By / Apr 15

I’ve never been a fan of tract homes. While I like symmetry and order, tract homes seem to lack creativity. You walk down the street and see Home A, Home B, Home C, Home B, Home A, another Home B, and so it goes. God doesn’t create cookie-cutter homes. He’s a much better designer. In his creation we see order and symmetry, but also complexity, beauty, and diversity. This is especially true in his creation of human beings. While there are some clear categories, such as two clear sexes, humans are created as unique individuals. People don’t fit into just four types of personalities repeated over and over. There are thousands of variables and these are changing over time as individuals develop.

Personality tests can sometimes box people in. DiSC, Enneagram, Myers Briggs all attempt to describe us and sometimes can be wrongly used to define us. I’m actually fascinated by personality tests; I enjoy taking them and have learned a lot from them. They have their place, but they also have their misapplications.

Personality tests can be wrongly used to excuse our sin.

Sometimes when we hurt others, we use our personality as the reason. “I wasn’t being rude. That’s just who I am.” We believe who we are is static, yet we arrogantly expect others to change to accommodate our personality. This ignores the biblical principle of considering others as more important than ourselves.

We can also use personality tests as a way of boxing ourselves in and letting our sin and temptations define us. “I can’t help this sin; that’s who God made me.” “I’ll always be a 2. I can’t change. I might as well give in to my people-pleasing.” Believing we can’t change is hopeless and untrue. It ignores sanctification. God is at work changing us. We are new creations. We aren’t stuck. Yes, there are some propensities I will fight until the day I die, but I’m not given over to them.

Personality tests can be wrongly used to accuse others.

“You are such a 7.” “Okay, Miss ENFJ!” “You always…” “You never…” “There you are showing your C again.” We categorize others and attribute motives to their actions. An innocent mistake or an off-hand remark can be perceived as characteristic of that person or as showing malice. Someone trying to serve and further a project can be perceived as domineering because they are such a “D.” As fallen human beings, we are all prone to what has been termed by social psychologists as the “Fundamental Attribution Error.” We often understand our own actions in light of the surrounding circumstances, but others’ actions we attribute to resulting from who they are. For example, when I cut someone off in traffic it is because I am late, I didn’t know where I was going, or I was thinking of the fight I just had with someone, but when someone cuts me off in traffic it’s because she is a jerk who doesn’t care about anyone but herself.

Defining others by their personality or interpreting their actions based upon a category ignores God’s work in others. If understanding personalities helps us sharpen our brother or sister, encourage them, or lovingly ask a question to better understand their motive, it’s good. If it leads us to accuse them, it’s not. After all, Christ sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, while Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Which side do we wish to join?

Personality tests can help us better understand ourselves.

Calvin in his institutes links the knowledge of God and knowledge of self. There is a benefit to self-contemplation. Personality tests can expose us and show us our need for Christ. It can also help us live out who God made us to be for his glory. Taking the DiSC profile before I moved to my new job helped me expect ways the transition would be difficult for me. The report rightly identified that when I make decisions or bold changes I tend to consider all the potential failures rather than the possibilities. The profile allowed me to not be surprised by the list of horrible possibilities that came to mind in that transition. I was able to identify what was going on when my mind went down that path, to take courage, and to ask God and others for help as I walked through the move. Personality tests are helpful where they help us understand who we are in our gifting, propensities, and temptations so that we can better serve God and others.

Personality tests can help us better understand and work with others.

I can foolishly think everyone else sees things the same way I do. That assumption can lead to conflict. Personality tests remind me that not everyone else is motivated by the same things as I am or has the same thought processes as I do. It helps me celebrate and utilize my brothers’ and sisters’ gifting, and it also helps me work through conflict that comes while working on projects with people who differ from me.

At an event I was throwing with a friend, we had handwritten instructions posted on a piece of paper for the guests. All night long my co-host and I were at battle with one another moving the sign. She kept moving it to a more prominent place. I kept moving it to a less-visible place where the instructions were accessible when needed but weren’t an eye-sore. We got frustrated with each other. We talked about it later and laughed, but it wasn’t until a personality test told me that aesthetics was one of my highest values and utility one of my lowest, that I realized what had motivated our war. With this knowledge of myself, instead of being annoyed with her, I could have recognized why it was important to me, recognized she was trying to be practical, not annoying, and I could have created a more attractive sign to accomplish both.

Personality tests can be wrongly used to box ourselves or others in, or they can be used to grow in understanding, humility, service, and to celebrate diversity. Personality types can be helpful in describing how God created and wired different human beings. They should not be used to define ourselves and others. Enjoy and delight in differences. Be challenged by a friend who thinks, responds, or is motivated differently than you in a situation. We are all humans in progress. Personality doesn’t excuse my sin or hopelessly define me or others.

By / Jan 14

Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught . . . Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. ― Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor

In my last article on personal vision I said, “Our personal vision is the clearest description of our calling, what God has made us to do in this life.” The question we want to address in today is, “How do we discover our personal vision, or calling?”

It is important to remember that jobs and careers come and go. Your calling—your God-appointed mission in life—stays constant throughout your life because it is a reflection of who God has made you to be.

George Barna defines “vision” as “the clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to his chosen servants based upon an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstances.” Given this definition we can begin to see why it is so important for us to discover our calling, or personal vision. Discovering our personal vision will help us to:

  • Live holistic lives. Theologian Louis Berkhof wrote, “…If all those who are now citizens of the Kingdom would actually obey its laws in every domain of life, the world would be so different that it would hardly be recognized.”
  • Live with a Kingdom focus. Jesus tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 6:33).
  • Live lives that are transformational. As Christians who become salt and light, we have the ability to influence and transform the world around us (Matt. 5:13-16).
  • Live in a uniquely Christian manner. We must live lives worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1-16).
  • Live with an eye to the common good. We are most blessed when we are a blessing to others (Jer. 29:7).

Our calling is the expression of our personalities and our gifts in a unique, given direction. In seeking to discover our personal vision, we must realize that God created us with many particular characteristics, desires, and talents. Instead of embracing the world’s maxim, “You are what you do,” we are to understand God’s calling to say, “Do what you are.”

Here are five areas in which you can find clues that will help you discover you personal vision:

  • Personality: Understand your God-given personality, because it defines the real you. There are many tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that you can take this will give you great insight into your personality.
  • Strengths and gifts: Take a test like StrengthsFinder, to help you more clearly identity your strengths and gifts.
  • Passions: Sit down and make a list of the things you are really passionate about.
  • Life verse: Is there one verse in the Scriptures that so strongly resonates with you that you would call it your life verse?
  • Life history: As you look back through your life, even your childhood, are there things that you were really good at and sincerely enjoyed doing?

As you prayerfully consider these five areas, a picture of who God has made you to be will begin to emerge. This picture may be fuzzy at first, but it will begin to give you a foundation on which you can create a meaningful personal vision for your life. It’s also important to work through these five areas in community. Your friends, family, and church can help you see your personality, your strengths and gifts, and other aspects of yourself you might not see at first.

Our world is governed by God, and so is your life. You are the work of his hands. The only way your life will have true meaning is when you engage God’s world the way that he designed you to. Early in the Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf tells Frodo, “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

And so it is with each of us.

Related:

Five tools for thinking biblically about faith, work and economics

Why is personal vision important?

This article originally appeared on the website of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics.