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When Personality Tests are Damaging

Written By Gabrielle Lee, Singapore

Introverts are quiet, shy, and don’t like meeting people.
Extraverts (or “extrovert” as this psychology term is often spelled) are loud, seek attention, and love meeting people.

You’ve probably heard such descriptions of personality types. You may have even used similar words to describe someone’s personality—or your own.

It’s pretty evident that personality assessments are all the rage these days. More and more companies and organizations pay for their staff to undergo these assessments and more and more of such “quizzes” have sprung up in recent years.

In fact, schools have also started using personality tools early to help their students become more self-aware. This is probably because we’ve realized how our personalities can influence our behavior, how we relate to people, and how we respond to people and situations.

Some years ago when I first used a personality tool, the results confused me. I had long assumed that others expected me to be extraverted so I tried to fit myself in this mold. It was disturbing to find out that I in fact preferred introversion.

I’ve been behaving as an extravert all my life . . . how could I be introverted?

In a way, the results explained why I had been at war with my own personality so much while growing up. Years of social pressure and my peers’ behavior had convinced me that being outgoing was a good trait. So I had tried to be an extravert yet I still received remarks that I was “anti-social”, “aloof”, and “arrogant”.

On top of that, this personality tool, which also looked at decision-making, showed that I preferred thinking (being logical, analytical, reasonable) over feeling (being relational, empathetic, compassionate). No wonder I was often described as “cold” or criticized for expressing objective, analytical thoughts in situations where empathy was expected. People often said they were surprised at my lack of “appropriate emotions”.

And so I tried hard to gain acceptance and avoid rejection. I pretended to be friendly and likable, although, I felt I was really a cynical personality inside. This made me guilty and bitter—I felt guilty for being “fake”, and angry with others for not giving the “real” me a chance. After years of discouraging remarks, I even became deeply convinced that I wasn’t capable of truly loving or caring for someone. I felt flawed and unlovable.

What made it even more ironic was that I had been working as an organization development consultant. I’m familiar with the theory, design, administration and interpretation of the results from personality indicators. However, I couldn’t reconcile the difference between what I knew and what I felt about my own personality.

Then God spoke to me one day through a sermon. The pastor cited Jeremiah 1:5, which says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” The message was about embracing the intimate relationship God wants to have with us because He designed us and knows His masterpieces best. No quirk, flaw, strength, or weakness escapes Him. And He deliberately placed us in our families, our countries, and our community for a specific purpose. In that moment, I heard God telling me:

My child, I’d planned for you to be who you are—including your personality. You are cherished and loved in my eyes, and soon others will realize it too. You have nothing to hide or fear, for I’ve been shaping you into the person you’re meant to be.

I sat up in attention. The message overwhelmed me and I found myself silently asking, “Is that you, God?” I had never heard Him so directly and clearly before. I felt exposed and vulnerable, but there was nowhere for me to hide.

As I prayed and surrendered my years of guilt and self-rejection, crying out to God to heal my emotional scars, I was flooded with a tremendous sense of relief. I found myself reveling in the unchangeable fact that Jesus loves me unconditionally. I didn’t have to do anything else to earn that love. For the first time, I tasted the freedom of living in the truth of His word and I no longer felt ashamed of myself.

Psychologist Carl Jung got one thing right—personality is innate. It’s innate because it’s God-given. Our Creator lovingly handcrafted each of us uniquely. While we are all called to be Christ-like, I believe that we are created differently, so that we can reach out to the world creatively through our unique ways of interaction.

After my renewed experience with God’s love, I felt empowered to change the parts of my personality that were misaligned with my purpose on earth. For example, instead of reacting with my “thinking” preference, I now try to put myself in the shoes of the other person first. Some qualities can be learned and they do get easier with practice.

Whether we are extraverted or introverted, whether we are thinking or feeling people, we are all capable of reaching out to others and building meaningful relationships. Ultimately, it is important to remember that no personality tool can capture God’s unique design in each of us.

No One Said It Would Be Easy

Written By Jessica Lim

The Bible is clear about the steps of obedience we need to take to love our enemies.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” —Matthew 5:44-45 (ESV)

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” —Luke 6:27-28 (ESV)

But the challenges of loving them hinder us.

Occasionally, we have conflicts with people, be it friends, colleagues, or even our loved ones. And it is natural to allow animosity to set in between them and us. We may not necessarily hate them, but we tend to see whoever opposes or disagrees with us as our enemy.

A close friend of mine once misunderstood my intentions with regard to her difficult situation, resulting in tension in the friendship. In dealing with this situation, I could either allow my pride to act, justifying the consequences thereafter, or fight my flesh and abide in Christ.

No one said it would be easy to love our enemies as we struggle to surrender our desire for reprisal. But it is not by our own strength that we can love them; it is through the strength of God that He bestows to us. His Holy Spirit renews our mind against vengefulness. Only when I laid down my pride, not withholding any grudges, and took the first step to apologize and extend grace and love to my friend, did I experience a revival of God’s perfect and gracious love in my own life.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:5-6 that “love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” Love goes against our sinful nature of wanting our enemies to fail. Love does not bear grudges towards those who go against us. Love forgives our enemies. Love prays that God is working in their lives. Love hopes that our enemies will one day experience God’s love and be a blessing of love to others.

We do not show perfect love to our friends, let alone our enemies. But God is at work in our lives. As we submit to Him in humility, we can be confident that we have complete victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37)!

WHISTLER’S PAINTING

By Tin Hubilla

Whistler’s Mother is a painting of a woman dressed in black with a painting in the room. The painter James McNeil Whistler said, “Don’t fit the picture in the room but fit the room for the picture.”

But that’s not how we normally behave. Remember that moment when you go out shopping and you saw this cute wallpaper or a cute decoration and you knew instantly that it would go right in with your room? Or when you saw a pair of shoes that would go well with a particular outfit in your wardrobe? It’s pretty natural for us to look for things that fit in with what we currently have.

But do we try to fit Christ to our current lifestyle too?

In church last Sunday, the pastor talked about how we try to fit Christ’s image to our fancy. We view Him according to how He can fit in to our needs and wants. And according to that image, we find room in our hearts for Christ. When that image doesn’t fit in that room anymore, we make another room or find another room, which is too much exhaustion on our part.

What if we cannot make or find another room?

Where would we go next?

We have got it all wrong. We must fit our heart to the image of Christ, not the other way round.

God is big and surely we want to make a room for Him, worthy of His greatness, a room where God “will make his home in [our] hearts” (Ephesians 3:17) because He has all the space He needs to do whatever He wants in our lives.

Thoughts of the day 🙂

ODB: The Careful Walk

June 2, 2014 

READ: Ephesians 5:1-17 

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise. —Ephesians 5:15 

One of my favorite places to visit in Jamaica is Ocho Rios, home of Dunn’s River Falls—a spectacle that never ceases to amaze. Water cascades down a long series of rocks as it makes its way to the Caribbean Sea. Adventurers can climb the falls, scrambling over rounded rocks on an invigorating trek to the top. The flowing water, the potentially slippery surface, and the steep angles make the going slow and a bit treacherous.

To make it safely to the top, climbers must watch every step. If a person is not careful, he or she could fall on the journey. The keys to a successful climb are concentration and caution.

I can’t think of a better picture of what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5:15 when he says, “walk circumspectly.” We should “be very careful . . . how [we] live” (niv). Clearly, with all of life’s possible dangers coming our way as we climb through life, it is vital that we take each step with Jesus wisely and cautiously. A fool, the passage says, lives carelessly; a wise person watches each step so he does not stumble or fall.

Our goal of being “imitators of God” (v.1) is met, Paul says, as we walk carefully in love (vv.2,15). Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we can walk in a way that honors God.

— Dave Branon

Consistency! How much we need
To walk a measured pace,
To live the life of which we speak,
Until we see Christ’s face. —Anon.

As we trust God to rule our hearts our feet can walk His way.