“What is your personality type?” I was asked on the first day of my new job. “I haven’t the slightest clue,” I thought to myself, even though some people might say that I’m an “open book.”
These days, it is not uncommon for an employer, landlord, and even a romantic partner, to request a personality test before establishing commitment. It’s as if they need to know what to expect before jumping off the deep end (and rightfully so) — though I’m not sure if it’s them who are taking the dive or us, baring our souls and revealing our innermost tendencies to an apparent stranger for the sake of reliability and predictability.
I did the test later that day anyway, like the obedient, law-abiding citizen I’m supposed to be. “It’s so incredible to finally be understood.” The headline on the personality test website beckoned, and all of a sudden I had a stereotypical mental image of myself lying flat out on a recliner at a psychologist’s office, ready to reveal the “real me,” whatever that might be.
After answering an assortment of “Are you are more likely to do this or that?” questions, the system generated a calculated conclusion, confirming my character in four simple letters: ENFJ.
So apparently I have an extroverted (E) personality. I’m mulling over this (I love people but really enjoy spending time with myself too), when one of my friends reacts to the results from her test.
“My results are different every time I take this test,” she laments. “This does not describe me at all,” claims another apathetic, somewhat disinterested friend.
True, I can see how personality tests can dig deep into the prediction and depiction of one’s behavior, especially if one is self-aware, but on the other hand, the results are dependent on the participant’s answers, which could be based on a one-off experience, or a transient outlook. “Personality,” in other words, is dynamic.
My own flawed perception
This made me think about the way I am inclined to view and perceive others, particularly people I don’t know so well. Because of one thing that a person says or does, I can quite quickly “put them into a box,” expecting them to always have the same (usually negative or unsatisfactory) reaction every time I meet them, or forever relegating them to someone who’s “not worth my time.” Harsh, but true. These notions can even be established based on what I hear others say about someone, never mind the fact that I’ve never had any similar personal experience with them. It can be so easy for me to fashion my reactions and way of treating someone based on the kind of person I believe they are.
We all know that “judging a book by its cover,” in the literal sense, is deceiving. But in reality, how often am I inclined to do that anyway, also with regards to perceiving and predicting people? Granted, many perceptions can be truthful, well-observed deductions. But even so, the information I gather about a person should not lead to me developing a cold heart and attitude towards them.
“She always reacts in this way when this happens, so it’ll probably be the same this time,” I could conclude, as if this person were an inanimate, unchanging rock, destined to remain the same for the rest of her life. “He’s been like this since I’ve met him.” And I go ahead and tell others exactly what I think he is like.
When I think about myself and the personality test, I noticed how reluctant I was for others to find out about my personality type, for them to establish preconceived expectations of me before they’d even gotten to know me. But on the other hand, it made me aware of my own intrinsic tendency to pass judgments on others based on what my eyes see and my ears hear – the exact method of deduction that I would hate for others to impose on me.
How ironic. I can create so many walls of separation and elevate myself over others based on very little evidence. But doing this distances me from the people whom I otherwise could have good fellowship with.
“I can of Myself do nothing”
I think about how Jesus, my Forerunner and example, would have taken it. Since my goal is to be like Him, I’ve to constantly align myself with the way He lived while here on earth – that means correcting my thoughts and actions that I recognize as sin, according to God’s Word and His Spirit that works in me.
In John 5:30, He says, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” As a man on earth, Jesus was completely dependent on His Father. Instead of making His own assumptions, He waited to hear from God.
I read the verse again, “I can of myself do nothing.” Jesus had this attitude, but do I have it the same way as He had? When I think that I know better, or am eager to present my own human opinions or deductions of the matter, then I am not letting the righteous Judge reveal His thoughts to me. My first reaction is to pass judgment based on my emotions, opinions or prior experience. And this can quite often, though not always, be traced back to jealousy, pride, or a lust to be right.
But now I recognize these sins, and when I put these initial thoughts to death, not giving them room to fester and grow, then I preserve a pure heart and am ready to hear what the Father has to say to me in each situation.
When I’m interested in hearing what the Father has to say, and then doing accordingly as I hear, it saves me from all the unrest, dissatisfaction and demands that come with me trying to figure things and people out “my” way!