Hi, my name is Kelley and I am a 7w8. I’m an ENFJ. I’m an Otter. I’m Sanguine. I’m blah and blah and blah.
Personality tests are seemingly more popular than ever before. Do you know your Myers-Briggs four-letter type? Your Enneagram number and wing? Are you a Lion or a Beaver? Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic? Most people know at least something about their personality type, and I am no exception.
It’s easy to get sucked into the world of personalities and start to sort everyone you meet. When I started my first internship with the American Family Association, I was subconsciously classifying people by their apparent Myers-Briggs letters. I love personalities. I love knowing how people (including myself) are likely to process the world and respond to certain situations.
But why are we so fascinated by the world of personality categorizations? What’s the point of them? Are they really useful? Are we spending too much time and energy on them?
There are many clear benefits to knowing things about your personality type. Understanding our strengths and weaknesses is a good thing; we should always be honest with ourselves and know where we are. Lamentations 3:40 tells us to test and examine ourselves so that we can return to the Lord. Socrates advocated that all people ought to “know thyself” and that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” He believed, rightly, that the only means of growth is through accurate knowledge of ourselves. Personality identifications, when used well, can be one tool to know ourselves better for us to grow better.
We can identify our shortcomings and the best means of overcoming them. We can understand how to manage ourselves better. Knowing our personality characteristics can help us to recognize why we feel out-of-sorts and how we can handle it. It can teach us how to manage our energy so that we can be more productive. Honestly, it’s so comforting just knowing that other people do the same stupid things as me. And, one of the most helpful things for me personally, personality types can give insight into why other people act or respond differently than you do.
So yes, studying personality types can be awesome. Obviously.
But there’s truth to the negatives, too. No one can completely understand another human being in four letters or one number or any other system of classifications. We can’t assume to know someone just because we know their Enneagram number. And knowing our basic weaknesses within our personality types can make us much less likely to change, grow, or conquer fears. We sometimes box ourselves in and give the excuse that we’re just not good at _____ and there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s “just the way I am.”
The problem with personality tests comes when we find our identity and value in letters, numbers, or which Disney princess we are before Christ. If you find yourself depending on being a certain personality type to have value, that’s one way to know you’ve gone too far.
Here’s the reality no matter what pros and cons we list: people like to talk about themselves. We’re fascinated by ourselves. And personalities give us a perfect reason to learn about us, which, as I mentioned, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though it can easily become one.
Here’s another thing, though, Scripture tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are all sinful. There are no categories, no divisions, no 16 levels of bad sinners and less-bad ones: every single human is in the same boat. And every single Christian is admonished in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”
It is a very good thing for us to be aware of our natural strengths and weaknesses, but we can’t forget or ignore that we still need Christ in our strengths and that He still commands our weaknesses. There’s no pass for our weaknesses just because they are features of our personalities. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells every single personality type to “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ultimately, we can learn all we want about our natural personalities, but remember that the Bible never once tells us to “be ourselves.” Leviticus does not command you to “keep it real” and the Psalms never encourage you to “do you.” The Bible seems shockingly close to telling us the complete opposite. In a post-fall world, being ourselves is not what God commands. Colossians 3:3 says that “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Verse 5 then tells us to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you.”
We are made to reflect the image of God, not ourselves. Certain things about every personality reflect the character of God, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to reflect Him if it doesn’t come easy to our natural inclinations.
So what are you supposed to do if you’re a 9w8 trying to serve Jesus to the best of your ability? The same thing that a type 5w6 would do. Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Enjoy learning about your personality types, but use those tools well to the glory of God. No matter your character qualities, the strong and the weak alike, the parts we like and the parts we don’t, we are to lay ourselves down at the foot of the cross as we die to ourselves so that we can live like Christ.