While our culture might be having a moment with the Enneagram right now, personality tests aren’t a new thing.
My college had me take the Myer’s Briggs right before graduation, complete with a list of suggested professions. Cut to almost 20 years later and I’m a completely different person than I was then. Not only am I a different person from college graduate me, I’m a different person than even just a year ago. Whether good or bad, time and experiences have a way of shaping, and changing, molding and making, cutting and carving us into transformed people.
Oddly enough, I ended up being exactly what that test said I should be. Go figure.
It never fails that personality tests have a way of pinning us; they tell us what we already told them by answering their questions. When I’ve taken these tests honestly, they’ve helped me understand why I’m sometimes unlikable, why I thrive in particular situations and why I’ve responded the way I have in forced circumstances I would have rather avoided.
In some ways, these tests can be helpful. They can also be detrimental.
What Personality Tests Are Good For
They can help us know where to grow. If you don’t know that you’re full of shortcomings, sins and weaknesses, then you haven’t read the Bible. While we’re made in God’s image, we’re born into sin and what God impeccably creates is twisted to be less than. Not less loved, but less perfect. No need to freak out here, we’ve got a Savior to help. It’s possible for a personality test to reveal places that need to be repented of, changed or reveal personal traits to be wary of.
They can help you receive God’s grace. You’re probably pretty good at some things. That makes sense because, again, you’re made in the image of the Perfect One. God created you to be good at what you’re good at. He’s given each person gifts as a way to help the body of Christ. These gifts are God’s grace that you might demonstrate his glory—not so that you might boast in what you’re good at. But knowing what your God-given strengths are can be helpful as you receive his grace to implement these gifts in helpful ways.
They can help you love others better. When I learn about my natural tendencies, I can learn how they can be a force of both good and evil and choose to use them for good. I leverage how God made me for his kingdom’s sake. If I know my strengths, I can use those to love people. If I know my weaknesses, I can be careful not to hurt people with them. On top of that, personality tests can also help us see other people, particularly those who are different from us. If we use them to understand others instead of just understanding ourselves, this generates worship of our Creative Lord. God intentionally made people different from you. This helps us not get stuck on ourselves and our perspectives in arrogant, unloving ways.
What Personality Tests Are NOT Good For
They can encourage you to just be you, instead of being like Jesus. Just be yourself is our culture’s favorite adage of the day. But you just being you is a terrible idea. You transformed into the image of Jesus more and more is an awesome idea. Knowing yourself better is never an excuse for sin. It might help you see your depravity, but God will never say, “Oh, it’s okay you crushed that person (or were mean or hurt or didn’t do the right thing), it was just your personality.” Your personality is under a curse. You can’t trust it apart from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
They can tell you about yourself when you give honest answers, but not WHY you pick those answers. It’s no secret that the science behind personality tests is shady. Mainly because we typically view ourselves in the best light. Personality tests are often just as solid an indication of our self-idolatry intricacies as our God-given intricacies. Loving ourselves, instead of worshipping God, for the gifts he’s given us is arrogant. Personality tests can build a self-driven focus that feeds pride. You can gaze at yourself all day long, but we aren’t transformed by looking at ourselves. We are transformed by knowing and looking at Jesus.
They can be an excuse to be a jerk. Personality tests can show us where to be sanctified, but they don’t do the actual work of sanctification. Your natural weakness should never be an excuse to be a sinful jerk. You can be branded as a leader and use it as an excuse to steam roll your staff. You can be classified as compassionate and have a hero complex. While personality tests can give us insight, they shouldn’t limit our obedience where Scripture commands it. A dominant person can and must, by God’s grace, learn to be gentle. A non-confrontational person can and must, by God’s grace, learn to pursue others for the sake of love. Personality tests might highlight areas where you can be a jerk, but God commands you to repent and grow back into his image.
The Bible is Better Than a Personality Test
Personality tests have an appeal because we love ourselves. Sure, they can be helpful, but while personality tests might show where you don’t measure up to Jesus, they will never do this better than the Bible. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
Anyone can be aware of themselves from a personality test, but you need the Spirit of God and his Word to help you be transformed into the kind of person that reflects the glory of a God who is greater.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you enjoy taking personality tests? Why or why not?
If you do take personality tests, what is your motivation in doing it?
Is there an area of your personality that you think you can’t change? What is that area?
Do you like to look at yourself more than you like to look at God? Why?
Are you using your strengths to serve God and the church? Or for your own gain?
Do you make quick judgments about people based on their personality?
Are there people whose personalities are hard for you to reconcile with the God who would make them? Why?
What attributes of another person are hardest for you to deal with? Why?
Do you give people time, grace and help to grow and develop in their God-given personality?
Do you have weaknesses that other people are aware of and helping you with?