God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. 1Pe 4:10
This will be another kind of post. I will be writing about personality traits, strengths, and preferences. Let me tie this in with faith first, though.
The bible is our model. The people in the bible demonstrate both godly as well as ungodly behavior we can learn from and model our lives after. While we have principles that are non-negotiable and hold for everybody, different personalities are portrayed that have different ways to display those principles.
God is a creative god. He loves diversity. He even tells us that we are uniquely made, so that not two of us are the same. Yet, there are universal traits and abilities that allow for communication, at least basic understanding of each other, and relationships.
Therefore, there are a few things we cannot do. We cannot expect another to be or become like us. Neither can we expect everybody to be the same. (For all out there that are not so much into logic, those two things are fundamentally different.) But we have to expect some overlap, some commonalities that make us human.
Because of this I will make a disclaimer right in the beginning. We cannot put all people in a classification system of prototyps. And this never is the intent of personality tests in the first place. I will not categorize people with any of the systems I am going to use in this article. All I want to give is some tools to understand ourselves and others better.
Let me give you an example.
If I know that there are people that are introverted, that gain energy from alone time, and that I do not have to be the life of the party to be normal, that helps me to relax or to understand myself or some of my friends better. Otherwise, I just want to fix them.
Thus, learning about different personalities is important. Whether this is done using formalized systems like the enneagram, MBTI, Big Five, P-FR 16, the Graves model, StrengthsFinder, using intuition, or inspection of biblical characters – who cares. Reading on, you might understand, why I am using a combination of formal tools and personal experimentation and inspection. And oddly enough, the results of those formal tools will help communicate exactly this.
A Description of Myself
For years, I felt like the proverbial odd duck. I did not like large groups of people, I despised smalltalk (not the programming language, that one has a brilliant design), I was indecisive as I always thought of risks and alternative solutions. I loved learning more than doing, teaching more than execution, valued freedom more than rules, and new ways over tradition.
When rejected, I learned to blend in early on. I hid my strengths and tried to fit. For many years, this worked. Actually, for too many. But several times during those years, I imploded, burnt out. I reacted by regaining enough energy to continue my life – or should I say lie.
Until a few months ago.
An avid reader of this blog already knows about how I regained my smell and taste. During this time I was lead to learn about personality systems more in depth. I had known the systems of Galen and the DISC test, and I had been to an enneagram course. But this time, I dove deeper.
What did I learn?
The first system I looked at was MBTI. I tested as an INTP. That means that
- I am an Introvert. As we have seen, introverts gain energy from alone time. Thus I started to schedule more alone time.
- I found that I gathered information iNtuitively. That means, I build models and networks of information instead of depending on the real world example. I abstract.
- I am a Thinker. Feelings are not well developed and of lesser importance.
- I Perceive. Rather than judging. That means, I rather gather more information and yet another solution instead of deciding.
There are tools to mature each of those traits and develop my personality which are of great help. There are descriptions of good and bad habits that spring from this combination that helped me better understand my go-to tools for situations I find myself in. I learned about red buttons likely for this type and how to deal with them.
I combined this with my enneagram findings. There I tested as a number 5, dubbed the thinker. Not too surprising. A thinker is head driven. His main emotion is fear, and he tries to conquer it internally with knowledge. Again, there are ways to positively develop this type that gave me ideas on what to do.
And last but not least I took the StrenghtsFinder test. It has a different approach. Instead of building a model of a brain function stack as the MBTI, or focussing on the major negative emotions of fear, grief, and anger in combination with the copping mechanisms internal, external, and negation, it came up with 34 strengths from statistical research. Those 34 strengths are believed to be more or less active in everybody. The top five trengths are the go-to strategies, while the lower half are the blind spot. Their theory: we grow by focussing on our strengths and complementing ourselves with other people to overcome your blind spot.
According to this test, my top five signature strenghts are:
Ideation: I am fascinated by ideas. I am able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena. I am creative and appreciate originality and free-thinking experiences such as discussion groups. I have the capacity to consider issues from multiple perspectives, presenting the known so people can view it from a strangely enlightning angle. I think outside the box.
Learner: I not only love to learn, but I know how to learn best. I can learn very quickly. Learning and teaching, I provide the knowledge for others to make progress.
Deliberative: I try to minimize risk before executing on an idea. This involves thorough thinking, searching for alternatives and necessary accompaning measures. I prevent problems and tend to make great decisions, but it may take a while. I help to slow down a busy time.
Intellection: when I have enough time to ponder and process through things, I provide wisdom and clarity.
Futuristic: visionary, dreaming of a better future, seeing possibilities.
As you can see, my top five are all in the area of strategic thinking, with one crossing over into the execution realm. Within the next five spots I have strategy, input gathering, and analytical thinking, sharpening my top five even more.
All those tests pretty much hit the nail on the head regarding my personality. And they provide wonderful strategies to develop it. On the other hand, they let me understand that others do not connect the same way with the world as I do. Now, you might be different from me and find this result rather obvious and trivial. I had to change my internal model of the world to comprehend this. My internal model of the world is often very subjective, and at times wrong.
And this leads me to the main reason I write this article.
We need Others
This is very easily seen from the bible as well. There are different gifts that complement each other. Evangelists will bring in people pastors can care for and teachers can help grow, while prophets encourage them to go further and apostles lead them. Administrators and helps will take care of daily business, while worshippers help us relate with God.
As a strong thinker I need people around me that feel, that build relationships, that communicate, and especially that execute. I can certainly grow in all those areas with the help of the Spirit, but I probably will never be a pro. I am a teacher, but I most probably will never be an evangelist. The strengths evangelist will score high in are at the bottom of my stack.
This makes me humble. I need others to be my best, as my thinking will lead to nothing if not implemented. And of course I need o implement it in my own life for it to be trustworthy. But I am at a loss when asked to implement it in the real world. This is where others come in and help.
One of the challenges: those others might not know that we need each other. Maybe personality tests help. Maybe they scare them away. Let the Spirit find the way to teach them. They learn differently from you. Don’t pressure them into using your methods. But do not shy away from learning your way as well.
Knowing ourselves will help in becoming the body of Christ. One body.