Perceiving Personhood: How Personality Profiles Promote Peace
Understanding Leads to Unity
Much of life's problems come from a lack of understanding, or at least a willingness to understand the other person's point of view. If people took just a little extra time to understand themselves and the other person in conflict with them, a majority of the world's problems would turn peaceful.
This fact is apparent and abundant in scripture. Firstly, many passages equate understanding with Wisdom (Job 28:12, Deuteronomy 1:13) and also state that understanding comes from God (Job 32:8). We also know that understanding is a valued trait that sets men apart (Deuteronomy 1:13), and that it helps us avoid evil, keep God's law, and live upright lives (Job 28:28, Psalm 119:34, Psalm 119:144). There are dozens of examples in the Old Testament alone--these are just a few.
The Beauty of Personhood
When trying to understanding the "other", the primary means by which we do so is to perceive their person-hood--who they are. Hopefully, this is done in light of who they are in Christ, which is the common sense of identity that all humans share. An especially important tool in understanding a person is looking at their personality--their typical pattern of thought, motivation, and behavior. This personality, in many ways, come's from God as he created us each for a purpose, with unique gifts, and with unique ways of acting. Our personality is largely out of our control, and is shaped not only by who God created us to be, but also by our past experiences. By understanding where someone is coming from (thoughts, motivations, fears, joys, hermeneutic, etc.) we can begin to see the beautiful person God made them to be, and thus identify with their struggles and see the core of conflict. Granted, this probably won't solve all of the world's problems, but personality profiling can be a very useful paradigm for being a diplomatic peacemaker.
There are 3 major personality profiles used by mainstream psychologist, pastors, and lay-persons today. They are the Meyers-Briggs (MBTI), The Four Temperaments, and The Enneagram. The Temperaments and the Enneagram are the most often used in Christian Circles, however, the most common and basic test is the Myers-Briggs.
Myers-Briggs: The Myer's-Briggs is used mainly to analyze method's of cognitive functioning, perception, and social relationship (how we think, perceive, and relate). It is provides four axes to analyze: Extroversion Vs. Introversion ( E-I), Sensing Vs. Intuition (S-N), Thinking Vs. Feeling (T-F), and Judging Vs. Perceiving (J-P). The first axis is a measure of where one receives energy--extroverts receive energy from interaction from others, while Introverts receive energy from being alone. The second axis is how we process information-- Sensing individuals tend to focus on concrete details, while Intuitives tend to focus on abstract theories. The third axis deals with how we make decisions--Thinkers make decisions based on logic and experience, while Feelers tend to make decisions based of emotions at the time. Finally, the fourth axis deals with how organized we are--Judgers tend to like things orderly, prepared, and constant, while Perceivers tend to like things random, impulsive, and changing.
Temperament: The Four Temperaments are based off of ancient Greek beliefs and are widely used as an analysis of behavior trends, and are name after the bodily fluids like which they act. The four temperaments are phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, and melancholic, and are based off two axes, extroversion and intensity of reaction. Sanguines are extroverted and quick to react and cool down. Cholerics are extroverted and slow to react and cool down. Melancholics are typically introverted with quick. Phlegmatics are typically introverted with slow reactions. These of course are all just general rules, and for more details check out numerous online reference or any temperament book (my favorite is "The Temperament God Gave You", by Art and Lorraine Bennett).
Enneagram: The Enneagram is an ancient Sik practice, but is often used by Christians as a reflection on ourselves and our relationship with the 7 deadly sins. Each number 1-9 is said to be based of which deadly sin the person is most likely to engage in (they also add deceit and fear as "sins"). The Enneagram is also used to asses the primary motivation and fear of the person. For more information on the Enneagram, check out the embedded link or any of the other numerous sources.
Understanding Self and Others
By understanding yourself and other's one can begin to see both problems and compliments when interacting with others, as well as ways to motivate themselves and others. For example, on the MBTI I am an ISFJ. This means that often my energy is worn down by extroverted types, I fail to sometimes follow the logical argument of thinking types, I am person oriented, and I value order, sometimes being annoyed by the random or inconsistent. Knowing this, I can adequately prepare myself when I know I will be interacting with people who might be my opposite. On the Temperament I am predominantly a Phelgmatic, meaning I am stable, easy-going, and non-confrontational, but also have trouble motivating myself to do difficult tasks and am also seen as lazy. Knowing weaknesses helps me to motivate myself as well as others. On the Enneagram I am a 4, whose primary motivation is relationship, whose primary fear is being alone, and whose deadly sin is envy. Knowing this about me and others, helps me overcome sin and fear, as well as help others to do the same.
Obviously no personality profile is 100% accurate, and everyone exhibits some characteristics of all types. Because of this, one should not be afraid that a personality type will "label them", because it does not diminish the individuality of the human person, but rather enhances their understanding. Personality typing, when used correctly, can be a beautiful tool in growing in harmonious relationship with self, other, and God.
© 2009 R D Langr