“Oh LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” Psalm 139:1
There are heaps of cultural myths and trends around personality classification. When a charismatic worship leader gets up on stage, you might think, ‘Wow. He’s a real personality.’ As if all extroverts have arrived. Then there’s the theory championed by people like Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Cain asserts that introverts are the real world changers, and that “there’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
You’ve probably been told that you’re a typical firstborn / lastborn / INTJ / ESFP/ melancholic / choleric / etc. Maybe you’ve drawn those kinds of straight lines around others. Because we’ve been educated to package. Google offers 50 million results in 0.44 seconds for “personality type”. There are a myriad of theories and banks of descriptors.
And it’s all good.
Boxing people (in categories – not with gloves) helps us to understand behaviour and predict reactions. It gives us a kind of “it is what it is” perspective. It helps us to tolerate and accept – even embrace – the differences we encounter in others.
It also helps us to make peace with who we are. The Gallup StrengthsFinder test emphasises that your personality strengths are actually talents. Being positive or contemplative, then, isn’t just how you’ve always been – like being tall, or a brunette. Those attributes are gifts – marvellous proof of how profoundly capable you are. And personality profiling helps us to accept who we are, and how we are. If a personality test reveals that you will never be the life of the party, stop trying to be the life of the party. It’s a beautiful thing – a great relief – to release yourself to be happily just who God made you to be.
But boxing (in categories – and with gloves) can also be dangerous.
Profiling can predetermine your behaviour if you believe that you should think or feel or enjoy something because it’s what all sanguines or phlegmatics should think or feel or enjoy. Don’t be too hung up on labels – on what’s “typical”. Because actually, the only thing that’s typical about you is you. There are you-shaped gaps that only you can fill. I love what Andy Stanley says – how only the manufacturer, purchaser or owner of something can label it. Only God gets to stick labels on our lives. Because only he made us and bought us. And we belong only to him. He knows us better than anyone, and it’s in getting to know him that we see ourselves as he does – and as we should.
Point to ponder
Personality descriptors can be helpful. But actually, there’s no one else on the planet quite like you.
Verse to remember
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16
Question to consider
What labels has the world stuck on your life? Should you let them stick?
. . .
Thanks for grace to let me share these S.H.A.P.E. devotions in this small quiet corner of the web. I’ve decided to post them on Thursdays only – so as to keep up the rhythm of Monday musings on truth, courage and obedience.
In other news – we’re into the final editing of Dragons and Dirt and I feel all *happy-dance-pinch-myself-terrified*. There’s still a truckload to do and all sorts of big grownup decisions to make, so thank you for praying and please don’t stop. (INSERT: enormous hug for you.)
I’m also super excited about heading to Atlanta at the end of September for Catalyst where I’ve been invited to be the speaker host for Ann Voskamp (Oh. My. Word.). And I’m preparing for some cool speaking opportunities around Gauteng between now and October.