May 29, 2017

Myers-Briggs Does Not Define You

Confession: I love a good personality test. Not those quizzes that go viral on Facebook, but actual “professional” personality tests like Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, or Big Five.

I find it strangely satisfying to find the boxes I fit into — to see myself categorized as an introvert, for instance — and discover I’m not alone in how I see the world.

Personality tests can help us understand others better. They point out effective ways to encourage them, and highlight what energizes and what frustrates them. They show us there are as many types of strengths (or weaknesses) as there are types of introverts and extroverts.

They also help us understand ourselves better. They spotlight patterns common to our own personality types, whether good or bad, and reassure us that our perspectives aren’t weird — they’re just different than somebody else’s. In other words, knowing that I’m an ISTJ helps me establish a better sense of who I am on the inside, and persuades me that how I interact with others is really not that unusual.

But if I’m not careful, I can let those labels start to define me — instead of describe me.

  • It’s easy to start excusing behavior that’s selfish and unloving because “I’m an introvert.”
  • It’s easy to rationalize having anti-social behavior because “I’m energized by having alone time.”
  • It’s easy to justify my lack of flexibility because “I thrive on established rules.”
  • It’s easy to pat myself on the back because “I’m more dependable than other personalities.”

But being an introvert doesn’t give me free pass to sin! It’s not an excuse to ignore people, hide in my shell, and pretend my logic is always superior.

Yet sometimes I find myself doing just that — rationalizing that it’s okay because that’s “how God made me.” After all, doesn’t it say in Genesis that He made male and female, introvert and extrovert? (Tongue in cheek, of course!)

When I start wondering how I should respond to a situation as an ISTJ — choosing activities based solely on whether they energize or come easy — that’s when I’ve crossed the line from description to definition.

When you start to define your actions by your personality type, accepting your natural state instead of pushing to be better and do better, that’s when it becomes sin.

God doesn’t want us to rest in our own innate strengths! For example, it doesn’t really matter how dependable I am in playing the piano at church, if I’m doing it in my own strength and for my own pleasure. It doesn’t matter how rejuvenated I feel after spending time alone with thought-provoking Christian book, if I’m doing that instead of spending my energy loving others in deed and in truth.

When you read chapters like Romans 12, you don’t see commands tailored to different personalities. God doesn’t tell extroverts to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and tell introverts to “Live in harmony with one another” (or vice versa). We are all supposed to do all of that, no matter what our personalities!

  • We are all supposed to “love with brotherly affection” and “outdo one another in showing honor.”
  • We are all supposed to “not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
  • We are all supposed to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Some things may come easier for your personality, but that doesn’t give you a free pass from doing the harder things. It may be easy for you to love your brothers and sisters with genuine affection, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be apathetic in other areas of service. It may be easy for you to be zealous in teaching or administering, but that doesn’t let you off the hook from showing hospitality. It also doesn’t justify doing things for the wrong motivation — because it makes you look good, or helps you feel better about yourself.

In God’s eyes, knowing His truth is far more important than “knowing thyself,” obeying His commands matters more than following your heart, and reflecting His Son is more important than being true to yourself.

Our personalities certainly do have unique strengths, and once we are adopted into God’s family, we are given unique gifts in unique measures. But on our own, we are nothing. We have no inherent goodness. We are utterly inadequate to follow God’s laws.

And that’s why the Myers-Briggs (or whatever personality test you prefer) cannot — must not — define you. It must not become a guide for your thoughts or an excuse for your actions.

You are not the sum of your MBTI type. (tweet this)

You are a child of God, and your life is to reflect His personality. Not that we are to eclipse our own natural traits; but we must discipline those traits to maturity, so they become beautiful and holy in reflecting their Creator.

How are you to interact with others?

  • Not as an introvert or extrovert, but as one who is infinitely loved by God — and therefore reflects His love to others.

How are you to see the world? 

  • Not as an introvert or extrovert, but according to God’s worldview and the truth contained in Scripture.

How are you to respond to frustrations? 

  • Not as an introvert or extrovert, but patiently enduring and humbly relying on Christ’s divine strength.

How are you to be motivated? 

  • Not as an introvert or extrovert, but by the love of Christ and the desire for all men to be saved.

How are you to live?

  • Not as an introvert or extrovert, but as a child of God!

Personality tests are fun to take, and they can provide helpful observations — but when you allow their conclusions to dictate your choices, you end up denying certain God-given desires or rejecting His leading when it calls you outside those labels or boxes.

Much better to study what His word says about your identity — how you are created in His image — since His truth never changes no matter what your season of life, your energy levels, or your limitations.

What personality type are you? How do you avoid defining yourself as that type rather than as a child of God? Can the two co-exist?

 


Comments

  1. sheplansdinner says:

    This was a great post. I feel like I am more self-aware now than before. But, it is important to not use that awareness as a crutch or as an occasion to sin.

  2. Great post, Elizabeth. When I was still blogging, I wrote about a similar “ah ha!” moment last January, when I realized I had defined myself by man’s standards, instead of trying to become LESS like myself, and MORE like Jesus. I think knowing your “type” is helpful… but more for seeing the areas where you need to change, not using it as an excuse.

    http://www.carriesbusynothings.com/2015/01/the-intj-who-wants-moreofhim.html