All temperaments can serve the material for ruin or for salvation.
— Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

I am an INTJ. I am a high D, high C. I am Creative Pattern. I am a 1. I like being able to identify myself as a something. I like being able to put a person in a box and say, “You are this type of person.” I like the neatness of defining people, and I like how it immediately explains how I can relate to someone. You’re an ESFP? We’re exact opposites. You’re an INFP? You’re me, with feelings.

There are countless types of personality tests and different psychologists and researchers. Carl Jung began outlining personality types in 1921, during the rise of psychoanalysis as a form of therapy.  He identified two perceiving functions, sensation and intuition, and two judging functions, thinking and judging. He paired these with social preferences - either introverted or extraverted - to form eight personality types.

Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator during World War II. This is where we find the four letter personality types ranging from ESFP (Extraverted-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving) to INTJ (Introverted-Intuition-Thinking-Judging).

David Keirsey split the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types into four temperaments, based on the combination of Jung’s original letters - S for sensation, N for intuition, F for feeling, and J for judging. NFs are the opposite temperament from SJs.

The DISC is based on the work of another psychologist, William Marston, and focuses on the amount of Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance an individual exhibits. The results are plotted to form a “pattern,” which people describe by saying “I’m a high C and a low I.” These patterns are also named: the Creative and the Perfectionist are two.

The Enneagram of Personality is an ancient form with nine personality types interconnected to form a shape called an enneagram (from the Greek for nine and written or drawn) that can be traced back to the 4th century. The current understanding of the nine types (enneatypes) comes from the work of Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. It became popular in the US in spiritual circles (thanks in part to Richard Rohr and adoption by Christian spiritualists) and with business leaders.

Research has shown that personality type is linked to the brain and development. Personality types are in our DNA and our neurobiology. Our brains also change over our lifetime. And not just in the way that we kill brain cells by banging our head against the wall - studies have shown that people who spend 30 minutes a day praying or meditating have lower blood pressure, better focus, and less stress. Different parts of their brain literally light up because they practice prayer. Focusing on a higher being changes the biology of our brain.

Who we are forms the core of our being. This is how we would relate, react, and act if we lived in a vacuum. But, since no one lives in a vacuum, we fluctuate and change from the core of who we are, in response to our environment and relationships. If both partners in a marriage are INTJs, one may become more emotional and develop the Feeling function in order to make up for the lack of Fs in their relationship over time.

Often personality types are brought up in workplaces (I bring it up incessantly in staff meetings - pointing out everyone’s type as I go) or relationships (pre-marital counseling sometimes involves taking a personality test), but personality types also relate to our spirituality. We don’t just relate to our colleagues and friends, but we relate to God, and we each relate to our idea of God differently.

God speaks to us in solitude and in community. He speaks to us through direct speech, through miracles, through fire, through our own guts. God is aware of our context of understanding because God is also present in our context. While we may not respond so well to a bush perpetually on fire today, God spoke into Moses’ context in a way that would grab his attention. If we are skeptical of miracles’ validity, God will not speak to us in miracles. While God is a paradigm-shifter, moving our accepted worldviews and practices one step closer to shalom, His peace, he does so within our contexts.

God does not speak only to those who do a certain thing. God is speaking and moving and breathing and we are caught in it. We just assign our own boundaries to it.

I have always wanted to put God into a box. If I can put people into a box with a 10 question personality quiz, why cannot I also put God into a box? I want to say “yes, I understand God, now I can put that to the side and move on.” But God doesn’t work like that. Understanding God is not something that can be achieved, just as “knowing everything” (a goal of mine as a child) is not attainable. Sure, we know people who are good at trivia because they have a large memory, but they do not know everything. Even the most enlightened and wise seeker of truth does not understand God fully. In fact, he or she may be the best asker of questions, rather than the answerer.

Part of my personality is intense curiosity. I want to know the connection between how the brain works and how personality expresses itself. I want to know about the brain and God. To this end, my desktop is full of neuroscience articles. Science Mike is my nerd hero because he and the cohost of The Liturgists podcast, Michael Gungor, have been hugely influential in my thinking about God over the past few months. It was great to be able to pick his brain this past week at our first FCQ event. I hope you’ll join us for more events in this series, with Nikki Lerner and Justin Lee.