It’s that time again! In the mapping out of a new novel, I always dwell in the land of psychology. Actually, I get stuck there for a while because relearning the nuances of different personality types is a little addicting. Although I’ve done this before a multitude of times, something new is always revealed. It may be in my own personality or those closest to me, but it helps me to relate in a new way.
There are two assessments I most often use: Myers-Briggs and Enneagram. There are sixteen different personalities with the Myers-Briggs and nine with the Enneagram. If you figure out which type you are with one, you can check out Personality Junky (or Google for a different site) to find a correlation with the other. Another fun one is the Gary Smalley Animal Test, where you discover whether you’re a Lion, Beaver, Otter or Golden Retriever.
More than learning about personality types for my novels, I find the knowledge invaluable in understanding and communicating with the people in my lives—most especially, my husband. When I studied the Myers-Briggs, I discovered that Chris’s and my personality types are in direct conflict. My type 1 (The Perfectionist) can easily tromp all over his type 9 (The Peacemaker). But, of course, the test doesn’t take God into consideration. There is a divine reason He’s put us together.
When we use our strengths in the same way as iron sharpens iron (with Christ in the center) we then help each other grow in ways which might otherwise be impossible. Chris’s gentle spirit has helped me soften over time. I see something in him that is lacking in myself and I want it. I want his grace and gentleness in order to glorify God. On the flip side, my ability to get to the heart of an issue and deal with it is something he’s always struggled with. That’s not the case anymore. We encourage and support each other so that we can each be the person God calls us to be.
A few years ago, Chris and I took the Gary Smalley Animal Test. Chris tested very high as a Golden Retriever—which is just what you might imagine. He’s easy going, gentle, kind and loyal. But just like his Enneagram type 9 specifies, the Golden Retriever avoids confrontation. He tested very low on the Lion—take charge and decisive. Over the last several months, Chris has pushed through his preferences to make some necessary changes in his work world. These changes haven’t been comfortable, but he’s doing it out of obedience to God. We had the opportunity to take the Animal Test again, and wouldn’t you know it? Chris’s Lion is almost as high as his Golden Retriever. When the situation calls for it, the Holy Spirit gives each of us the ability to be who we need to be if we’re willing to walk through discomfort to achieve it.
We all have the ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be the best 1 or 9 or 4—whatever the case may be—that God calls us to be. And when we seek to discover what makes those around us tick, we get a deeper appreciation for the sovereignty (and sometimes sense of humor) of God. We must also realize that we have the ability to grow. We may default to a specific personality type, but that doesn’t mean we have to live there.
Each person brings to the table a unique and creative perspective. I think of them in terms of our spiritual gifts. We’re given different personalities that exemplify our gifts, if we’re willing to submit to the Giver and allow Him to do a powerful work in us. The apostle Paul said it best, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”