Does our personality type make us better or worse at fulfilling our role as a Christian? Are we developing our personality and character to resemble God’s?
LMNOP! This was often my response, in jest, when I was asked my personality type. I didn’t put much thought into personality types. That is, until I realized that certain traits I exhibited did, in fact, have quite an influence on who I was at the time, and who I would become.
It’s fair to say that understanding the differences in personality types, especially our own, can have a significant impact on who we are as Christians.
There are a number of different personality tests that can be found online. However, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which was introduced in 1943, tends to be the most recognized personality assessment.
The MBTI focuses upon four individual areas:
- Extroversion (E) versus Introversion (I).
- Sensing (S) versus Intuition (N).
- Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F).
- Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P).
The various combinations create 16 personality types.
The basic question we may have might be, Does being classified an INFJ or an ESTP determine whether or not I’m becoming the Christian I’m meant to be?
The best personality type for a Christian
I have bad news for you. Unfortunately, your specific personality type is not the best suited for a Christian.
However, neither is mine.
Neither is anyone’s.
In a sense, all personality types are created equal. All personality types have the potential for good, and all have the potential for bad. We are all flawed because, well, we’re people. And people are imperfect, as are our personality traits.
However, even as imperfect people, we still have the potential to be either righteous or unrighteous, regardless of our personality type.
There is no one personality type that fully exemplifies the character of God.
Yet whether we are an ISFP or an ENTJ, God can make it possible for us to develop His character. In fact, the MBTI is built on the premise that as people mature, they become more comfortable with their nonpreferences. The point is, no matter our personality type, we can change the way we govern ourselves and how we interact with others to reflect the godly characteristics that God wants all Christians to exhibit. And with God’s help, we can more easily change.
So then, we need to ask the question differently.
The question isn’t, What personality type makes the best Christian?
The question is, How do we, with our specific personality traits, use what we have been given to become better Christians—to grow in godly character?
(Note that personality traits are our natural tendencies—both strengths and weaknesses—while character traits are the results of our choices. When we choose to change and commit ourselves to developing godly values and actions, we will, with God’s help, grow in godly character over time.)
God’s personality type
If God subjected Himself to the MBTI, what four-letter combination would describe His personality?
Yes, the question is absurd!
The question is absurd because God demonstrates His character in all of the 16 personality type combinations.
And we can be assured there are many more traits of God that we do not even begin to express in our 16 personality types. God points out this fact in Isaiah 55:9: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
God’s way is perfect (Psalm 18:30). Therefore, His personality, His traits and His character are all perfect.
For us, as mortal beings, to fully emulate God’s perfect character is impossible. What we can do, however, is try to understand the traits God has given us and seek to make them become more and more like His traits.
Use what we have been given by God
So, if God planned our purpose, and if we are “wonderfully made” by Him (Psalm 139:14), then our personality differences will not limit who we can become.Whether or not we’ve taken a personality test, at some point in our life our personality type has probably become somewhat evident. Maybe we’ve cried over someone hurting. Perhaps we’ve made a plan and stuck to it no matter the consequences. We may have given detailed instructions or trained others in order to help them become better at a task or skill. We might’ve created something beautiful that has never been seen before. Or written a mesmerizing piece of literature. Or maybe we were just there for another person when he or she needed someone.
We also have to realize that just because we usually prefer or begin with one way of thinking, that doesn’t mean we never use our less-preferred way of reasoning. For example, most of us realize that rules need to be followed and that we need to be compassionate to others. Personality traits do not operate in a vacuum and are not mutually exclusive of each other. We can choose to use both our preferred and nonpreferred traits based on the circumstances we are dealing with.
Our actions are products of our abilities, personality preferences and choices, and they give the world a glimpse of who we are.
And who are we?
We are a creation of God, and our traits are therefore gifts from God. Every person has been given specific gifts from God—gifts He intends us to use to interact with one another, and gifts He intends us to use to grow in godly character (1 Corinthians 12:27-31).
God didn’t create us on a whim. God created us to be His future sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Corinthians 6:18). So, if God planned our purpose, and if we are “wonderfully made” by Him (Psalm 139:14), then our personality differences will not limit who we can become.
Our personality types—all of them—still allow us to grow in godly character because God and the Word, who became Jesus Christ, created us in Their likeness. The Father and the Son desire for us to be one with Them, even in our character (John 17:21).
Becoming like God
So, if we’re comparing godly character to our character, then here are a few examples from Scripture of examples we can strive to emulate:
- John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” This is a sure sign of Jesus’ godly character of compassion and empathy.
- John 15:10: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” We receive clear, godly guidance from the true Teacher—Jesus.
- Jeremiah 29:13: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” God is open and receiving of all.
- Matthew 5:18: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” God’s perfect Word is a schematic for us to follow.
- Colossians 1:16: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible.” Creating immeasurable beauty is a key element of God’s nature.
- Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Being steady, trustworthy and unfailing is critical to godly character.
These examples demonstrate God’s nature that we, as Christians, can use as a basis for developing our own personalities and character.
Developing our personality and character
Our personalities can play an important role in how we develop as Christians. We can build on our strengths and seek to overcome our weaknesses.
For example, if we’re primarily methodical by nature, we can find scriptures showing how God has thought through and carefully designed His creation and His plan for mankind. If we’re naturally more caring and empathetic, we can find countless examples of Jesus showing unfailing compassion and love for us—even giving of Himself unto death (Philippians 2:7-8). God, of course, perfectly exhibits both of these traits.
On the other hand, if we have a tendency to be impulsive and insensitive, we can find scriptures to help us work on these weaknesses. Or if we tend to not take criticism well, we can find biblical instructions about growing in this area as well.
As we consider the importance of developing our personality and character to be in line with God’s character, we must also remember that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. Our individual personalities do not dictate who we are in the eyes of God. How we use the gifts we’ve been given, how we mold our individual traits, and how we study God’s character in order to understand it, emulate it and share it with others are the issues that define us as Christians.
So, the real question for us as Christians is, Are we developing our personality and character so we truly resemble God?