Disclaimer for lovers of MB: Please don’t be mad at me. I’m just having a little fun.
I avoided taking the Myers-Briggs assessment for ten years and felt a little bad about it. The guilt was due to the “supposed to” factor, being a behavioral health professional and, well, “supposed to” know and believe in this well-loved key to self-awareness and relational harmony.
I wasn’t feeling it, though, for several reasons.
It wasn’t that I had anything against the Myers and Briggs. In fact, not only were Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers intellectual women at a time when people believed that too much education ruined women’s reproductive abilities, they were a mother-daughter team. So cool! I have also teamed up with my daughters creatively and professionally. And like my girls, both Myers and Briggs were homeschooled. These scholarly women worked from a basis of Jung’s personality theory, informed and embellished by their own womanly insights. I must say, as women in a man’s world of early twentieth century behavioral science, they did the female gender proud.
It wasn’t that I doubted the accuracy of the assessment. In fact, when I finally did take it, inviting my Facebook friends to guess the results, a full 50% got it right. I’m an ENTJen (I don’t want to fully identify with the category, so I add my name). Go ahead and tell me you already knew that, because so many have. Sincerely, though, it’s uncanny how Myers-Briggs enthusiasts can accurately pick out a friend’s personality type from a pile of 16 options. I admit there’s something to it. Leave it to a couple smart women to crack a code as complex as personality.
It wasn’t fear of secular psychology. All truth is God’s truth, even if an atheist discovers it. Cognitive behavioral therapy is all the rage in my conservative Christian circles, even though largely authored by the brilliant but foul-mouthed Albert Ellis who said the following about religion: #@!!?*&. Seriously now, he disparaged religion as being “on almost every conceivable count, directly opposed to the goals of mental health.” Riding on the cusp of the sexual revolution of the 70s and determined to ban moral shame, he even wrote a guide on how to have an affair. Ellis wasn’t a Christian by any stretch; but the therapy he developed had its salvageable, good aspects from which I glean.
What was my hesitancy, then? Well, the gospel. The gospel says we’re in a state of flux necessitated by our transition out of natural selfishness toward moral and spiritual regeneration. This means that our natural traits aren’t keys to self-development necessarily, but may even be hindrances to growth. The gospel presents moral excellence as developing within a change process. Check out the data: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature,” (2 Cor. 5:17); “Changed from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18); “It does not yet appear what we shall be” (1 John 3:2). Through the Spirit, we’re in a state of transformational motion, ever-becoming, dynamic and progressive versus static and fixed.
A “thinker” faced with a need to empathize with a grieving friend may resist the Spirit’s leading if he clings to “I’m not a feeler!” A “senser” married to an “intuitive” would rather not talk ideas and concepts, leaving the intuitive intellectually lonely,
I know I’m stepping on toes here, but I’m judger, right? So by the rules of the game, I have to leave a few bruised digits in my wake, preferring to leave matters settled as opposed to open-ended. But I promise that if the Lord rebukes me in a dream tonight I’ll write another blog tomorrow repenting of my judging ways. I’m not the same today as I’ll be tomorrow, and tomorrow I won’t be the same as I will be the next day, and on and on and on.
And don’t even get me started about trying to find the perfect temperament mix for everlasting marital happiness on earth. Even if that perfect match occurred on paper, it would fall short of truly uniting a couple in love. Sure, we should do some basic compatibility trouble-shooting in preparation for waking up to the same face for eight decades. And Myers-Briggs may help with that. But woe to the one who trusts in those horses to get them through the first who-burned-the-toast, or worse yet, what’s-this-stuff-on-your-
If the happiness of a marriage depends upon the perfect match of temperament types, then what happens when a married person meets someone with whom they are more (supposedly) compatible? They either run off with that person or relegate themselves to a lesser-than marriage. I can’t think of a way to more effectively encourage spousal wanderlust than to believe we can only be happy with a perfect match.
What I’m saying is simple: “God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices” (Eccles 7:9). Go ahead and use the devices, but “even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say ‘I know,’ he cannot discover” (8:17). Life, love, and people, are profound mysteries better guided by a moral and spiritual growth process than an explanatory device that could settle us into something rather banal—being the same as we’ve always been.
Okay, I’m ready for the Myers-Briggs enthusiasts pile on. Go for it guys. Tell me I’m wrong. But be gentle; the test says I’m a thinker, but I think I might actually be a feeler.