How Are You Smart?

Soozung Sa

devozine Questions from God TS 78617331It’s easy to get caught up in being smart. We enjoy hearing compliments, such as “You are so smart!” “That is very smart!” or giving compliments, such as “She is a smart one!” “He is incredibly smart!” We even use the word smart to describe how someone dresses: “Now that is a smart outfit.” Smart seems to mean something important.

What matters is not how smart you are but how you are smart. There are many ways to learn how we are wired, what makes others tick, and why it’s a challenge to change ourselves. Yet it’s more important to look at ourselves, to understand who we are, to accept who we are, and to love who we are. If we do these things, we will be able to accept and appreciate others more fully.

Different “Smarts”

Howard Gardner of Harvard University has a theory that there are multiple intelligences; he lists nine. He believes that each person possesses all of them but is stronger in some areas than others. He also believes that we can develop our weaker “smarts.”

Gardner’s theory emphasizes that people learn in different ways. In other words, all people are “smart”; but in order to cultivate our natural smarts and to develop our weaker ones, we need to recognize the ways that we learn best.

Nine Intelligences

Gardner’s nine ways of learning are:

  • Linguistic/Verbal—you learn best through speaking, writing, reading, and listening. These students are normally successful in school because traditional education stresses this mode of learning.
  • Visual/Spatial—you learn best with visual aids (charts, maps, illustrations, art, anything eye-catching) or you learn by organizing tangible things in a spatial way.
  • Mathematical/Logical—you have an aptitude for numbers, reasoning, and problem solving. These students are also usually successful in a traditional classroom where logic is emphasized.
  • devozine Rock Climber2 TS 139543547Bodily/Kinesthetic—you learn best through activities, such as games, dancing, and hands-on tasks. In typical classrooms, where there is little movement, these students are usually labeled “hyper” and may not learn their lessons as quickly as their classmates because it is difficult for them to sit still.
  • Musical/Rhythmic—you learn best through rhythms, patterns, songs, instruments, or musical expression. These students are often overlooked in a traditional classroom setting.
  • Intrapersonal—you are in touch with your own feelings, values, and ideas and are quite intuitive. Often labeled “reserved,” these students have an aptitude for taking what they learn and applying it to their lives.
  • devozine 200166564-001Interpersonal—you are people-oriented and learn best by working in groups. These students are often considered “outgoing” and are sometimes identified in school as being too talkative or social
  • Naturalist—you enjoy the outdoors, animals, taking field trips, and caring for nature, plus you tend to notice subtle differences in meanings. The traditional classroom is not very accommodating to these students.
  • devozine Video Shoot TS 122586845Existentialist—you learn best by looking at the “big picture” of an issue and by examining humankind’s relationship with it. These students are often seen as being spiritual or philosophical and like to ask the big questions, such as “What is our role in the world?” and “Why are we here?”

Loving Ourselves,  Loving Our Neighbors

devozine Why Not Me2 TS 100943663Which of these categories seems to describe you? Which ones are definitely not you? The purpose of discovering how we learn is not to be manipulative or to change others or ourselves. Rather, it is about understanding ourselves, finding joy in who we are with all our quirks, and acepting ourselves. This enables us to do what Matthew 22:30b says — to love our neighbors as ourselves for if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love others.

We are all a part of God’s amazing ongoing creation. By appreciating our different kinds of intelligences, we celebrate the diversity of God’s creation us! We are all different, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s great!



Remember that God made you unique! Learn more about multiple intelligences. To discover what your primary intelligences are, click on the Interactivity button (at the bottom of the page) and take a quick animated self-inventory. To exercise your “smarts,” try out these games and activities.

Soozung Sa has a big heart for youth and worked in youth ministry for over 15 years. Currently she lives in Tampa, Florida, where the sun shines!

— from devozine (September/October 2004). Copyright © 2004 by Upper Room Ministries. All rights reserved.

Back To Home

To Order Devozine Magazine, call 1.800.972.0433.