life in perspective.
In writing this I realized I was preoccupied with my primary gift, but thinking about this idea and marriage got me thinking about my secondary gift of Teacher/Exhorter (they’re fairly tied, some people have one primary, most people have two, I think I have three that really affect me and I’m fairly conflicted between these two). My husband is a Server/Perceiver and I see in the small interactions in daily life and the occasional arguments, that these elements are in play. The tendencies I mentioned above for these two pairs are ever-present in my marriage, and I have two options – to criticize or to learn. So I am in the continual process of seeking to understand his perspective, and to explain mine, and to learn and grow as we each exercise our strengths and balance each other out.
I want to encourage you to identify your gifts and your spouse’s and any other key relationships in your lives, and then identify where the opposing perspectives are in play and think about how that has contributed to tension and what you can do about it; and also what you can learn from that person about life, yourself, God, and His greater purposes for the relationship.
May He grant you humility and wisdom, my friend. I pray that your eyes will be opened and your life enriched. God created us for community. We must remember that we are not islands.