Written by Jessie Ng. Originally in simplified Chinese
“Hey, what’s your MBTI (Myers-Brigg Type Indicator)?” my friend asked me.
“It’s a personality test, with 16 types! It’s pretty accurate, you should try it, to see what’s your personality type.”
When I first took the test years ago, I found the results were quite accurate in describing my personality—its strengths, weaknesses, moods, and even the way I viewed romantic relationships. Learning all these was helpful, as it gave me the confidence to grow my strengths and work on my weaknesses. It also made me aware of how I react in certain situations and how I relate to people, which gave me insight into how I could improve myself in these areas.
Since then, I have retaken the test a few more times for different reasons (work, because a friend asked, etc.) and discovered that the results had changed, which I found a bit unsettling. I thought that if the test is supposed to reveal the “real me”, shouldn’t my “real” self be something that’s set and definitive, and if so, shouldn’t the result then be consistent? But over time, I learnt that my personality changes with age and different life experiences.
Still, I wondered: “Can a personality test, with all its questions and scientific methods, be an accurate indicator of a person’s inner self?”
What I also noticed was that the test questions were based on just four “opposite” traits: extrovert/introvert; sensing/intuitive; thinking/feeling; judging/perceiving. While they do summarise some of our usual tendencies, I do believe humans are more complex than that.
How accurate are the test results? (and how “objective” can we be?)
Another thing I realised while I was doing the questionnaire was this: I would have to be self-aware enough to answer as objectively as possible and choose the way I would actually react in a given situation, and not the reaction I expect or prefer for myself (which can be very different!).
Also, how can we accurately test/gauge our “real” reaction to a situation? I imagine that at different times, I could react very differently to a situation, and there have been times when even I was surprised by my own reaction, which goes to show how these could lead to an answer that may not be all that accurate.
I also think that when a person finds the test accurate, it’s usually because the results matched their own perceptions of themselves. For instance, I could see myself as more extroverted and spontaneous, while my friends may see me as more introverted and structured, but in the end, I would think the test is accurate only if the results matched the way I perceive myself.
Similarly, if I don’t “identify” with the result, it’ll be easy for me to say that the test just isn’t accurate. Yet, shrugging these off could potentially worsen my own biases of myself and my blind spots.
I’m not throwing all personality tests out the window because I believe they can help us understand ourselves and others better. I also do think that our inner selves are revealed through the way we react to people and situations. After all, the Bible says, “You will recognise them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16).
Nevertheless, there isn’t really any one test or method in the world that can perfectly define a person. It’s not because our methods haven’t progressed or evolved enough, but because we are made by God, and our inner self, the very spirit within us, can only be known fully by our Maker (Psalm 139:2-4, 13).
This is important to remember, so that we will not simply rely on our own wisdom and judgment, but continually seek wisdom from the One who created us and knows everything.
Finding the One who truly knows us
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned more about who I am and have begun to accept myself, which has also meant that I no longer put a lot of stock into these personality tests. Even so, whenever I feel like I finally really know myself, God will often reveal even more of my true nature through certain situations and people.
For instance, whenever I take the initiative to check on someone out of concern, I would begin to think that I can be quite a caring person after all. However, when the other person keeps approaching me to “unload” all kinds of emotions and expects me to respond every single time, I’ll soon begin to feel irritated and find the other person difficult to love.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). God often finds opportunities to shatter my illusions about myself so I can see the way I really am. Whenever He does so, it moves me to admit that I truly cannot rely on my own strength, and need to humbly depend on Him to grow in love.
Through these realisations, I’m convinced that more than anything, what we really need is to see ourselves as God sees us and allow Him to change parts of us that are not pleasing to Him, so that we can be restored and renewed, and truly become the person He wants us to be.
A friend once told me that she felt that the MBTI assessment had “saved” her on some level, because it was through the test that she was able to accept who she really was. However, I believe that ultimately it is still God who truly knows us best and accepts us fully, and most importantly, it is Christ who saves us. Because our greatest flaw is sin, and our deepest yearning is really to be reconciled with God, only Christ is able accomplish all of these for us.
While personality tests give us a small window into ourselves, we shouldn’t hold onto these religiously, thinking this is just who we are and that we’ll never change because this is our personality. We need to trust God’s judgment of who we are, receive the light of His Word, so that our “true nature” will be changed.
Through Christ’s redeeming work and His love for us, we can and will be transformed into the most glorious version of ourselves (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Personality tests have given us a pathway to accept and embrace ourselves, and this can be comforting as we learn how to love ourselves, but the biggest comfort we have is that God has not only accepted us, He has chosen us in Christ even before creation (Ephesians 1:4). The peace that this acceptance brings is far beyond what any personality test can offer.