Personality quizzes seem to be all the rage these days. Just in the last two days, I’ve seen one from Time magazine that purports to tell you, based on ten questions, which state of the union is the best match for your personality; and a chart that purports to tell you, based on your Myers-Briggs personality type, which Star Wars character you are. (Based on these two, I’m apparently supposed to move to Utah and build a Death Star.) Not long ago, there was one from Dr. Phil and Oprah (*shudder*) making the rounds. No doubt there are others being produced as I type this, and as you read it.
On one level, there’s nothing wrong with these quizzes. They represent, I believe, our desire to try to understand the complexity of our world and of ourselves. Some of them are just good fun (especially if your Myers-Briggs score says you’re Emperor Palpatine and you think that’s just awesome), even if the science behind them seems a little sketchy. So, taken for what they’re worth, they’re probably not an evil on the level of Starbucks coffee or the hipster menace.
On another level, though, I think they are somewhat problematic, precisely because they flatten out the complexities and the amazing individuality of people. Yes, people with a particular personality type may tend to do certain things or think and learn in certain ways, but I don’t believe any of us are bound to do so. (It’s interesting to note that even the folks at the Myers-Briggs Foundation warn that “The MBTI instrument sorts for preferences and does not measure trait, ability, or character.”) What I’m getting at is the difference between saying “You tend to be (fill in the blank) ” and “You are (fill in the blank)” Any personality test or psychological assessment is bound to fall short of describing the fullness of a human being, let alone the complexities of the population of an entire state, much less all 7 billion+ human beings on this planet.
During my middler year of seminary, it was all the rage to talk about one’s Myers-Briggs type. Most of us had taken the test the previous summer during our Clinical Pastoral Education internships, and I seriously doubt a single day of the fall semester passed without at least one of us making reference to either our MBTI type or someone else’s. While we eventually got over this infatuation, I remember being frustrated at the time by how often someone’s thoughts or opinions on a given subject were explained with a statement along the lines of, “Oh, that’s because she’s an INFP,” or “Yeah, you can tell he’s a strong J.”
The truth is, dear reader, that you are more than a collection of letters. You are more than your score on a quiz. And so am I, and so is every other human being on the planet. The author of Psalm 139 speaks for all of us when he writes,
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
We are each of us fearfully and wonderfully made, and we are each beloved children of God. May we each revel in the complexity of our selves, and be filled with holy awe at the wonder of our uniqueness.