Personality types?

Part of my ordination training involved doing the Myers-Briggs personality test.  Now I realise that this is not strictly mandated by the Pastoral Epistles, but on the other hand it was a good old giggle. (See mildly amusing prayers for the 16 personality types here.

I came out quite strongly as ENFP which means I’m an inveterate procrastinator, big-picture, no-detail, scatter-brained, last-minute, wing it with a smile and talk my way out of it later kind of guy.  At this point all the ISTJs (the opposite to me on all four spectrums) are waking up to why my blog really bugs them.  (Myers-Briggs did actually help me understand my bible college experience – the majority of Anglican ministers I trained with were ISTJs).

But already you’re probably sensing what everyone should know about these ‘personality types.’  They’re not neutral.  They describe real patterns alright – and extremely hard-wired patterns too.  But a lot of what they describe are patterns of sin.  A good part of each of the 16 ‘personality types’ simply identify chosen, self-protective schemes that enable us to navigate a cursed world along paths of least resistance.  Whether we buy into the ‘loud’ or the ‘shy’ persona, the ‘organized’ or ‘shambolic’, we’re basically doing the same thing – finding a way to make life work apart from Christ.  By some combination of retreating from the thorns and sewing our fig leaves we hit upon a style of relating that minimizes pain and maximizes self. 

Now we cluster together in different groups of sinners because there are natural contours to our make-up and unique events shaping our development.  And it’s important to say that those internal and external differences are not in themselves sinful.  The new creation will not be monochrome!  And different gifted-ness is not at all something to be ironed out in the name of Christian maturity.  Our goal is not the absence of difference but the harmony of God-given distinctives. 

But still, granting that there may be good and genuine reasons for some of the following, isn’t it a problem when we flinch from serving Jesus by making such claims as…

‘I’m just not an extrovert.’ 

‘I’m not a morning person.’ 

‘I need order/control.’

‘I’m not good with authority/structure.’

‘I’m not a people-person.’

‘I don’t really do organization.’

Others to add??

Even as we think of these deep-seated statements of identity it should be clear that they’re not just descriptive.  They are also very strongly aspirational.  I got that sense even as I took the Myers-Briggs test.  So many of the answers I gave were actually the answers that I thought the artsy, laid-back Glen should give.  In fact it was almost exactly like doing the Star Wars personality test where I tried my hardest to come out as Han Solo (but ended up as Princess Leia.  My wife was the Emporer – but that’s another post).  The point is our reactions to events are partly innate but also strongly determined by the persona we’d like to hide in.

So who’s identity are we hiding in and why?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Col 3:1-4)

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Rest of series:

I am not…

Tearing down the idol of my personality

Conclusions

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Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology, Uncategorized

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

19 Responses to Personality types?

  1. Missy

    I thought that test was for DETERMINING the proper excuses. Darn it all!

    I’m ENFP, too. That one had a lot of good excuses… {blissful daydreaming}…

    This ones’ a bit of rawhide to chew on, Glen, but I agree.

  2. glenscriv

    You know I think it probably is for determining the proper excuses – ‘Sorry, I can’t today, my P levels simply won’t permit it!’

  3. Tim V-B

    A friend described an amusing moment when he and his wife were explaining to another person the benefits of Myers Briggs for the marriage. “My wife has been getting used to my P-ness…”!

    As you know Glen, a while ago I went on (a variant of) the “Undefended Leadership” course (see http://www.theleadershipcommunity.org). This too comes up with a 4-letter description of personality, but then goes on to say that this personality is the product of choices we have made to defend ourselves without reference to God. It was a real eye-opener to how deep my sin goes! Myers-Briggs and the like may be a useful window into our behaviour, but only as step 1 of allowing the gospel to change us. Otherwise, as you say, it’s an excuse for not loving people with the love of Christ.

  4. timothycairns

    I too had to do this for my MDiv (ENFJ – I think that means I manipulate people or something, which means I will instruct you what to post on from here on in) – I suggested to the psychologist, brought in to do the study among young pastors, that this was really nothing more than scientific horoscopes – I really didn’t expect the guy to get that angry!

  5. glenscriv

    VB, that’s really interesting – identifying ‘defensiveness’ at the heart of these things. I guess that’s exactly what our excuses look like: ‘You can’t expect X of me, I’m a Y kinda guy’

    Tim C, – he must have been ISTJ ;-)

    All those ISTJ’s out there – I’M JOKING!

  6. Otepoti

    “My wife was the Emporer” – does that mean she does all the shopping? :-D

  7. Otepoti

    BTW, this blog is really smoking at the moment.

  8. Otepoti

    I hope “smoking” means what I think it means, ie, emulating a mighty engine. I’d hate to have made a drug reference by accident.

    “This blog is ganja, just ganja” – no. that’s not the compliment I intended!

  9. glenscriv

    Nope, didn’t think of drugs. But if you mean smoke like Gen 19:28; Ps 37:20; 68:2; Prov 10:26; Is 9:18; 51:6; 65:5; Nah 2:13; Rev 9:2; 14:11; 18:9,18; 19:3 – then that’s bad.

    If you mean it like Matt 12:20 – then that’s exactly right!

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  15. Petesmum

    Hi Glen
    Your preaching has so blessed me – and will continue to do so :)
    Lindsey D, INTJ, “Thank you God for making me me”

  16. Pedro

    Amen!
    Pete D (INFP) – Thank you Father for making me me too!

  17. Glen

    Thanks Pete’s mum.

    Is that a quote from that excellent kids song…

    “If I were a fuzzy wuzzy bear, I’d thank you Father for my fuzzy, wuzzy hair. But I just thank You Father for making me, me.”

    Thanks for the encouragement! Pete and I prayed for you today!

    :)

  18. Petesmum

    Yep that’s the song.

    Glen, I picked up on this thread cos I noticed I’m your polar opposite! I’ve never met another female INTJ, I tell people that my personality type is the equivalent of a rare blood group :) We all need each other in God’s family.

    Hehe, Pedro – as both of us are “IN” , this helps with mutual understanding. Anyway, your “shadow T” is showing ;)

  19. Chris

    Glen,

    Your post caught my eye. You are right on about personality types being largely based in sinful coping, and very well stated.

    Several years ago I took a personality test prior to getting hired at a new job. I got the results back and was pretty proud of them. The positive aspects of my personality I felt were quite accurate and made me look like a winner. The negatives… well I didn’t really see myself there.

    I brought the results home to show off to my wife. Oh, how this new employer would see the responsible and fair minded team player they were getting to hire. Never mind the negatives… the test of course, is obviously not perfect.

    She looked it over and was quiet for just a moment. “These negatives are what I and the children know. This is what you are bringing home to us.”

    I was shocked, but she was right. I thought at the time that these were the sinful parts of my character coming out. I was only half correct. Even the so called “good” aspects largely had roots in sinful coping.

    It’s been a hard several years now that has me questioning all aspects of my personality.

    “Did God really create me to be self sufficient and self contained?”

    “Is it really ‘just the way I am’ to be so passive in my personal and relational life?”

    and a myriad of other questions. The problem is now I am not sure WHAT the real me looks like!

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