Exciting News! This week marks the launch of our brand new series, My Favorite Psychology Tools, and we're kicking things off with a deep dive into the fascinating world of personality types.
With so many fads and trends out there, it can be hard to know what's actually backed by research. That's why we're here to separate fact from fiction and give you the inside scoop on what personality really is and what the latest research tells us about it.
Here's what we cover:
1. What is personality and why we're so fascinated with it
2. The benefits and pitfalls in personality tests
3. The 5 most researched personality traits
4. The mysterious H Factor and why it's so important
5. How personality traits show up in the Bible
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Episode 1: What is Narcissism Really?
Info on Myers Briggs
Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates
Think Again by Adam Grant
Read more about the Big 5 Personality Traits
Quiet by Susan Cain
"Understanding is the basis for care." —Dallas Willard
The Best of You Podcast:
With Dr. Alison Cook
Episode 49: Personality Types
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Hey, everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey, everyone, and welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You Podcast. I am so glad you're here. I love preparing these episodes for you and your feedback, and your comments, and your emails mean so much to me. I loved hearing from so many of you about what you are hoping I will cover in this brand-new series, which starts today.
I am so excited about this series because I'm a little bit of a geek when it comes to all of these different assessments, and inventories, and tools, and lists, that we have available to us from the field of psychology. These are the kinds of tools that help us understand ourselves better, and therefore help us understand the people that we love better.
Today we're going to talk about personality. And I'm going to share with you the six most researched personality traits in psychology, and why I think it's helpful to understand these different traits, and what I think the pitfalls can be. We're also going to touch on how they correlate, loosely, and in an unscientific matter, with some of the spiritual gifts that we see described in Scripture.
I remember the very first time I was introduced to a personality test, back in the day, it was when I was in college.
I went to the Career Counseling Center, on my college campus at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. They had me take a personality test, and this was a long time ago, it was the MBTI, which many of you know as the Myers Brigg.
It's a very popular test to this day, although, it's actually not very reliable as an assessment, as it turns out. So I'm actually not going to cover it today. But it does create some really interesting categories that are helpful for discussing our differences. And, sure enough, in my case, when I took that test, it was like all the lights went on.
I think this was the moment, in time, when I realized I was destined to be a psychologist because I just got so excited about it. I started figuring out how to give it to everybody I knew. If you were a family member, if you were a friend of mine, I was having you take this test or a variation of this test, that's actually in a book called Please Understand Me. You can take a sort of form, it's a little bit different, it's a variation on the MBTI.
But at the time, I was having everybody I know take that test. And, in particular, what really spoke to me from that experience of taking a test, at a college counseling center, probably, I was 20, maybe 21 at the time, long time ago, was that last category. And if you know the MBTI, you'll know what I'm talking about.
But there's a category on it that gets at how we make decisions and it's a J versus P category. Judgers test out to be people who tend to really like planning. They're very decisive, they're very organized, they like structure, they like schedules. They make decisions in advance so they can plan for them. And people who are perceivers tend to be in the moment. They tend to not like too much certainty. They tend to be more flexible and spontaneous in their decision making and lifestyle. They tend to be more in the moment.
For example, a perceiver is someone who will say, "Well, I don't know what to do until I get there." If you're married to a perceiver, if you are a perceiver, you'll understand what I'm saying. If someone says to you, "Well, what do you want to do next Friday night?? You are like, "I won't know until it's next Friday night." That's a perceiver.
Whereas a judger would say, "Here is the plan. Here's what we're going to do Friday, and here are the ten steps we're going to execute to prepare us to do that on Friday." It's a really different way of making decisions. But at this moment, at this particular time in my life, as a young 20 something year old student, I tested out as a perceiver. And when I saw that on the test, what I began to realize is that, oh, my gosh, something I had thought was bad in myself.
Something I had been judging in myself; I'm a procrastinator, I wait till the last minute. Here I was, a fairly high-achieving student. I knew how to get things done, but I did things a little differently than most of the members of my family, than most of my peers. Than most of my friend group, and I'd been shaming myself for that. I'd been judging myself for that.
And when I saw in the test, "Oh, my gosh, I'm just different, I'm not bad." It was this whole new way of looking at the world and looking at myself. Just that simple designation of "Oh, my goodness, there's a category to describe how I am, and therefore I can begin to accept how I am, and build on that to grow. Versus shaming myself, or blaming myself, or even hating myself, for a certain way of being in the world."
It really popped open everything for me. "I'm not bad. I'm just different." And I began to realize there's a lot of flexibility, a lot of spontaneity. There are good qualities, and sometimes some indecisiveness, that can also drive myself and other people crazy.
But I began to be aware of the value in understanding basic human differences, where we're different from each other. And it was my very first glimpse into this idea of what it feels like foundational to everything I do, which is a non-shaming way of naming something that is just simply true. And this illustration is the best of what I think these kinds of personality assessments can do.
Now I'm going to get to the pitfalls for those of you who are a little skeptical, stay with me. But let's talk about what is helpful about these kinds of personality assessments. Number one, they help us understand ourselves better, both our strengths and our limitations. They help us not to judge or shame ourselves. But as we describe some of these personality traits, it leads to greater self-acceptance. And, as I've said numerous times, self-acceptance is actually the soil in which we can grow, heal, and change. It's not self-condemnation.
And, so, these are tools to just help us name things so that we can begin to accept them. So that we can then begin to grow in healthy ways. Because, as Dallas Willard said, "Understanding is the basis for care."
Number two, these types of personality assessments can help us begin to ask for what we need in our relationships. Instead of getting annoyed at someone else for being different from us, for not understanding our inherent needs, and our inherent preferences, and our inherent ways of being in the world.
We can start to name things together, "This is how I tend to function. This is how you tend to function, let's come together and figure out how to optimize and maximize how we can bring the best of who we are together. Instead of me trying to get you to change or you trying to get me to change."
We can start to say, "Hey, I want to honor the way you are and I need you to understand that it works a little differently for me." And, then, lastly, that leads right into our differences help us work better together.
Adam Grant, who's a Wharton organizational psychologist, has a great book called Think Again, and I love this book. He talks about how important it is for us to intentionally put people around us who are different from us, who challenge us. Who help us see things from different perspectives.
So the more I understand myself, and I'm confident in myself, and I'm not shaming myself. The more I actually am grateful for the way that you see things that is different,
or the way you make decisions, or the way you approach the world, or approach this relationship. And I can start to value that and incorporate elements of that in my approach.
This just dramatically impacts the health of our friendships, of our marriages, of our communities. When we begin to name, and see, and honor our differences versus trying to get everybody to be a "Yes" man or a cheerleader for the type of person we are.
We have more confidence the more we understand ourselves to invite in differences. So this is one of the things I love about psychology assessments. It's one of the things that I'm just going to geek out on throughout this series. But I do think this understanding of individual differences, is one of the gifts the field of psychology has brought to us.
Now, there are also some pitfalls to focusing on individual differences in personality. It's a relatively new phenomenon, we really only started studying personality as a psychological construct in the last century. And while there's so much helpful information, from the field of psychology about individual differences, there can also be pitfalls.
So this is for all you cynics out there, but also just for everybody to remember, we have to hold these things always in tension. So number one pitfall, is what I would call hyper individualism. This is an extreme form of individualism; where individuals prioritize their own interests, their own needs, their own preferences, their own need for self-expression above all else. Including the needs of others and the needs of the collective or the community around them. Whether it's a family, a church group, a community, or even a nation.
This form of hyper individualism prioritizes personal freedom, autonomy, and self-expression so much that we almost reject the idea of collective or shared responsibility. Of coming together as a community, of our social obligations. Of this idea of being a good citizen for the whole of our society.
So if we swing too far, imagine this as a pendulum and you can think, historically, where it was like we looked at the good of the group. We needed the community, we needed the whole. And then we swung, and I do put psychology a little bit to blame for the swing toward hyper individualism. Where we emphasize or prioritize the individual so much above and beyond the group. That it's almost impossible to come together and that is not healthy either.
While we want to understand the individual, and the individual's needs, and the individual's preferences, we also have to be able to set aside some of who we are for the good of the greater whole. The greater community in which we live.
Hyper individualism can lead to more isolation, more loneliness, less community. Because we are so focused on becoming our individual selves, we forget how to move toward each other in our relationships. So it's so important to strike a balance. We only want to understand ourselves, insofar as we can bring more of who we really are into creating healthier relationships with other people.
Number two, focus on personality traits can lead to stigmatizing. We can take a personality trait, label somebody, and sometimes weaponize it. And I talk about this in the very first episode of this podcast, episode one on narcissism. The importance of describing patterns of behavior versus labeling individual people. And number three, we risk oversimplifying complex behaviors and situations.
So, for example, when we talk about personality traits, we also need to understand that traits develop in the midst of our cultural environments. They develop in the midst of our traumas. They develop in the midst of specific situations, all of which have an impact on how we behave. So we don't want to reduce people, simply, to a personality style, without understanding all of the factors that go into making us who we are.
Remember, the goal of learning more about ourselves is not to become entitled, to glorify the individual self. It's not to label other people. It's not to oversimplify complicated situations. The goal is that as you begin to understand more about yourself, you become more whole inside yourself as an individual, as the person God made. You actually become healthier in your relationships. You become a healthier contributor to your family, to your community, and ultimately to this world.[00:14:49] < Music >
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So what is personality? Well, psychologists define personality as "A set of enduring traits and characteristics that make you individually unique". Your personality includes your patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are relatively consistent over time, and across a variety of different situations. So when someone has a fairly stable personality, which is what we look for in a healthy person. You can predict, a little bit, how they're going to react in different situations over time.
If you think about your kids, or you think about your spouse, or you think about your friends, there's not a lot that surprises you. You could have some ability to go, "That's how they're going to act when that situation happens." There's a way in which people just are who they are. God created each one of us to be so extremely unique, and I think that's just so beautiful. That there's no one person that is the same as another person. There's no one who is exactly like you, and it just gets at the amazing creativity in our God. So it's a beautiful thing to understand.
Personality is influenced by a variety of factors, including your genetics. Some of this is just your biology. Some of it is your upbringing, your family of origin, this is the nature versus nurture. Psychologists have really come down squarely on it's both. It's both your DNA, your genetics, your nature, and also it's the environment in which you were raised your family, your community, the environment around you.
Personality is also influenced by our larger cultural environment. Cultural studies are very interesting. For example, how does it shape us to be raised in America? And I think this is why it's so important to get outside of this cultural American mindset, that can get so myopic. And place ourselves, whether through studying, or reading, or understanding, or physically going to a different culture and realizing, especially, as Christians, "Oh, my gosh, so much of who we are and what we believe is shaped by this overlay of our Americanism."
If you've had trauma, if you've been abused, if you've experienced racism, misogyny, bullying. If you've been marginalized, if you've grown up in poverty, these things have an impact to some degree on how your personality forms. So, again, it's really important not to oversimplify these personality traits. They are influenced by a number of factors. With that being said, I want to get into what are what psychologists call the big five traits of personality.
So this is a well-researched theory of personality that originated in the mid-20th centuries, that hypothesizes there are five basic dimensions of personality. And actually there's a 6th dimension that has surfaced in the last decade that we'll also look at today. These dimensions of personality tend to be reliable, over time. They tend to be reliable descriptors of different traits that most people across cultures have to varying degrees, and they tend to be discrete. Meaning these tend to be discrete from each other. You could test high in one and low in another.
So these big five personality traits tend to be universal. One study looked at people from more than 50 different cultures, and found that these five dimensions could be accurately used to describe personality, and they exist on a spectrum. And, so, this is where the big five, sometimes it's called O-C-E-A-N or H-E-X-A-C-O, if you add in that six factor, these are acronyms to explain these.
While you'll see similarities, if you're someone who's familiar with the Myers Brigg, you might see similarities in these traits. But here's one of the big differences is these exist on a spectrum. So, for example, if you take a Myers-Brigg Type Indicator Test, you're going to test out as either an introvert or an extrovert.
However, if you use one of these O-C-E-A-N or H-E-X-A-C-O assessments, it's going to put you on a spectrum. And I think about human behavior, it just makes more sense.
You're not either an extrovert or an introvert. You might be more inclined toward extroversion and less inclined toward introversion. But you could look much more similar to an introvert if you're 52% of an extrovert than you might look like someone who is an extreme extrovert.
So I like this way that it measures things on a spectrum. And, then, lastly, these are not prescriptive they're descriptive. And what I mean by that is if you find yourself testing high in one of these personality traits that you don't really like, it doesn't necessarily mean this is the person you're going to become.
So, again, these are descriptive. So if you find yourself testing high on a personality trait that you don't really like or don't wish that you had, it doesn't mean that it's telling you what kind of person you have to become. There are lots of different kinds of people in the world and lots of different ways of relating to these different traits. It's just helpful, again, to name, "Okay, wow, I'm not someone who's really high in this quality, I'm lower in it. So what does that mean for me and the kind of person that I want to become?"
That's what I mean by it doesn't prescribe the kind of person that you have to become. That's between you and God, and the choices that you make, and the people you put around yourself. But it does describe a little bit of where you are now and what this is going to look like for you, and that your journey is going to look a little different than my journey.
Because we start out at a different place. We're starting out on different paths. And if you think about that mountain we're both trying to climb of becoming a more whole, beautiful version of the person God made us to become. Your path is just going to look different than mine.
They're going to take different winds, and different turns, and we're going to go up different, treacherous parts, and you're going to go through different valleys because of your starting at a different baseline. But we both have to go down that path of growth. We both have to go down that path of becoming more of the person God wants us to become, and we're both going to hit different landmines.
So it's descriptive, not prescriptive. You're going to go down this path, and your path may start looking great, and you'll see what I mean when we get into these traits. Like, "I've got this easy path, I'm a really agreeable person." But, oh, my goodness, you are still going to hit some valleys. And my path may look treacherous at the start, it's like, "Whoa, this is really hard for me, this particular trait. This part of my personality, is just I came out of the womb this way, this is going to be hard for me."
But guess what, you're going to hit some beautiful oasis that I may never taste. So we don't want to compare our different journeys to each other. So what are these big five personality traits? So we're going to use this O-C-E-A-N acronym, number one, Openness to experience. And if you imagine this spectrum in front of you, someone high in openness is very creative, very imaginative, inventive, very curious.
They like to try new things. They're open to new ideas. If you imagine that path, this person's going to be someone who's like, "I'm so excited, let's see where the path goes." And they might not really wait to run down the path. That's what it looks like if you're high in openness.
Now, if you're lower on the openness scale, you're someone who tends to be more concrete. You don't like change. You're not super creative, maybe, you're more literal, you're more into facts, more into data.
You may be looking down your path going, "What are these types of flora and fauna in front of me? I want to understand them." You're not just going to race down into the adventure. You're going to understand the concrete details and data in front of you before you even take any steps, and when you do start to take those steps, they'll be very cautious and measured. And I'm sure you're already imagining people that where they maybe test out on this scale.
Number two, the C is Conscientiousness. This is a dimension of personality; everybody has an orientation to conscientiousness. It refers to a tendency to be organized, responsible, and reliable. Someone high in conscientiousness might be more efficient, more organized, more able to get things done. They tend to plan ahead. And, so, what's really interesting is imagine someone who tests high on conscientiousness and high on openness to experience.
So they might be very creative and simultaneously very organized. So we're complex. Or if you're someone really high on openness and low on conscientiousness, that's the person that's just going to run down that path without putting on a backpack, without getting prepared, without thinking about what they're going to eat. And, again, the beginning of that path might look amazing, but they're going to hit some landmines that they got to learn to work through down the road.
If you're someone lower on conscientiousness, you might be a little bit more careless, a little bit more extravagant, maybe more free spirited. People low in conscientiousness tend to dislike structure and schedules. They might procrastinate. They might wait till the last minute to complete tasks.
Now, remember, there are other factors that go into why each person has some of these traits. So let's take, for example, if you have a child who tends to be very careless. They can't find their homework to save their life. They're always getting, on their report card, that they're disorganized. They turn in things late. It might be tempting to say, "Well, they're not conscientious, they're careless." Which can sound stigmatizing. So remember, we are not using these traits to stigmatize, they're descriptive, not prescriptive.
Instead, when you describe, you say, "Wow, okay, I have a child or I have a spouse or me, I am someone that scores fairly low on this test. I have a hard time staying organized. I don't really like it, people have described me as careless. I wonder what that's about, and is there a moral undertone to it?" Sometimes there is, sometimes we just don't care about other people. But it could mean there's an underlying neurological issue, such as ADHD, or another neurotypical diagnosis.
Now, I'm not saying everybody who's careless has some sort of neurological deficit. What I am saying is it's an opportunity to get curious. What's going on that's contributing to this? And then at the end of the day, even as you become the best of who you are, you may well be someone who struggles a little bit with disorganization, for whatever reason.
Again, the goal is not to shame ourselves; the goal is to name, understand, describe, get all the data as to why this might be true for you. And then just move the needle of growth just a little bit, as you're looking down your path, the trail you have to blaze. It's like, "Okay, I'm someone that's going to lose things on this path. I'm someone that's going to have a hard time staying organized. And, so, what do I need to do to equip myself so that I stay safe?"
Again, the beginning of that path might feel a little bit more fraught because there's going to be a little steeper learning curve for you. Maybe you need to ask other people, say, "Hey, this isn't my forte, this isn't my strength. Can you come alongside of me?"
Again, this is where it leads us to community, not away from community. When we begin to name and tame these things. We say, "I need a buddy, I don't want to go down this path alone because I'm going to lose things. So can you be my buddy, that helps me stay organized because you're great at that." So this is how these kinds of self-awareness, self-understanding, can help bring us into healthier relationships with other people.
Number three, the E is Extroversion. Now, extroversion is less about how much you talk or how outgoing you are, and more about how you derive energy. Extroverts tend to derive energy from external stimuli, especially social activities. Extroverts tend to go to parties, engage with a lot of people, and come back more energized. They feed off the external energy. It doesn't mean you're the loudest person in the room, necessarily, but it does mean that you gain energy from other people.
On the other hand, if you score low on this continuum, if you score closer to introversion, you gain more energy through solitary activities, through being alone, through being in nature. You might have to ration how much you are with other people because it depletes you. It doesn't mean you don't like other people. It doesn't mean you're not good with other people. It just means that being with other people and being with a lot of external stimuli is depleting for you. Again, it's just really helpful to understand and to not shame yourself.
There's a wonderful book about introversion called Quiet by Susan Cain. It's been a bestseller for years because she just named some of the really unique challenges for introverts, especially, in our world and, especially, our country here in America, that tends to value extroversion. It's a great book, I highly recommend it.
Number four is Agreeableness. Someone who scores high in agreeableness tends to make other people feel good. They're easy to get along with. They value harmony. They want the good of the group, sometimes above their own individual needs. They tend to be warm, empathetic, and sensitive to the needs of others. If you score high in agreeableness, you might struggle with people pleasing.
At the same time, people who are high in agreeableness tend to get along well with others. So there are ways in which people who are high in agreeableness, if you're looking at their path that they're ready to hike. It may look like, "Man, they have it so easy, people just naturally like them, they're just walking through a meadow."
However, folks who are high in agreeableness are also going to have to figure out how to manage that. So that they don't disconnect from their own needs, from their own convictions, from their own values. Folks who score lower on this scale tend to be more what, in this framework, is called disagreeableness. They might be a little bit more critical. They might be more willing to be direct, to state what they really see, to speak up in a contrary manner. To not go along with the group, to point out flaws.
Now, I want to be very clear here, there is a need for all types of people. And, again, Adam Grant, in his book Think Again, talks about how we need some of these quote-unquote "Disagreeable people" in our lives.
We need to have people in our lives who don't just like everything we say and do, who don't just agree with everything we want. But who are willing to stand up and say, "Hey, I'm not so sure about that." So, again, wherever you score, on this spectrum, there are pros and cons. There are temptations and benefits, God uses all kinds of people.
Number five is Neuroticism, and that's just a word that they use for this trait which is really related to emotionality. If you score high in neuroticism, you're likely more emotionally volatile. You're more susceptible to getting taken over by emotions, especially, negative emotions. You're more sensitive to stressors in the environment. You might have a greater tendency toward anxiety. I think sometimes of that word melancholy, you're just more aware of what's negative around you.
There's a tendency to maybe be a little bit more prickly about life. And if you think about folks where we say, "All those things just roll off their back", the opposite of that as well. If you're a little prickly things stick to you, it's harder for you. And, again, this isn't a great example, if you're somebody who scores higher in neuroticism.
It might be tempting to look down your path and go, "Oh, man, all I see is the forest and the dangers and what's going to be hard, and that person over there is just prancing down the path. They're scoring low on this, they are more emotionally stable. They don't tend to take things too hard. Emotions tend to roll off their back. Man, why is this so hard for me?"
But, again, it takes all different kinds of people. What's important to know is "This is how I am, it's not bad or good. What is my journey going to look like? And what do I need from God, from the people around me, to help me thrive on my journey toward wholeness?"
The truth is there are just some people for whom life hits a little harder. There's a little bit more emotional volatility. There's a little bit more of that susceptibility to the negative. And it's just so helpful to know yourself, not to shame yourself or wish you're somebody you're not. And to begin to live this life God has given you with your unique personality and your unique makeup.
Now, I want to touch on this 6th trait that has surfaced more recently. I love this. This is such fascinating research, to me, it's called the H Factor. And this H Factor refers to Honesty-Humility. And what is so interesting about this factor, this dimension of personality, is that these two traits really go together. It's considered one trait Honesty-Humility.
They're intimately linked honesty and humility, think about that for a second. From a psychological perspective, they tend to exist on one dimension. That means they're hard to measure, separate from each other honesty and humility. I mean, this just amazes me and brings delight to my soul at the wonder of how God made us, and how it's reflected in science, and in psychology.
It's hard to be an honest person and not be a humble person. It's hard to be a humble person and not be an honest person. And I think as followers of Jesus, that just makes so much sense. If we are really honest about ourselves and honest about who we are before God, there's just no way around humility.
But if we're deceiving ourselves and we're deceiving others, and we're lying about who we are. And we're denying aspects of who we are which also means we're going to end up exploiting, mistreating, and using and abusing others. Folks who are high in this Honest-Humility dimension tend to be sincere, honest, fair, not greedy and unassuming. They're not full of themselves. They don't try to puff themselves up.
On the other hand, folks who are low in this factor, in this Humility-Honesty factor tend to be more interested in their own status and power. They tend to be more willing to engage in lying, or manipulating, or trying to exploit other people to get ahead. They tend to have a sense of entitlement about their own self-importance, as if they deserve or are owed certain things.
Now, here's the thing about this scale. If you are someone who is aware of your own sense of entitlement, of your own propensity to ego, of your own self-centeredness, you are going to be further up toward that Honesty-Humility scale. It's such a paradox. The more we know ourselves and the more we see our ego, our self-centeredness, our pride, our entitlement, the more honest and humble we become.
Humility about our areas of deceptiveness, of arrogance, of self-centeredness, is the beginning of health. What's more scary are folks who cannot face the truth about our own sinful, toxic, propensities.[00:35:03] < Music >
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Part Two[00:00:00] < Music >
As we close, I want to touch on some practical takeaways. As well as an insight from the Bible and how we can think about these personality traits. So I want to circle back to why it's important to understand ourselves on these different spectrums.
Number one, when we understand ourselves, "We name it to tame it," as Dan Siegel says. For example, I am someone who's fairly high on this neuroticism scale. My emotions are pretty volatile, I feel them. They go up and down, for whatever reason, things do not just roll off my back. That's how I am in my marriage. That's how I am as a parent. That's how I am as a friend. And you know what, I'm going to stop shaming myself for that. I'm going to name it. I'm going to try to understand it.
What are the factors that contribute to that?
What are some of the contributing factors? Is there some trauma in my life?
Am I someone who's just naturally an HSP, a highly sensitive person?
Am I somebody who has more of a just biological predisposition to anxiety?
What are the different factors that contribute to this?
Where are areas that I can heal, that I can work on?
What are areas that are just out of my control? This is just the way God made me. We begin to go down a journey of self-investigation, to arrive at healthier and healthier degrees of understanding of ourselves. Are there certain cultural experiences that have contributed to this?
Did I grow up in poverty?
Did I grow up in a racist environment?
Did I grow up in an environment that taught me to be anxious because it was completely unsafe?
Okay, help me understand that, God, what are some of the things I can do to heal?
What are some of the things I can change?
What are some of the things I cannot change? Because if you test out fairly highly on this scale, you're not going to be able to turn yourself into an emotionally phlegmatic person, a laid back person. You will be able to move the needle a little bit. You will be able to grow, but more importantly, you're going to be able to help put the people around you. You're going to be able to equip yourself, as you head out on this journey that God has put before you.
You're going to be able to ask for what you need from the people around you. You're going to be able to stop shaming yourself. You're going to be able to equip yourself with tools to stay healthy. For example, because I am a more anxious person, some of these X, Y, and Z activities don't work for me.
Maybe they work for you and that's great, but I have to be careful with my energy. I have to be careful with my time. I need to be careful with where I expend some of my energy. Because I need to stay healthy; and the best way I can be a parent, or a spouse, or a friend, or a community member is to really stay healthy myself and I'm just going to claim that.
We stop condemning ourselves. If you're someone who tests really high on this emotionally phlegmatic, things just don't get to you scale. It's helpful to know that not to take pride in it, but to go, "Wow, what does this mean for me? What do I have to contribute to others? And how do I need to ensure that I'm not bypassing certain negative situations, that I actually also need to face?" So you've also got a journey toward wholeness.
So understanding where you begin is not just a, "Hey, this is great, life is good. I'm just going to coast through life for the rest of my days."
No, it means I have to go, "Hey, Lord, this is a gift and it's also something I need to be mindful of. How do I honor others with this gift? And, also, how do I ensure that I'm not just putting my head in the sand, and not facing situations that need to be faced."
We stop condemning ourselves and we start accepting these traits in ourselves, as well as in others, and we begin to work together for the good of everyone. Number two, we stop projecting our own needs and issues onto other people, and start taking responsibility for our own selves. And, so, what I mean by projecting is we stop saying to other people, "You're just so uptight."
You're just so careless."
When really what we mean is, "Things don't really get to me." Hear the humility in that. "Things don't really get to me, but I know that they really get to you, and that's okay. Let's both just name that as a dynamic in our relationship. I'm pretty laid back, things don't roll off your back, and there's no better or worse than that."
So we stop projecting onto other people. "What's wrong with you that you don't want to go to all these parties with me? That you don't want to sign up for all these social events with me? What's wrong with you?" And, then, maybe, we even moralize it, "You're not Christian enough, that you don't want to go to all these highly extroverted church activities."
When what we really mean is, "I love these social activities, they're fun for me. I get energized by them." And the other person is like, "Yes, and they exhaust me, and if you want me to be a healthy partner, or a healthy parent, or a healthy friend, I can't go to all of these." So we begin to own and take personal responsibility for our side of the street, instead of projecting and criticizing onto others.
Another one is, "Why do you have to be such a contrary and always picking me apart, always telling me what's wrong with me? If I bring to you an idea, can't you just say, 'That's great, I love it.'" This is a classic example of a difference between somebody who's high in agreeableness and someone who's more disagreeable. And there's a way in which you can begin to label dynamics in your relationships, without criticizing, shaming, or projecting on the other person.
So, for example, in that dynamic, you might say, listen, "I'm someone, when I bring you an idea, it would just mean so much to me in this context if you just said, 'That's so interesting, tell me more.' That's a way you could love me. And I know that I'm not going to act on it, and I'm not going to go do something foolish. I know that it's important to you to pick it apart and analyze it from every different angle, and I want you to do that at a certain point.
But today, in this conversation, I just want to raise this and have you go, 'That's so fun.'" And you can start to coach a partner or a friend along to understand you. And that person who's more critical, who likes to pick things apart, can say, "Listen, this is how I am. This is how my mind works. I see something and I just start to shred it.
I just start to see it from all different angles and I can't help myself. I'm not trying to be a jerk here and I'm working on it, and sometimes when I do this, it's not personal. So let's work together on this and on how this dynamic affects our relationship so that we can each support each other."
So we start to be able to help each other work with the grain of who we are and, simultaneously, we're no longer demanding that people just accept us exactly as we are. We are the ones in the right, "My way is the right way. Well, you just have to accept me because this is who I am."
Neither of those extremes works. Trying to get somebody to change doesn't work, and it also doesn't work to become entitled that "This is just how I am." Instead, as we name these dynamics, these variables, these traits, and we tame them and we look at all the nuances of them, we begin to come together, and we each become a healthier version of our God-given selves.
Finally, I want to talk about how this relates to some of the spiritual gifts that we see in the Bible. I love how Paul speaks about this balance that I've been describing throughout this episode in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, and I'm going to read this from The Message version. I like this version for this audio because it's just fresh. It's less familiar to most of us.
Here's what it says; "I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different but similar parts arranged and functioning together." This is Paul, I love this.
"If foot said, 'I'm not elegant like hand embellished with rings, I guess I don't belong to this body,' would that make it so? If Ear said, 'I'm not beautiful like eye, transparent and expressive, I don't deserve a place on the head,' would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where He wanted it."
But here's the rub, as Paul goes on, he cautions us toward the other extreme. So he's saying this makes us more significant, not less. More valued, more worthy, more important to the whole, not less. But then he goes on to caution against the other extreme. Here's what Paul says; "But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of."
I'm going to read that again. "For no matter how significant you are; it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine eye telling hand, 'Get lost; I don't need you.' Or head telling foot, 'You're fired, your job has been phased out.'"
He goes on to say, "You are Christ's body." That's who you are, you must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your part mean anything. Paul then goes into a list of a lot of the different spiritual gifts that different parts of the body have. And I thought it was interesting as I was reading this, in light of these personality traits we've gone through in this episode, today.
So this is not scientific, but I want to propose this to you as we close. As you think about some of these biblical gifts that Paul describes. Number one, think about the apostles. Maybe they scored high on this extroversion scale. They liked people. They were constantly among other people. Maybe this allowed them to get energized out of their work. I don't know, I'm just imagining, I'm creative, I'm being high on the openness scale right now.
Think about the prophets; it's possible they might have been considered quite disagreeable in their time. I'm just saying these guys were not well liked when they would come along and point out all the negativity, all the hard things, all the things no one else wanted to see. And, yet, how beautiful and critical they are in the body of Christ and how beautiful they are to God,
Think about the healers and helpers, maybe, they're highly agreeable. They know how to bring empathy and healing balm to the souls of other people. The organizers, the administrators, that Paul describes, those who are perhaps highly conscientious. Those who pray in tongues, Paul talks about, maybe, these are the folks more open to these creative, innovative experiences that make some other folks uncomfortable.
We see it right there in Scriptures, there is a place for everyone and every type of personality in the body of Christ. Our goal is to learn the part we can play and play that part well. And as always, considering the example of Jesus in His honesty, in His humility, which I think is that dimension of who we are that is the most ripe for the transforming work and power of God's spirit.[00:11:48] < Outro >
Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of The Best of You. It would mean so much if you'd take a moment to subscribe. You can go to Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts and click the Plus or Follow button. That will ensure you don't miss an episode and it helps get the word out to others.
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