Talking to some friends the other day, the subject turned to personality tests, and to Myers-Briggs. ‘What are you?’, we all wanted to know. And the conversation turned into a psychological ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.’
Those kind of tests do have a useful place, and the MBPTI test in particular has become ubiquitous for a reason. It’s quick, simple, and pretty accurate in its descriptions of strengths, contributions and weaknesses. My wife laughed out loud when she first read the description of me.
I think the greatest strength of such analysis lies not so much in its individual descriptions as its team-building function. I can understand why other people react in the way they do, why I rub them up the wrong way by my signals, and why we are stronger when we work together. We learn to value each other’s contributions. In Bible terms, we learn to function more healthily as a body
But there are two significant weaknesses that we need to identify before we can use the findings well (and, yes, I know there are other tests as well – I really like StrengthsFinder 2.0, but my concerns lie there too).
First, they become an excuse of self indulgence. ‘I don’t do admin.’. ‘I’m not a detail person.’ Well, tough. Every job has elements of it that are less amenable to us than others, and where aspects run across, rather than with, our preferences. As Bill Hybels says, “There’s a reason work is called ‘work.’” Just do it, and do it really well.
But second, ask yourself the deceptively simple question, ‘Which personality type was Jesus?’, and the whole thing begins to fall apart. Extravert or introvert? Detail or big picture? Decisive or happy to let things flow? The answer is that he was all of them, as mature wisdom demanded he needed to be, perfectly, at any point.
And Christian maturity is not determined by your personality type, but by conformity to Christ. If I simply grow into my type, I become sinfully self-centred; if I deny my type I sinfully deny the unique way God has made me. Basing my growth on my personality type will automatically make an idol out of me, for me to worship and also be tyrannically ruled by.
But grow in conformity to Christ, and you will find the strength of the way God has made you, and the servanthood of denying yourself as well. By all means do those tests, and work out with others how you can best serve together.
But don’t forget, it’s not about you.