The Myers Briggs: How It's Helpful & Hurtful
Chinese people look at calendar years. Koreans scrutinize blood types. New Age folks use Zodiac Signs. And Americans - we have the Myers Briggs. All of these are different, cultural ways to discover our personality types to help determine our "fate" i.e. our values, career, spouse, etc.
I don't know about you but in my circles, the Myers-Briggs is a major talking point. For most people, it's merely a fun "get-to-know-you" conversation starter. But for others, it tends to be an identity marker that defines who they (and others) are.
As a Christian though, how should we view the Myers-Briggs? I propose that, like most things in life, the MBTI can be both helpful and hurtful depending on how you use it.
How the Myers-Briggs Can Be Helpful
1) Helps Understand Ourselves
Before I thought I was weird for wanting to spend time alone at a coffee shop rather than hanging out at the beach with friends. But it's helpful to know there's a spectrum in life called "introversion" and others dwell in this land with me (in separate corners of course).
One thing I appreciate about the Myers-Briggs is that it helps me understand why I act a certain way. Though I may be a weirdo, my actions have social plausibility i.e. there are other weirdos like me out there. As a result, I feel less self-conscious & thus more comfortable in my skin.
2) Helps Understand Others
If Andy Dufresne escaped prison through the communication of ants, I'd groan. But if Paul Rudd escapes a police station this way, I laugh in amusement. Why? My criteria is different. I know Ant-Man is a Marvel super-hero movie while Shawshank Redemption is a drama. In other words, the genre helps me evaluate the movie.
What the Myers-Briggs does is help me evaluate a person with a different criteria. I can't expect a "thinker" to interpret situations the way a "feeler" does. That's just not how their "genre" works. As a result, I'm encouraged to be patient with who they are & I'm better able to accept them.
How the Myers-Briggs Can Be Hurtful
1) Presumes Self-Awareness
One issue I always had with the Myers-Briggs is how it presupposes self-awareness. After all, when you take the test, you're answering according to how you think you'd respond to certain situations. But isn't the heart supposed to deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9)?
Consequently, I can't help but think our Myers-Briggs reflects not who we really are but rather who we think we are or want to be. I personally feel it'd be more interesting (and accurate) to see a person take the MBTI together with a spouse or friend who knows them really well.
2) Overly Simplistic
The Myers-Briggs assumes that personality traits fall into mutually exclusive categories. Ex: You're either an extrovert or an introvert; you're either a thinker or a feeler. But I find that these mutually exclusive categories often create a distorted and often overly simplistic picture of an individual.
From my experience, people are much more complicated than this. While I'm sure we lean towards one personality trait over another, what the Myers-Briggs seems to do is narrow us down to simply one category. But this doesn't really match the reality of who we are or who we should be, which leads to my last point.
3) Creates Excuses
You have no idea how many times I've heard people say, "Well, I'm an introvert, so you can't expect me to hang out." So just because you're supposedly an INFJ, you're forever destined to be an isolated gloomy judgmental individual? (Note: I'm an INFJ).
This may be who you are, but this is probably not who you're meant to be. Rather than seeing the Myers-Briggs as a justification for our short-comings, it should encourage us to see the areas in our lives where we need the most growth. In fact, I'd propose Christians shouldn't live out their Myers-Briggs but should live out in contrast to their Myers-Briggs.
If we're made in the image of God, the spectrum of personality traits reflect that image. But we're broken mirrors - and our Myers-Briggs may help reveal the traits we lack. Therefore, to be the human beings we're meant to be, we need to adopt the traits we're missing. The extrovert needs to be more introverted and vice-versa. The judger needs to be more perceptive and vice-versa.
The best way to do this? Hang out with people opposite from you. Feelers need to hang out with thinkers. Intuitive people need sensing people. You'll drive each other crazy - but you'll also help conform one another to the human being you're both meant to be.