Celebrating the Gift that You and Your Personality Are

personality-differences-300x200 “I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Ps. 139:14

I still remember the first time I heard those words from David’s psalm. Surrounded by hundreds of beautiful college girls at South Padre Island, TX, for a spring break trip with a campus ministry, I could not relate. I did not think God had made me wonderfully at all. I didn’t particularly care for how I looked—especially when I compared myself to the beauty queens or tomboys. And as far as my personality, people were nice to me, but it seemed more like they were putting up with me, not that anyone especially sought me out to be my friend.

Four months before this trip, I’d convinced myself I had nothing to offer…and so I had decided to take my life.

In that critical moment, however, God had persuaded me that He had offered everything for me. So, rather than taking my life, I gave it to Him.

And thus began my celebration of life. And not just life in general, but my life.

As I listened to the cute young speaker share how she’d recently married her own prince, I thought how easy it was for her to say she was wonderfully made. But as she went on about God how had created each one of us with our own stories and families, the shape of our face, eye color, and body-build, as well as our personalities, the message began to sink in that each and every one of us were made in His image to reflect His glory.

Sally Lloyd Jones captures the idea beautifully in her Jesus Storybook Bible after God breathed life into Adam and Eve:

            “When they opened their eyes, the first thing they ever saw was God’s face. And when God saw them, He was like a new dad. ‘You look like Me,’ He said. ‘You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made!’

            God loved them with all of His heart. And they were lovely because He loved them.”

 I began to believe that God looked at me like a new dad seeing his own face when he holds his bundle of joy. I began to believe that I truly was fearfully and wonderfully made. And I praised Him. My heart rejoiced over Him with singing.

Isn’t it amazing to stop and consider how God delights in you? To muse over the reality that He rejoices over you with singing? That you are the apple of His eye? To know that He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for you?

It was that spring that I first took the MBTI®, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, instrument. For the first time ever, I gained insight into what I’d previously seen as quirks and shortcomings, and I also began to celebrate not only my strengths, but to have a deeper appreciation of the gifts and preferences of others. Rather than coveting the gifts of others, I began to rejoice over them and see how God had created each person beautifully and uniquely as He wove us together in a beautiful tapestry of life.

I’d always been organizationally challenged and could easily overextend myself as I enthusiastically went from one activity to the next, wanting to say ‘yes’ to everything. The insight I gained from MBTI® helped me to appreciate how He has gifted some to be more organized naturally and to keep their feet planted and to develop structures and refinement for visionaries and idea people like me. This awareness helped me intentionally hone my enthusiasm and energy to areas where I was most passionate and to look to my personality counterparts for structure.

MBTI certified logoBut what I’ve come to appreciate most about the MBTI® has taken years to uncover. Like a precious gift, it is a tool God has used to open my heart to celebrate with deeper joy my husband, children, coworkers, board members, and all kinds of people God has placed in my life.

While the MBTI® describes sixteen distinct personality types, understanding the nuts and bolts of the theory can be the key to beginning the celebration of one another.

NOTE: If you haven’t taken the MBTI® and verified your type with a certified professional, let me encourage you to do that. There are all kinds of online instruments; however, the MBTI® has gone through extensive studies for reliability and validity, having been used for 50 years. Being trademark protected means it is a psychological instrument you can trust. If you don’t see the trademark, you may find yourself getting information that confuses you or that doesn’t seem consistent, reliable, or valid. http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/different-from-other-questionnaires.htm

Isabel Briggs Myers developed the instrument after she and her mother, Katharine C. Briggs, studied and applied their understanding of the ideas of psychologist Carl Jung, as they observed personalities of their family and friends.

One of my favorite aspects of learning about the MBTI® is how Jung theorized that we all have certain preferences we’re born with—like being left or right handed. That one hand is dominant and we use it naturally with ease. We use our other hand as well—it helps us like an auxiliary. But to use it for a primary task would take considerable concentration and effort. However, with practice and nurture, we can become better at using it for that task and even develop proficiency. For example, a right-handed painter can become so skilled in using his left hand for corners and edging that he can use it as easily and naturally for painting as he does his right hand. But, he is still right-hand dominant naturally.

personality-3x4Our personality preferences are like that. There are eight preferences, arranged in four pairs. With each one, we have a natural preference that we’re born with. However, if we practice using or nurturing a preference, particularly in a work or school situation, we can become so good at it, we can think of that preference as natural.

For example, the last pair of letters, J-P, has to do with how you approach the outside world. Do you seek to organize and control it or to simply experience it?

My natural preference (P) is organizationally challenged. Some might call me scattered. I actually just like to keep my options open and be flexible. However, because of the negative reinforcement I got for typically being disorganized and late, I developed ways to compensate. I learned to use tools like Excel and a filing system and a calendar with notifications. And a timer. So, people who don’t know me well are often surprised to hear me say that I’m not naturally organized. However, for me, trying to be organized is like writing with my left hand. I can do it, but it takes much more energy and time than it would for someone who is organized naturally.

At the same time, as I began developing organizational skills and gained some success, organizing became fun for me. In some areas I’m quite proficient. Taking the MBTI® with the mindset of all the benefits of organizing would skew my results. It’s only going to report what I indicate as I use the instrument.

In the same way, volunteers who are P-types in the PMC, who do not use a linear services model, may love the liberty they have to say what they feel led to say when seeing women. But when they learn of the liability that can be created if they say something they shouldn’t, they may see the value of structure and a systematic plan in serving patients. If they take the MBTI® after they’ve just gone through linear training, or have experienced success with the linear model, they could feel so positive about structure and organization that they skew the results.

Likewise, a J-type who naturally wants to organize and control the environment may come to appreciate the flexibility and last-minute resourcefulness of their P-counter-types. They may find themselves wishing they were less-controlling, and as they learn to let go and find that it can actually be fun to loosen up, they could skew the results if they took the MBTI® in that mindset.

The purpose of the MBTI® is to help you assess your natural preferences—what comes easiest and most naturally for you—like which hand you write with naturally. As you understand your natural preferences, you are able to determine your MBTI® Type, which unlocks a world of self and other awareness and understanding.

That’s why, when you take the MBTI® with a certified practitioner, one of the first things we tell you before you complete the assessment is to not think about how you are at work or school, where you may have developed or nurtured skills that might make it difficult for you to choose which word is most like you. It is in your discovery of who you are naturally that you can most benefit from and assist those around you. This understanding becomes a tool to help you celebrate more deeply all the people God has placed in your home, work, and everywhere else in your life, as well who God has created you to be.

For example, one of the wisest decisions I ever made as an executive director was hiring an assistant and a development manager who could compensate and complement for my being a P-type. By hiring a J, I didn’t have to work so hard at organizing, because I knew it came naturally for her, and I could depend on her to help me. Communicating openly about her being a J and me being a P strengthened our relationship and the fun we had working together as a team.

Most people are familiar with the terms represented by first pair of letters, E-I, but they probably don’t know that Jung coined the terms, ‘extrovert’ and ‘introvert,’ and unfortunately, the terms have been widely misused and misunderstood. People commonly think of extroverts as outgoing and talk a lot and introverts as shy and quiet, when in reality extroverts may in fact be really good listeners, and introverts may not be shy at all and can be quite talkative when it comes to a topic about which they are knowledgeable and or passionate.

Knowing that extroverts typically think out loud and learn best through talking things through and discussing while introverts work out their ideas by reflecting on them privately is important information for everyone on your team and in your family. Extroverts are typically impulsive—acting or speaking first, and then thinking about it later, while introverts tend to take their time in making a decision—thinking first, then acting or speaking. Extroverts tend to be doers—they tend to be action-oriented. Introverts tend to be thinkers—they are more deliberate in what they say and do.

As an extrovert who is married to an introvert with three introverted children and one extroverted child, I celebrate both extroverts and introverts. I easily say and do things I later regret because of my impulsivity. My husband may get a text or an email and never respond simply because he wants to think about it first and isn’t quick to act.

So, I’ve learned that sometimes I need to take a little time before responding. Or when talking to someone, to clarify that I’m simply thinking out loud. And I’ve encouraged my husband that the person on the other end can’t read his mind—that they don’t know that he’s thinking about it, and they need to hear from him.

And since people tend to interpret silence negatively, I encourage us both to respond with a simple, “Let me give it some thought and get back to you,” which helps us work within our natural preference while being considerate of others.

As an ED, being aware of the introverts on my board who were going to want more information before making a decision gave me valuable insight and helped me be better prepared and to send them resources or materials they could read. Being aware that I am an extrovert and that both my board and staff might see me as impulsive helped me to slow down and make sure that everyone had the information they needed before moving forward with various projects. It helped me to know that introverts weren’t trying to make my life difficult. They were being true to who they were. Recognizing that God made each one of us and that in His wisdom, He sets people in places to serve Him, helped me to celebrate what each one brought to the table.

In the PMC, there are times we need to be quick on our feet and other times we need to take a moment to reflect before acting or speaking. Just being aware of this difference and knowing our natural preference can help us look at a situation and make a decision based on the needs of the moment. Knowing that what comes easiest for us is not always best can help us seek out those team members who have our opposite preference and sharpen us, enabling us to make better decisions for our organization.

Whether God made you a J or P, or an E or I, He celebrates you, and so do I. He created you with your natural preferences and likely you have nurtured other skills and preferences through life experiences, but there is only one YOU. God placed you where you are at this time for His purpose. (Acts 17:26)

If you would like to have your team go through an MBTI® instrument with a Sparrow Solutions Group consultant, that is one of the many services we offer.

While you may have an MBTI® certified facilitator in your area, you may find it beneficial to have someone who also shares unique knowledge and expertise of the PMC world.

Reni Bumpas
Sparrow Solutions Consultant
MBTI® Certified Facilitator

Stay updated on information that could impact you in your local PMC

Subscribe to the PMC Advisor Newsletter