Tearing down the idol of my personality

In talking about ‘personality types’ and how they play out in the day-to-day, I’ve been particularly interested in how aspirational these really are.  “Out-going, big-picture, laid-back, last-minute” is not simply how I’m hard-wired (although there is something to that).  But much more, it’s a fantasy construct that I’ve hit upon – an ideal persona in which I seek identity and life.  In other words, an idol.

I was reading Psalm 135 the other day:

 15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. 16 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 17 they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

It got me thinking – if we become like our idols then for every ‘personality type’ there lies behind it an idol-personality – some ‘ideal’ persona.  Our natural temperaments might not be a million miles from these personas but very often we will work hard to fit ourselves into these moulds.  For some “Dependable, unflappable” is their ideal projection.  For others “never-plays-by-the-rules, unpredictable” is a more attractive idol.  But neither of these are simply given, natural, neutral personalities – to a large degree they are chosen.  And chosen as an identity by which we avoid the thorns and sew together our fig-leaves. 

In all this it becomes obvious that what we think of Jesus will be both a reflection of, and the source of, our own personality.  Since Jesus is, at base, the greatest desire of our redeemed hearts, these things will be mutually informing – our apprehension of Him and His transformation of us. (cf 2 Cor 3:18)

This alerts us to two things.  First – the the dangers of fitting Jesus into our own mould.  I will always be tempted to confuse Jesus with my personality idol.   If I’m ENFP because deep-down I desire that persona above all others, I will naturally want to see Jesus fit that type.  It will be all too easy to view Jesus through that grid.

But second, this shows us the way out of these false personas.  Namely, sticking close by the biblical Jesus and allowing Him to break down the idols of our hearts.  This will happen in two ways – I will see that Jesus is so much greater than what’s good about my ‘type’ and He’s completely different to all that’s bad. 

If I think I’m a really intense person, Jesus is infinitely more so.  Can I stare down the risen Christ of Revelation 1 whose eyes blaze with fire?  If I think I’m cool under pressure, Jesus is infinitely more so.  Could I ever act the way Jesus did the night before His godforsaken execution?   

On the other hand, if I’m laid-back then I should study hard the zeal of Jesus.  If I’m rigid I should admire the flexibility of Jesus.  If I’m shy I must be challenged by the boldness of Jesus.  If I’m loud I must heed the gentleness of Jesus. etc etc 

Renounce your ‘type’, pick up the bible and allow Jesus to be the iconoclast of ‘personality’.

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Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology

About Glen

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

0 Responses to Tearing down the idol of my personality

  1. codepoke

    Still conflicted. :-)

    If the Spirit has gifted you as a pastor and you torture yourself trying to prophecy, you have not benefited anyone. Some are eyes and some are feet. When the eye tries to do its part in the body by being walked on, good things do not happen to the eye or to the body. Taking guidance from a foot, savoring our food with our hands, and balancing the checkbook with our tongues would all be egalitarian but not spiritual.

    Yes it’s possible to err with the personality message, but it’s possible to err with spiritual gifts too. It makes no more sense to throw the one out than the other.

    If Jesus made the evergreen and the deciduous tree, should the deciduous tree feel guilty for not being always green? And if Jesus made one man an NF and the other an SJ will He iconoclastically make both into the “perfect” neutral personality?

  2. glenscriv

    ok, good points. I’ll write something about this in my next post. Thanks code.

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