Does deliberate living spell death for spontaneity?

I’ve been thinking this through over the last two weeks as several people brought it up in the comments here and here. Here are my thoughts.

1) The opposite of intentionality is not spontaneity. The opposite of intentionality is traditionalism.

Traditionalism does something because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Intentionality does something because it seems to be the best way to do it.

Intentionality may lead a person to spontaneous action at one moment and to stick to a carefully thought-out plan the next. It all depends on what he is deliberately trying to accomplish.

2) When spontaneous is defined as doing whatever, whenever, then it’s not spontaneity at all. It’s just recklessness.

Spontaneous could be defined as “unplanned.” But there is a big difference between “unplanned” and “whatever, whenever.” Being deliberate frees you to be spontaneous without being reckless (more on that under #4).

3) Deliberate living will express itself differently in different personalities.

Both the accountant and the explorer must be deliberate. But they must also be spontaneous if they are to be successful in their pursuits.

Just like any other aspect of Christian character, intentionality will look different in different people. Joy looks different in different people. Love looks different in different people. So, deliberate living looks different in different people.

4) Being deliberate need not hinder spontaneity. In reality, it’s usually the opposite.

The opposite of spontaneous is “planned.” A person who is living deliberately will often have a plan to get from point A to point B. But since he is living deliberately, when an opportunity arises to get from A to B in a better way than he’d planned, he is free to be spontaneous and take the opportunity because he knows exactly where he is going and is focused on getting there.

If he is bound by traditionalism, he will be likely to miss the opportunity. It is intentionality itself that frees him to seize the moment and act spontaneously.

For instance, it was precisely because Jesus was living deliberately that he found himself alone, by a well, and prepared to strike up a spontaneous discussion with a woman who came by. It was all the deliberate moments preceding, that prepared Jesus to spontaneously seize the opportunity with this woman.[1]

I hope these thoughts are helpful.


[1] Of course it’s not a perfect example. Since Jesus is God, it is debatable whether anything he did could be defined as spontaneous per se.

this is part 5 of 5 in the series
Deliberate living

share this article

About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. Taylah 9 March, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Ah! Now I get it! And I agree! Great post! :D

  2. RoSeZ 9 March, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Good post. =)

Comments are closed.