For whatever reason, Myers-Briggs personality types were popular at my fellowship a few months ago. It seemed that almost everybody knew that they were an ISTJ or an ENFP, or some other four-letter acronym. Since I felt a little left out, I decided to take a quick online test and see what I was. To my utter lack of surprise, I found that I am an INTJ, which stands for introversion (I), intuition (N), thinking (T), judging (J). I’m not writing this post to talk about my experiences as an INTJ, or how INTJs are like, or how you should talk to them. This post is more about Myers-Briggs in general, and what I’ve learned since learning that I am an INTJ.
First things first: I think everyone should read the Wikipedia page for Myers-Briggs. To begin with, if we’re going to use this as some sort of explanation for who we are, it’s important to know not only what the letters stand for, but what they mean. What does it mean that I am “judging,” and how is that different from “intuition”? If it’s possible that Myers-Briggs tells us anything about who we are, we should know exactly what it says. But perhaps more importantly, those who use Myers-Briggs as an indicator of personality type should know that “[t]he statistical validity of the MBTI as a psychometric instrument has been the subject of criticism.” Myers-Briggs may not even be a legitimate way to measure someone’s psychology and personality. So take it with a grain of salt.
That being said, I think it has been helpful for me to take the Myers-Briggs personality test. It has helped me assess my strengths and my weaknesses. I know now, better than before, that my tendency is to think through things from a rational standpoint. I assess information, create extrapolations, look for patterns to reason my way through situations and decisions. I don’t think through things relationally–I have a tendency to ignore how people will feel about the choices I make, or how other people will perceive them. If I don’t ignore them outright, I will often act in favor of the approach suggested by logic. It’s just the way I operate. In this sense, it has been helpful to know how I think, so that I can play to my strengths. If I can’t figure out how my decisions will affect the way other people will feel, I can “contract out” and ask other people who are more sensitive to that about it. If I have other people to do that for me, I can focus on what I do best: thinking through details and coming up with reasoned assessments.
But here is where I think caution is necessary: the MBTI is descriptive in nature, not prescriptive. It is meant to tell us a little bit about the way we are now, not about who we should be. When I found out I was an INTJ, I understood some of my quirks in light of that. But I also found that I would explain instances where I lacked wisdom by saying, “… but I’m an INTJ.” I began to use “INTJ” as shorthand for explaining my weaknesses, even justifying them. When I was careless or cold, it was OK, because I’m an INTJ—that’s just who I am. If I wasn’t considerate enough of how others might feel because of me, “I’m an INTJ.”
Instead of making me aware of my weaknesses so that I could address them, knowing my MBTI made me complacent about it. I came to think, in some small way, that being an INTJ justified and excused actions of un-wisdom and even sin. As a believer, this is not the way I should react to discovering areas of weakness. Preference is OK, but using preference to perpetuate lack of care is not, and that’s exactly what I did when I used “I’m an INTJ” as an excuse for why I did or thought certain things. My identity ultimately is not as an INTJ, it is as a believer and a son of God. In Romans 6, Paul asks this question: “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. . . . So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:2b-4, 11).
It is unacceptable for the Christian to use even a helpful personality assessment test to excuse sin. It is unacceptable to use such a test to explain lack of wisdom and sin as a part of who we are. Who we are is a people united with Christ, in whom there is no room for sin. In fact, Paul makes clear that one of the reasons God saves us is to cleanse us from sin: we died to sin and were raised that we “might walk in newness of life” (6:4). It is fundamentally against my identity to use my MBTI to explain away instances of un-wisdom and sin.
Paul expresses the same idea again to the Corinthians when he says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. . . . Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:14-15, 17). All the weaknesses that the Myers-Briggs identifies, all the tendencies to sin that it shows me, those are things I need to fight. Those things were baptized with me to death, that in my new life and creation in Christ I could have the will and strength to fight them.
So for everything the Myers-Briggs personality test tells me, I need to know this: that my identity is as one who is “dead to sin and alive to God”, that I am “a new creation.” I should use the strengths of my personality and operating process to serve Him and His church, and I should take stock of my weaknesses so that I can be on guard against tendencies to sin. Now that I know I am inclined to consider others’ feelings as of lesser importance, I can pray about it and fight that tendency with confidence in the victory already won by Christ. He will supply the strength needed to bolster my weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9-10). I am thankful that God showed me my personality type, not for any assessment it gives me, but for the lesson that my weaknesses are not to be ignored or excused, but used as an opportunity for my sanctification and His glory.