Are you an otter or a golden retriever? Are you a “D” or an “I”? Are you an “ENTJ” or “INFP”? Are you a green or a red?
The list could go on and on, for this is the vocabulary of the personality test. I’ve taken several of them myself, and I am consistently amazed at how accurate they seem to be. In case you’re not familiar with the process, you answer a bunch of questions, and then the survey tool classifies you into one of a various number of personality types. You then receive a description of your personality which tells you about your tendencies, your reactions, your likes, and dislikes.
These can be very valuable tools. In the workplace, personality tests are useful for teaching teams how to effectively relate to one another. They can show you the kind of communication that works best for one person or another; they can also show you the “buttons” that another person has so that you can be careful not to push too many of them.
For the Christian, personality tests like this can be useful for helping us understand and embrace God’s unique activity alive and well in each one of us. They can help us understand how He specifically knit us together to the end that we might discover how to make the most of our personality and gifts for the sake of the gospel and the local church. It’s through tools like this that we can embrace the fact that we are “have been remarkably and wondrously made” (Ps. 119:14).
Unfortunately, though, personality tests can go very wrong in one simple way:
Your personality test is not a license to be a jerk.
We might tend to think it does. After all, we might reason, God has made me this way. Yes, I know my personality is a bit abrasive, but that’s because I’m this color or that animal or this combination of letters.
And yet if you’re a Christian, knowing your personality is not your end game. Neither is knowing what particular temptations you find most difficult. In the second case, we do well to understand our weak points not purely for the sake of knowledge, but so that we can pray about them. We can trust the Holy Spirit. We can put up safeguards in our lives in order to avoid them.
This is because holiness is our goal. Self-knowledge is not.
The same principle translates over to our personalities. We might take a test that reveals all kinds of things about our personality. But this is not merely knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Instead, we have this self-knowledge so that we can know the particular areas into which the image of Christ must be pressed. This helps us know where we are vulnerable.
So, Christian, don’t use your personality test as a crutch. Use it as an opportunity to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit to make you like Jesus.