I recently took a version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, one designed to help discern one’s faith “type.” The idea was to better understand our “comfort zone” for giving and receiving information in the world, and to understand that not everyone gives and receives in that same way. A great exercise. How often have you been frustrated by someone’s reaction during a discussion? How many times has someone walked away from a conversation with you, having a completely different understanding of the exchange than you do? Probably more times than you realize. This is partly due to our personality types, or tendencies and preferences in a certain direction.
The personality types are broken out into four dichotomies: Extraversion/Introversion; Sensing/Intuition; Thinking/Feeling; Judgement/Perception. The definitions of these types are not the connotations we hold for everyday use, but they are created to show a continuum of preference for thinking and reacting in all situations. There are extremes at each end of the scale, and a blended area in between. An individual’s scores from the Myers-Briggs profile can show preferences anywhere on each of these 4 scales. Typically, a person’s type indicators do not really change over their lifetime. An interesting thought – given how much we all believe we’ve changed, and probably have. But, at the root, have our preferences for interacting with the world really changed?
For me, three of the four dichotomies scored just slightly to one side or the other of the midpoint (there are an odd number of questions to ensure no ambiguous scores). The fourth was only mildly skewed to one side. What does this tell me – besides the fact that (for this version) I am a “INFP”? Does the fact that all my scales fell so close to the midline mean that I am flexible and resourceful and able to adapt to changing situations? Or does it mean that I am ineffective and feeble and unable to take a stand? For some people who were part of this retreat where we explored our “types,” putting a name to their quirks and habits and preferences was freeing. I, however, may have left with more questions and doubts than I came in with.
I remember my mother telling me that, as a child my whole demeanor changed based on what I was wearing. If she put me in a dress, I was dainty and courteous and engaged only in proper, lady-like activities. If she dressed me in jeans I would be pushing the boys aside to make mud-pies and cut up worms to see what their insides looked like. The way I talked, walked, sat and ate all changed because of wardrobe. I guess this truly is my “type” then – this changeling. Is this a gift – to be able to change and become what is necessary and expected for different situations? Or is it a humiliation – to not know who you really are? Strength? Or weakness?
The fact that I did not score strongly in one direction or another is not surprising. I have a hard time seeing the word in black-and-white, I always have. I’m more of a grey girl, I guess. I would be a terrible candidate for a jury pool! While I have no trouble asserting that particular acts and behaviors are unacceptable, I do often flounder when pushed to judge or condemn the people who commit such acts. I don’t like politics because I don’t understand what Democrat, Republican or any other title has to do with anything. Stand up as a person and tell me what you believe. Tell me your goals and aspirations for our country (not for YOU), and tell me how you’re going to lead us in that direction. I don’t care whose ‘party’ someone is connected to. (sorry, Grandpa Ken – I know this angers you) I’m not good at giving my opinion on many things because, either I have already reviewed the issue from both sides and can empathize either way, or I just don’t see why it’s really an issue to begin with.
So I’m left stuck in the middle, wavering back-and-forth between personality type dichotomies, never able to say with conviction “I am ___________.” Maybe that’s the character of God that I have within me: the ability to be many things to many people. He certainly comes to each of us in different ways.
Most days it certainly feels like a weakness, but maybe I’ll try to start thinking of it as His strength in me.
(you can take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator here)