For a long time, I wanted to be Jane.
Jane was my ideal of the perfect Christian woman. She was the roommate of a friend I’ll call Sarah, and when I saw Jane, I felt as if I were observing a foreign creature in the wild. She wasn’t on social media. She woke up hours before work to enjoy a tranquil time reading Scripture and praying while drinking her steaming coffee in full view of the sunrise—and she didn’t Instagram it!
Jane’s room was always immaculate. Her workout routine exactly matched the advice of the latest fitness magazine. She wrote Bible verses on beautiful chalkboards throughout their home. She took a low-paying job so that she could spend more time helping refugee women create businesses. She was gorgeous. And I am pretty sure her hunky boyfriend had a British accent. Jane made me think of white wine, clean linens, and a house that smells of citrus and is filled with the Holy Spirit.
A Lesson in Grace
I have no chance of ever becoming Jane. I am currently doing nothing to help refugees. I have the attention span of a very small child. And I am always running late. My quiet time consists mostly of anxious prayers hurled up to God on my way into a meeting or when I’m trying to fall asleep.
For a long time I saw my inability to be like Jane as a spiritual defect, and I often tried to rehabilitate my weaknesses to create a better version of myself. But by trying to walk against the wind of my personality, I succeeded only in feeling like a failure.
One day I asked my friend Sarah about her perfect roommate, wondering how Jane managed to live such a beautiful, sweet life. Sarah smiled and said, “Trust me, she puts a lot of time into it. She goes to bed super early, and she makes alone time a huge priority. She works at her life. But that’s her. For me, that lifestyle wouldn’t be life-giving.”
Sarah is so wise. And she can use the term life-giving without sounding like an inspirational speaker, which I really appreciate.
The huge, relieving truth is that each one of us is wired differently, so what brings us life and joy and fellowship with God varies greatly from person to person. We can rest in these differences.
Learning to Love Yourself
Not surprisingly, Jane and I have different personality types.
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m an ENFP, which stands for Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. This means I’m a people-loving, spacey, sensitive, intuitive, feely-thinker who has a really tough time getting places without getting lost.
Knowing this about myself has helped me be more self-aware. At work, I push myself to be like a J (decisive and structured) because no one wants to work with someone for whom deadlines and appointment times are merely interesting suggestions. However, the P element of my personality makes me a creative problem solver who loves looking for innovative solutions. I like that. I also like the NF part of my personality, which allows me to read the emotion in almost any room and determine who needs a little extra love in that moment. I consider that my superpower, and I use it whenever the people around me are in need. This is an important gift God has given me.
Last spring my friend Michelle informed me that according to the Enneagram, I’m a 6. This indicates that the most important thing in my life is safety. I resisted that evaluation, trying to put myself into other categories, until Michelle informed me that most people dislike their own type because it reflects their greatest weakness.
As I thought more about myself and the fears that have pervaded my life, I conceded. I’m a big fat 6. I love safety. I don’t do risky things. I want everyone I love to stay together in a safe environment, like a bunker, and when we’re all 102 we can pass away quietly in our sleep.
This disposition made me really good at reporting on risk management for Christianity Today’s Church Law & Tax team. Who better to work on keeping the church safe than someone who thinks about safety all of the time? God used something I usually feel neurotic and self-conscious about to better the church.
Having my greatest fear named has been more freeing than I thought it would be. Putting a name to the thing that steals my joy has empowered me to pray in a way I don’t think would have otherwise occurred to me. This lack of trust in God has ruled my life, and I now know exactly what it is. This knowledge freed me, and I suspect God will use personality tests such as Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram to free others as well.
And Then Loving the World
Since my conversation with Michelle, I’ve fallen hard in love with the Enneagram. While Myers-Briggs points out how I relate to people, the Enneagram teaches me how I relate to myself, God, and the world, and it reveals my personality’s blind spots. It identifies each personality type’s pet sin. Mine is fear. Other blind spots are gluttony, pride, and greed.
Christians have often identified with personality tests such as these because they offer insight into how we can best worship and love, and what issues may get in the way. And understanding our strengths, joys, and weaknesses allows us to better minister to the world.
Your personality is not a mistake. It is a joy to the one who created you—and he knows exactly how you can best reach the world in truth and love. Pray over the knowledge you gain from taking a personality test. Ask God how you can use this new understanding of yourself to further his kingdom. We each are a reflection of Christ, and bringing glory to God is our greatest, most constant directive.
Along with yielding insight about ourselves, personality studies can give us a new viewpoint on how deeply God knows each of his children. If psychologists can recognize the unique characteristics of so many personality types, how much more does God, our Creator, know each of us in an intimate way? Just as God knows every hair on our heads, he also knows who we are. And he’s pleased.
Becoming Like Jesus
Personality tests aren’t intended to put people into boxes. Rather, these tests are tools for relating to one another and for understanding ourselves in a way that allows us to be more gracious. We all have a laundry list of things we want to change about ourselves, and personality tests can be a step toward recognizing that we were fearfully and wonderfully made—and made with specific strengths with which to love the world.
We should each be working toward holiness, but that doesn’t mean we are working toward sameness. We don’t need to emulate each other—we need to be more like Jesus.
I’ll never be Jane. I’ve accepted this.
And you know what? She’ll never be me either. Both of us can point people to Jesus in ways the other couldn’t. Knowing that being different doesn’t mean being inferior has given me space to breathe again—and to be thankful for a God who took great care to create each of us.