SUMMARY: The idea of this article has to do with “natural” personality profiles and descriptions of people that are not helpful and that can quickly lead to sinful behavior and to discouraging thoughts.
I was talking on the phone with my brother as we do each week on our Thursday commute. My brother was commenting that he has a generally pessimistic bent toward things, “but I am trying not to focus so much on changing that part of my personality, but instead to focus on being more obedient to what the Scripture calls me to do.” This statement struck a deep chord with me and we explored that idea throughout the rest of our morning commute.
Optimist or pessimist: Which is better? Which is more godly? Extrovert of introvert? Leader or follower? Melancholy? Phlegmatic? Choleric? Which of these does the Scripture advocate?
The answer to this riddle is that we know very little about the personalities or the psychology of even the best-known biblical characters. The fact is that these modern psychological labels are unknown in the Scripture. This is because personality is not something that is under our control; it is given to us by some unknowable combination of nature and nurture that is superintended and ordained by God Himself when He knits us together in our mother’s womb. I can no more change my fundamental personality than I can change my skin color or the color of my eyes or my height.
Now, this simple statement has far-reaching implications. First, personality is spiritually neutral. No personality is inherently godly or ungodly. The Bible does not advocate or prefer any personality over any other personality, but bases judgment on entirely different criteria.
The world creates “personality profiles” that exalt some characteristics and demean others. The world exalts optimism (There is an Optimists’ Club in many places, but there are no Pessimists’ Club, as far as I know.) and pretends that this is superior to pessimism, but the Bible makes no judgment on that basis. Extroverts are supposedly better than introverts (The Myers-Briggs measures “degrees of Extroversion.”), but again you will find nothing anywhere in the Scripture to support that. The Bible is “personality neutral.” All personalities and all personality traits in the unsaved person will be engines for sin and will result in sinful behaviors. By contrast, in the person who \has been born again through faith in Christ Jesus, their personality and their personality traits are being sanctified by the indwelling Holy Spirit so that the person is being conformed more and more to Christ, not in personality, but in godliness and righteousness and faithfulness and obedience.
So then, spending time in understanding my personality is time misspent first because I cannot change my personality, but second, because I do not need to change my personality, but third and most importantly, spending time on my personality is time not spent on obedience and repentance and prayer and meditation on the Scriptures, things which will purge sin from my life and will grow me in holiness and Christ-likeness.
Personality tests lead necessarily to comparison, which produces either baseless pride (“My personality is better than yours”) or disappointment and shame (“I hate my personality profile”), both of which are absurd. If God is the One who has planned your personality according to His perfect wisdom, would it not be sinful to boast about it, as if I made some contribution to it, and would it not be sinful to dislike or detest it, since God Himself is the One who gave it to me?
Phlegmatic? Choleric? Sanguine? Melancholy? (By the way, would anyone willingly admit that they were “melancholy” as their personality type?) These are irrelevant. The question is, “Are you growing in Christ-likeness?” All personalities are given to fallen sinners and a person with any personality can be redeemed through faith in Christ Jesus. The most wicked sinner and the holiest saint can share the exact same personality profile. In fact, the same person who lived in wickedness and disobedience with their personality can live in Christ in sanctification and obedience with the exact same personality.
Are you a Myers-Briggs ISTJ or maybe an ENFP? Or are you somewhere in between these two types? The task for all those in Christ is the same, regardless of personality or psychology: Pursue Christ, pursue holiness, proclaim Christ, hate sin, love righteousness, love the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself. And for every personality this task requires effort, discipline and prayer. Regardless of personality profile, the path to holiness is steep and requires perseverance. All personalities are possessed by people who must fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, so no personality has an advantage and none is handicapped.
The point, then, is this: stop concerning yourself with psychological or personality studies because those studies will drqaw you into wasted time trying to change an unchangeable personality that was given to you by God and is, therefore, perfectly acceptable to Him.
Rather than this, spend time in the Scriptures seeking out every command so that you can obey it. Spend your energy taking every thought captive and fixing your eyes on Jesus. Enjoy your personality as you grow in godly self-control. Let all be done to the glory of God.
SDG rmb 5/25/2019