Every few months or so, a spate of personality tests gets posted to my facebook feed. Last week, I bit. I clicked a link and took a free Meyers Briggs-style personality test. It told me I’m an insensitive bossy-pants. Oh wait, they never say that. This one tells me that I am “Charming, independent, energetic and compassionate.” Hang on, I’m going to go read it again.
Personality tests can be useful. Evaluating our strengths and weaknesses helps us in many ways, from choosing a career to resolving conflict with loved ones. When I took a personality test for the first time, it showed me that I like to dabble in many different areas. But I also realized that I needed to resist that urge and narrow my focus.
However, when we discuss “personality,” we usually mean traits that are morally neutral. But the actions they compel are never neutral. Being an extrovert will make it easier for me to reach out to a stranger. It also may make me more inclined to neglect my duties in the home or overlook someone who is silently suffering. So what should a Christian’s attitude toward personality profiles be?
Here are six mistakes we make when we take these tests too seriously:
1. Yep, I’m Charming: Reading a description of a personality type is like reading your horoscope. Everything is so upbeat and positive. It’s good to read the list of positive traits in your profile and invert them. Ask yourself, “What sins am I particularly prone to because of my personality?”
2. It’s Not My Fault: It’s easy to use our personality type as an excuse. I am really not a patient person. I get bent out of shape about the stupidest things. It irritates me when my kids lean on me, when they kick the back of my seat in the car, when they talk too much, when they sing out of key…
But as a Christian, I can’t just say, “Well, it’s my personality. Nothing I can do about it. That’s how God made me.”
3. But It’s Harder for Me: On a related note, we think that our personality type makes our job particularly difficult for us. As a mom, I often think: “I wasn’t cut out for this.” Then I tell myself to shut up. I can’t use some dumb test to explain why I can’t be expected to read the Bible, structure my time, teach my children basic skills, etc.
“It’s just the way I’m wired.” But here’s what God says in His Word: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for human masters.”
4. I Know Me: Another problem with personality tests is they are only as accurate as the answers we give. And the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” Sometimes we blow a certain flaw out of proportion; other times we think we have strengths that we don’t have. The Bible serves as a better mirror, the Holy Spirit as a judge of character, the local church as a true personality test.
5. That’s Not My Job: It’s easy to pigeonhole ourselves by saying we’re playing to our strengths. “I’m a feeler, so I’m going to feel my way to the truth and connect with people in a super-duper-deep-spiritual way.” Rather than resolving to live in obedience and grow as a Christian, we shy away from stuff we’re not good at. My brother took a career aptitude assessment, and it told him he would make a terrible church-planter. And what does God have him doing? You guessed it: planting churches.
Then there’s Moses. He wasn’t a good speaker. He tried to point out to God that “leader of the Jews” didn’t fit very well with his Spiritual Gifts Profile. And yet, God called him to represent Himself in the court of Pharaoh.
God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t take our personality type very seriously. He often calls us to do something that we aren’t naturally inclined to do. You know what’s better than a great personality? Good character.
“…And endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 3:4-5)
6. But People Can’t Change: Maybe not, but the Holy Spirit can and does change people. Sanctification doesn’t just affect our behavior, it transforms us from the inside out. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Most of us aren’t transformed overnight, but over a lifetime of slow obedience in the right direction, we become more of who He created us to be and less of what we started out as.
I’ll never forget a conversation with my dad when I was in high school. He explained that when God conforms us to the image of His Son, we become more of ourselves instead of less. “Look at Rita Cuffey,” he said, speaking of an elderly woman in our church. “She’s the godliest person I know, but she is sincerely weird.”
He was right. Somehow, I thought that as we grow in godliness we lose our individuality and become some sort of generic cookie-cutter Christian. I thought sanctification was a threat to the genuine article of me.
I forgot to notice that the godly men and women around me are very different. God loves variety. We don’t have to look any further than Creation or the four Gospel accounts to see that. The more we embrace God’s standard the more we flourish as individuals, just like the varieties of foods God created for our pleasure. But God purifies us like a refiner’s fire, and “when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”