The Personality Paradox (A Guest Post)

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Friends, I’m so excited to share this article with you today, written by my dear friend, Gia. It’s an incredibly insightful take on how our infatuation with “personality types” often overshadows our true purpose to be like Christ. I hope it impacts you as much as it did me.

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“INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.”-16Personalities

Oh, if this were true. If I always looked for the goodness in everything, always sought to be a healer rather than to cause further injury; even if I could just once feel “misunderstood” by people (on account of their not being able to relate to my specialness)— how much simpler, how incandescently happy, how blissfully describable my life would be.

Unfortunately for the Myers-Briggs test, and every other personality summary, I’m a human being; not only that, I’m a daughter of the Master Sculptor. I can’t be summarized unless you intend to write me off as “loved beyond explanation.”

I need to back up a little: “INFP” is one of 16 possible results you can receive after taking a personality assessment test called the Myers-Briggs test. In my case, I’m apparently inclined to be an “Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Prospecting” type of individual, which is supposed to mean lots of things for my career, relationships, and so on.

At its core, this test seeks to help me understand why I perceive things the way I do: why do I seem inclined to think differently than the person next to me? What about that “true” personality causes me to behave a certain way in social situations? And psychologists have provided answers— I can agree with many things they guessed about my personality, and I could probably go on for days thinking about how their assessment indeed lines up with a lot of my traits; in fact, I have gone for days doing so.

That’s where I realized the problem came in. I realized that after taking the test I was thinking more and more thoughts like this: “Well… I’m an introvert, so they shouldn’t really expect me to be the one to initiate conversation.” “I’ve ‘typed’ everybody else in this room and I think I’m the only Feeler, so now I have to compensate for everyone else by being extra empathetic.” “I have free time… my personality profile says I should want to write poetry or something… but I don’t want to. What can it mean?!”

Stop. Just stop. What are you thinking?

In his more caring way, God asked this of me.

“I’m just trying to be who you designed me to be…” I felt I answered feebly, now realizing how stupid that sounded. I knew as soon as that thought squirmed out of my brain, I hadn’t been living as the person God designed me to be at all. I had become so fascinated with that feeling of being understood, I forgot I belonged to a Father who already understood me.

I felt childish and dumb, and that seemed such a wonderful place to be. I felt such relief. God had freed me from enslavement to trying to fit myself, and other people, into a box. Although I’d been using that magical four-letter combination as an excuse for my thoughts and behaviors for some time, it had soon begun to lose its magical hold on me, yet I had continued to lean on it somewhat doubtfully— but now, God had lovingly yanked me out of its spell, and I could see clearly once again my real purpose: Be like my Son.

It’s not that God doesn’t wire everyone differently, but it’s that he wires us as such for his purpose and his purpose alone: he gives us individual personalities so that we might thrive working around and with each other for the furthering of his kingdom. Certain aspects of our personalities are destined to be obstacles we’ll overcome by his grace; others are tools he’ll be able to use to bring glory to his name.

God oversaw every second of my creation in my mother’s stomach, knowing fully well the personality he was going to give me which would most glorify him. He also knew how he would stretch those parts of my personality that I would grow to be too happy with. He would give me “introverted” tendencies because that would work perfectly for my part in his story, but he would also crack my shell open and force me into the daylight, reminding me of my need for his grace instead of the cocoon I’d built.

Instead of thinking “I’m the introvert, so I shouldn’t be the one to initiate conversation,” God began to turn my thoughts in just the opposite direction. I began to think instead, “Well, this makes me kind of uncomfortable, but I’m gonna go talk to that person.” The Holy Spirit hardly ever keeps us where we’re comfortable— he’s Holy, after all. Faith involves stepping out and doing what the Spirit leads you to do, even when your flesh feels like it’s been set on fire. Through everything he’s making us more like Jesus, and I can be so much more useful to my Father and his kingdom if I’m more concerned with being like his Son, rather than being like my “personality profile.”

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

I can be so much more useful to my Father and his kingdom if I’m more concerned with being like his Son, rather than being like my “personality profile.”

Jesus was the perfect balance of a lover of people and a seeker of solitude; a practical thinker and a passionate feeler; as Jim Elliot would say, Jesus was “all there” all the time, but he also looked forward— to the day his Father would receive him into heaven again. Just think: if you were to live your life maintaining an image you’d created for yourself, you would live your whole life a lie; but if you were to live just seeking Christ, you should never be disappointed in what you found.

C.S. Lewis summarized all of this perfectly: “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become— because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be… It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

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Gia enjoys making and appreciating music, stories (writing, reading, and hearing), melancholic chords, old things, and the sea (all the seas, I guess, but mostly the big, blue one). Find her at her blog, Between the Paws.

2 thoughts on “The Personality Paradox (A Guest Post)

  1. Excellent post! For a while, I was caught up in the whole personality thing but eventually realized that I was focusing on myself rather than on the Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

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