The Gift of Personality

Self-administered psychology tests are interesting.  I’ve taken lots of on-line quizzes to try and understand a little more about myself, and I usually wind up a little skeptical.  Even in high school, I remember taking a career aptitude test, and it told me that I should be a greeting card editor.  No kidding.  After my recent sticker shock over my wife’s Valentine’s Day card, I think I may have been in the wrong business after all….

At any rate, I recently took a modified Myers-Briggs Personality Test on-line, and was really shocked at how accurate the write up was.  The Briggs-Myers Personality Types were based on personality theory advanced by 20th century psychologist, Carl Jung. 

In M-B speak, I wound up as an INFJ, an Introvert with a preference for iNtuition over sensing, Feeling over thinking, and Judging over perceiving.  According to the site, I am actually a fairly rare type.  That basically means that while I need alone time to recharge, I do actually have some close friends, and I really like to help people.  I am often prone to emotional overload because I get too involved in human issues.  I am frequently seen as “a champion of the oppressed and downtrodden.”  I may have some enhanced self-awareness, but I may not be able to convey or communicate my deepest feelings.  Self-expression is easier in print (Hey, I’m a frustrated writer at heart), and I do have a fairly comfortable fluency with language and an ability to learn a language fairly easily.  INFJ’s tend toward the “inspirational” professions, like education (I’m a college professor) and religion.

All in all, the description was so to the point that it was scary.

And it told me that I am pretty much practically perfect in every way….at least for me.  There is no right or wrong in terms of personality types.  There are only differences.  We gravitate toward careers that we find fit us well, whatever our type.  If we don’t we are miserable.

The great benefit in knowing about personality types is not only in understanding yourself better, but also in learning more about your limitations so you can improve on them or learn to work around them, and learning how to deal with others of varying types.

The old saying is true, that it takes all kinds to make the world.

But that is not in any way new.  If we consider that our personality types are essentially gifts, then it is easy to make a connection with the various gifts that Paul discussed in Romans 12. There, in verses 3-8, Paul discusses various gifts that need not necessarily be construed as miraculous as in I Corinthians 12-14. 

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 

One person’s gift is no greater than another with respect to this list.  They are all of benefit, and it is very likely that no one person will have all of the gifts, which is quite obvious especially for the miraculous gifts discussed in I Corinthians.  The point is that we are complementary to each other; in fact, together we may be greater than the sum of the individual parts. 

Paul says we have different gifts according to the grace given to us.  My gift may be different from yours, but neither is inferior or superior—just different and should be used to the benefit of all.  All can and must serve.  But some are just better attuned to see and address needs.  Each Christian should be able to teach.  But some have a gift for explaining hard concepts better than others.  Like our various personality types, we all have gifts that we can and should use to their fullest extent. 

Indeed, it takes all kinds.  And like it usually shows, God knew exactly what he was doing when he set all of this in motion.  The world would not be better if populated with INFJ’s, despite what I might like to think when things aren’t going right and no-one quite understands me.  Thank God for the differences that make each of us special, and make us stronger in their sharing.       

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