Can I love you without knowing your Myers-Briggs type?

Apparently it’s been common knowledge for a while, but I’m just hearing about the relative uselessness of the Myers-Briggs test. This is great news as someone who has taken the test many times (as required by different jobs) yet struggles to remember my profile and why it matters, much less how my profile is supposed to interact with other profiles. This is what these things are meant to do, right?

Photo credit: visualpun.ch.
Photo credit: visualpun.ch.

Beyond my own incompetence about the Myers-Briggs, there’s always been something a bit unsettling about how important one’s profile can become. The supposed predictive capacity of the test (and others like it, perhaps) take on a talisman-like quality, a necessary item to thrive in enlightened society. I’ve worked in a few settings where not having a quick enough response to What’s your Myers-Briggs profile? is met with concern or surprise, as though my ignorance in this regard could do real damage to my coworkers.

Now, to hedge just a bit, I’ve found some of the language around these profile tests to be helpful. As a generally more introverted person who’s married to a generally more extroverted person, it’s been helpful to have language to describe how we experience the social world. It allows us a level of empathy we might otherwise struggle to experience. I’m not sure personality profiles are necessary for this though, a hunch my great-grandparents would likely affirm.

Maybe at the most basic level, my concern has to do with the idea that we require professionals to facilitate the kind of human interaction and love that was possible long before such professionals existed. The professionals seem to assume that if we just have enough knowledge – about ourselves and others – we can experience flourishing relationships. But is that right?

Eugene Peterson mentions the Myers-Briggs in a couple of his books. In Take and Read he writes about where a Christian’s identity is found.

The reality, of course, is that God is sovereign and Christ is savior. The reality is that prayer is my mother tongue and the eucharist my basic food. The reality is that baptism, not Myers-Briggs, defines who I am.

And in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places he writes about the act of sacrifice that all healthy, loving relationships require.

In the jargon of the day, we pray: “sacrifice is not one of my gifts – I want to serve God with my strength, with my giftedness.” It’s a strange thing, but sacrifice never seems to show up on anyone’s Myers-Briggs profile.

The Myers-Briggs promises us that if we know enough we can interact better with those we care about. What Peterson points out is that knowledge alone, especially from professionals who require no in-person interaction with their clients, is not enough. And I know my Christian friends who like the Myers-Briggs would agree with Peterson in principle. But as I listen to us talk, I sometimes hear more about INTJ (that’s me!) and ESFP (that’s my wife!) and other personality types as the key to healthy relationships than I do about loving sacrifice and identities rooted in Christ.

Or maybe that’s just my personality type talking.

Author: David Swanson

Pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville. Collecting signs of life.

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