My eyes are droopy as I type this, not with sleepiness but with crankiness. If you’ve been around here for awhile, then you know that I despise chaos and lack of planning. What you might not know is that I despise micromanaging in equal measure. Both extremes lead to nothing getting done. Creativity and innovation are stifled, people get frustrated and eventually, inevitably, implosion results.
I might hate micromanagement just slightly more than chaos. I freely admit to struggling with respecting authority, but I outright rebel when I don’t have space to do what I need to do. Someone looking over my shoulder, decisions by committee…no thanks.
So, let’s talk: personality. (Prompt submitted by my own brain. Thank you, brain).
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has long been a popular personality test. I first took the rest as a senior in high school, as part of…I really don’t remember why. At age 17 I was typed as an Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judger (INTJ), which means that people drain me (even the ones I love) and I need a lot of alone time; I see patterns and make connections, meaning that I can usually predict outcomes; I rely on logic and objective facts when making decisions; and I want the world to be a orderly, structured place. If I were better at math, I’d be tucked away in a lab somewhere, running tests and making discoveries.
Every so often I re-take the MBTI, but the result never changes. Sometimes I wish it would. Those of us who are INTJ possess one of the rarest personality types, and women INTJs are basically unicorns. It can be very difficult to navigate a society that so often operates from a basis of extraversion and emotionalism. It’s next to impossible, some days, to find a natural point of connection with other women and build relationships from there.
This test is fairly new, at least to me. The Enneagram is largely Myers-Briggs with different wording. I’m a 5w4, which is basically the same as INTJ. This type is able to concentrate for long periods of time, developing complex ideas and theories. Emotionally, we are at detached yet high-strung and intense; we don’t like the feels, can’t explain the feels, but still feel the feels and have little to no ability to express them properly. We need to observe, contemplate and learn constantly, or we get into trouble. Cerebral, analytic, private yet curious.
In short: doesn’t play well with others.
One of the requirements for volunteering at the women’s shelter was to take the Life Languages test. This is less focused on personality and deals instead with communication styles. To absolutely nobody’s astonishment, I came out a Contemplator, Shaper, Doer, which means that I think about something, make a plan to address the something, then I do the plan. I respond to people with my head and with actions, skipping the heart entirely. I can thus come across as cold, even judgmental, though my intent is to genuinely help whoever with whatever they are dealing with.
Personality tests are interesting, even instructive, but they’re not the end-all, be-all. Certainly they should not have spiritual significance attached to them. I’m concerned with all the hype surrounding the Ennegram of late. Taking the test might give us some insight regarding the ways in which we operate, but that’s it. There’s no “secret” here, no ascending some grand staircase to a more “enlightened” plane.
Honestly, what these tests reveal about us is often areas in which we need to be sanctified, because our strengths usually double as our weaknesses. Yes, God made me to be a task-oriented individual who likes to think deeply about a lot of things. This can and should be seen as an asset to the Body, for we all have a role to play, and there are times when the job just needs to be done without fuss or worry about hurt feelings. At the same time, task-orientation can cause me to overlook people who might need me to pause and listen. Thinking deeply can lead to withdrawal and isolation. Being detached from my emotions can and does lead to depression and anxiety, as well as a lack of compassion for and patience with others.
Take the tests, if this kind of thing interests you. I don’t think there’s sin in that. You might learn something useful. Just keep in mind that the best and truest personality profile is found in Scripture. Those pages tell the story of who we all really are. Better yet, they tell the story of the One who transforms us into better than we could ever hope to be on our own.
For all posts in the Sketches series, go here.