A few years ago I discovered the 16 Personalities test (based off of the Myers Briggs personality test, I believe). Fascinated and bit sceptical, I spent the approximate 10 minutes it takes to answer all the questions. As I read the results, I found myself laughing, rather astounded at the accuracy of them! I could have literally been reading a description of myself.
Over the next few weeks, I got my husband to take it, then some close friends. Then a few more family members. Then the people we spent Thanksgiving with. It was rather hilarious and quite insightful as we read the results to one another, verbally processing them and noting the differences and similarities of various personality types. It was fun and super interesting.
But, in the midst of the new insights and useful knowledge, I became keenly aware of several ways something like this–a helpful tool–could also be used in an unhealthy way. So it got me thinking: what place should personality tests have in the life of a follower of Jesus?
where it’s right… and where it’s not
God has given us sharp minds, and a world full of materials in order to create things that will enrich our lives and the lives of those around us. He’s a God of creativity and intelligence, and being made in His image, He’s given us these traits to use for His glory and our good (I don’t know about you, but I’m so thankful someone decided to invent things things like ovens and pianos and stuff). They are gifts from a gracious and kind Heavenly Father who cares for us.
The problem comes when we begin to cling to these tools, thinking about or using them in a way that becomes detrimental to our lives, especially in a spiritual way. When we become dependent on them or use them to justify sin – in essence adopt them as mini idols – the very good gifts take over a place (even if seemingly small) that was only meant to be filled by God.
And this is where personality tests come in. Yes, these can be used in harmless, even good and insightful ways. I know many (including myself) who have gained insight into the minds of others, whether spouses or family or friends or co-workers, that has been incredibly helpful in certain circumstances. But it’s when this tool is elevated to a position of insight and authority that is reserved for God alone, or when it is used to justify sin or put an unhealthy focus on self, that it becomes dangerous.
I’m going to break those down just a bit.
Too Much Authority
I’ve been increasingly concerned at the weight I’ve sometimes seen being put on certain personality tests (I won’t mention which), There seems to be a dependence being ascribed to them for insight into ourselves that encroaches on the dependence we should only have in the Lord.
Proverbs 1:2a says,
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…”
And Proverbs 2:6 says,
“For the Lord gives wisdom;
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
God can definitely use these tests to bring insights that are helpful; information that can be used to strengthen and build up the Body. But we need to remember that even if these had never been invented and this information were not available to us, we would still have all we need in Jesus for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Because these tests were invented by humans with finite minds, they will never compare to the supernatural wisdom of our all-knowing, all-wise Creator. They will most definitely break down at one point or another.
So as we approach these tests, we should always be sure to give ultimate authority to our Lord and Savior, who holds all knowledge in His almighty hands.
Another trap we need to be very careful of is not using the insights these tests give into our personalities to justify the specific sins that accompany them (or… us).
It can be tempting to say when confronted with our sin, “Well, that’s just who I am; the test said so.” But the power of God is not stunted by our personalities. He came to sanctify and transform these specific weaknesses of ours for His glory, using them as a testimony of His ability to do the impossible in and through us.
So, when the Lord uses these personality tests to cause us to come face-to-face with our sin, let’s allow Him to convict and change us in order to become more like Him.
Too Much of Us
One last thing we need to be careful of is to not allow personality tests to take away our focus on God and put it onto ourselves. It’s certainly not bad to gain understanding into the intricacies of who we are… as long as it is ultimately to know how better to love and serve God with these “selves” He’s entrusted us with.
It is not the knowledge of ourselves, but the knowledge of Christ that brings transformation.
Paul said to the Believers at Colossae,
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him; bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)
Knowledge of ourselves will only be eternally helpful if it is grounded first in the never-changing reality of who God is.
more of him
God knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. He has set our days, He knows our “inward parts,” (Psalm 139:13) and can be trusted to give us the understanding we need to use our complicated and often confusing personalities to advance His Kingdom on earth. No matter how detailed the profiles and numbers, it will never compare to the knowledge that comes from knowing and loving Him.