A little ways down this post is a “self-assessment statement” I was required to prepare last month for my Leadership class. At the beginning of the semester, every student in the class was tasked with completing four personal inventories:
Subsequently, we were asked to “analyze the various personality profiles and explain how your specific personality traits and gifts will affect your leadership in the following areas: (1) your personal life; (2) your ministry: leadership and interactions with others, church leaders, congregants, management, etc.; and (3) your marriage and family.”
Now, you may rightly ask: Why would I put something so intimate and Jordan-centric on my blog dedicated to Christ and His Church? Well, regarding the former, I don’t mind anybody knowing what makes me tick. After all, I’ve always been a big advocate of transparency (hey look, you can read about that below!). Regarding the latter, it turns out that my professor isn’t crazy and wasn’t wasting my time! Understanding the contours of one’s design and development can be incredibly valuable for life in general and, more importantly, for one’s life and ministry in the Church. The unity to which Christ Himself urges believers must necessarily involve communication and cooperation, both of which are strengthened by taking the time to understand and value each another’s unique internal makeup–as well as our own.
Thus, it is my hope that sharing some of my personal reflections might catalyze the whole lot of us toward a deeper appreciation of our brotherhood in Christ and an ever wiser approach toward accomplishing our Christian mission together.
If we Reformed Christians profess God’s perfect sovereignty and His divine coordination of all reality and every event, then we must also trust that the Lord has provided each of us with the personality and gifts which He has planned for our benefit and His glory. In the same way that the body is made of many parts, each with its own purposes and methods, so the church is composed of many personalities, each with its own functions and benefits. It is a great blessing for one to examine his personality and discover his specific contributions to the church, being all the while thankful for the contrasting personalities of his brothers and sisters and careful not to presume superiority over them as if his outfit of traits were “the best.”
Such humility does not come easily to me as a “perfectionist”—the title awarded me by the DiSC profile test, and one with which I undeniably accord. Perfectionism, with its obsessive focus on achieving right outcomes with precision, accuracy, certainty, and sustainability, can hardly endorse the validity of any other personality but perfectionism; it is naturally self-affirming and, furthermore, is far too quick to consider such matters as zero-sum scenarios. So it is my perpetual struggle not to dismiss my fellow man simply on the basis that his personality is not the same personality which within me calls itself perfect. Of course, perfectionism will be a harsh taskmaster for both its bearer and his associates if not tempered by frequent reality checks and heavy doses of grace. Perhaps the extroverted socialite is less prone to perfectionism because he is in touch with more lives, or perhaps simply because he spends less time privately crafting his intellectual architecture; but as a “mastermind” (i.e. a Myers-Briggs INTJ), my external reticence habitually lures me into solitude, where I am free to drown in thought.
My relational life as an INTJ consists more in depth (a.k.a. “quality”) than in breadth (a.k.a. “quantity”). All things being equal, I am just as content to whistle my way through the day and generally “mind my own business” as I am to exchange insubstantial pleasantries with those in whom I have not already developed a specific interest. Generally speaking, perfectionism discourages change of almost any sort, at least until a serious flaw in one’s current trajectory is convincingly demonstrated, and this serves most often simply to reinforce the relational status quo of a situation. Of course, my genuine social interests are often subject to diminution by my acute self-consciousness, which is itself derived from my self-perceived lack of social skills—skills which I fail to develop because of my timidity due to acute self-consciousness. Here lies the great vicious circle of introversion. However, those who penetrate the outer layer of apparent indifference and establish significant interaction receive a royal welcome into the introvert’s life and an abundant recurring offering of his time, energy, and affections. Though the emotional dimension of my attachments to loved ones may not manifest externally with as much vividness or fanfare as others’, my passion and care for them burns ever brightly in my heart. Overall, the mastermind is paradigmatic of the principle of relational inertia: disregarding external forces, a relationship at rest (i.e. uninitiated) will tend to stay at rest, and a relationship in motion (i.e. invested) will tend to stay in motion.
While certainly affirming and extending many of the descriptions outlined above, Clifton’s Strengths Finder also brought new and even unexpected facets of my personality to light. Taken together, my Strength of Belief, Strength of Connectedness, Strength of Intellection, and Strength of Responsibility all nicely restate both the values and the burdens of the perfectionist mastermind: strong ideas and convictions which necessitate strictly correct living. The big twist comes with my supposed Strength of Adaptability, which initially seems to indicate either an error in the test results or a personality split of schizophrenic proportions. Though somewhat paradoxical, I can affirm my strength in adapting to almost any circumstance, system, or practice (so long as it does not infringe upon my bedrock beliefs and their direct outworking). This personality streak of easygoing adaptation can likely be traced to the substantial influence of Rich Mullins’ music and writings on my life, and its cohabitation with perfectionism brings no small amount of internal tension. Generally, I seek to hold in open hands everything which is not Truth, meaning that even my perfectionistic plans and goals must be placed at God’s disposal with which to do or to do away.
In fact, my Strength of Adaptability can be neatly tied to my spiritual gift as a “giver”; it follows from the open-hands mentality that my resources can and must be made available to others whenever they have need. If this giving involves personal sacrifice, then I will adapt to my new situation and make it work. My other two strong gifts are as “perceiver” and “teacher,” whereby I am afforded a keenness of insight and a desire to understand and proclaim the truth, respectively. Equally important to note in the area of spiritual gifts are the categories in which I scored lowest—namely, mercy and encouragement. Mercy is perhaps the most necessary counterforce to perfectionism in one’s life, and unfortunately, it is absurdly difficult for the perfectionist to generate within himself—both for himself and for others. Weakness in the area of encouragement, I believe, can be traced back to the intellectual introvert’s more rational and propositional paradigm for interpreting and engaging reality, as opposed to the more emotional approach to counseling and affirmation which most recipients of encouragement desire.
Though the exact specifications of my call to ministry are yet to be revealed, I know that I will need to employ my God-given strengths and supplement my God-given weaknesses in whatever role He has ordained for me. My social reticence does not make me one to demand authority over others; so long as my boss(es) lead(s) in such a manner and direction that do not compromise my core values, I have traditionally been quite happy to assume less authoritative (though not unimportant) roles within organizations. However, my desire is to lead as a preaching pastor. Within this context, my tendency would be toward straightforwardness from the pulpit and diplomacy in personal interactions with congregants and with the other church leaders. My passion for ensuring quality outcomes—particularly in the areas of preaching and teaching—would certainly need to be balanced by constant appeals to God’s grace and providence, by which He makes any such successes possible and by which He retains and sustains us when we fall short. My deep-seated desire that people’s ideas, words, and actions be always based on rationality would no doubt be a constant bother to me as one of the most unrealistic expectations possible for a church body. It would also be difficult for me to keep my hands out of every last activity and to completely delegate their oversight to people I do not already supremely trust. Working with a team of elders and leaders who understand and value my perspective but who have a variety of their own perspectives would be essential.
Regarding the implications of my personality type and spiritual gifts for my marriage and family, I foresee a number of potential blessings and potential struggles should the Lord one day bless me with such companionship and offspring. The depth of affection and interaction I pursue with loved ones as well as my fierce loyalty to them will ideally reach their zenith in my spousal relationship. My strength in consistency and in willingness to sacrifice myself will likely be accompanied by weakness in being too outcome-focused and struggling to minister directly to my wife’s emotions. As far as children are concerned, my strengths and weaknesses will both likely revolve around my passion for educating and catechizing them. I must be faithful to do so without diminishing the importance of non-didactic aspects of relationship and fatherhood. I must learn to trust and delegate parental duties to my wife without needing to have my fingers in every pie. Most importantly, I must learn to trust that the Lord’s sovereign plan will not fail in their lives even if its unfolding brings about outcomes that I do not intend for them. Even with my keen sense of personal responsibility, the ultimate wellbeing of my family must be held in open hands.