When I was in college, I had to take several personality tests in my psychology classes. I took the Meyers-Briggs. I took the Kiersey Temperament Sorter. I took quizzes that claimed my birth order supposedly set the course of my life. I took several other ones that I don’t even remember.
At the same time, I was engaged and planning a wedding. As part of that, and part of preparing for marriage, I took other tests. I took the quiz in 5 Love Languages. I took about 20 quizzes in this engagement workbook that we bought to help us figure out how to relate to each other. And I probably took a few more that I, again, don’t remember.
And then they just keep popping up in life. Type A or Type B? Lion, beaver, otter, or golden retriever? How to tell your personality by drawing a pig.
You know what?
I don’t remember a single result of any of those tests.
I don’t know my four letters from Meyers-Briggs. I don’t know my love language. I don’t even remember what the Kiersey test tells you.
I just never put much stock in them.
At the time, I never thought about why I didn’t really buy into them. But I’ve thought much more about it over the last couple years as I hear more and more people use these tests to explain why they are the way they are.
Here’s the problem I have with tests and quizzes like these: they are too often seen as the answer.
We take these quizzes and get the results, and say, “Yes! That’s me exactly! That’s who I am!” Then we begin to look at life through the lens of those results.
Problems in my marriage? Well, it’s because I’m an ENFJ and he’s an ISTP and we just can’t relate to each other. (I had to google personality tests to even remember all the letters!) Or maybe it’s because my love language is acts of service but his is words of affirmation so my love tank is always empty and I can’t show him love. Or if not those two, then it must be because I’m the middle child, second daughter, younger sister, and older sister, except we’re all more than three years apart so maybe I function as an only? It makes my head spin.
These quizzes do not give us answers the way we act like they do.
Elisabeth Elliot, talking about personality tests, says this in her book Love Has a Price Tag:
[In personality tests] We’re not concerned here with what ought to be but simply with what is. Not with what I ought to be like but with what I do like, for whatever reasons. Learning ‘who I am’ requires merely the listing of traits–true enough, I suppose, but is there any place for judgment of them as faults or virtues?
Take the quiz if you want, but don’t look at it as the answer. Look at it as the way to find out the question.
How does this personality test show me areas in which I need to challenge myself to be more Christlike, more loving to my family?
What areas does it show in which I need to die to myself?
So–I am a strong introvert. But instead of using that as the explanation for why I don’t go greet visitors at church on Sunday morning, I need to recognize that I must die to my introversion and be kind to someone who may desperately need me to speak first.
I tend to be very black-and-white, right-or-wrong. But instead of using that as rationale to judge those who break my self-imposed rules, I need to set that tendency aside and look on them with the grace Christ offers.
I might think the best thing my husband can do to show me he loves me is to keep current on the to-do list around the house, and stick to the budget. But when he comes home with a couple of new books for me from Lifeway for no special occasion, I need to die to my desire to look around at any undone projects or to ask why he spent that extra money, and graciously receive the love he is offering, even though it isn’t my “preferred language.”
In short, I need to stop expecting strangers, acquaintances, friends, and the people I love most to adapt their words, actions, and relationships to my preferences, to my personality. I need to stop expecting them to accept selfishness from me just because it’s the way I’m wired.
So these tests, if you take them, need to be looked at as the questions rather than the answers. These tests do not tell you your identity. They do not tell you who you are. Your identity is found only in Christ. Period. This is true for believers and non-believers alike. You should never look at your results from some personality inventory and say, “Oh, that’s who I am.”
Instead, say, “What does this show me about areas of possible selfishness or refusal to love others in a way that’s outside my comfort zone? What does it show me about areas in which I need to grow, to look more like Jesus, to love others more selflessly?”
One more quote from Elisabeth Elliot in Love Has a Price Tag, as she is actually quoting another book:
Modern man is hung up on his identity with others in lengthy counselings. The Christian realizes that his true identity is a mystery known only to God, and that any attempt at this stage on the road of discipleship to define himself is bound to be blasphemous and destructive of that mysterious work of God forming Christ in him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Take the tests if you want. They can be helpful, but if you use them as a way to rationalize your failure to address sin in your life, then they have become much more harmful than helpful.
And if you use them as a way to define your identity then you are missing the point of your life. Your identity is in Christ, not in a personality test.
So the next time you find yourself using your personality as a defense for your actions or words, remember…
…just because it’s your personality doesn’t mean it’s right.