One of the things I love about this world (and there are many of them) is the synchronous connections that happen throughout the whole body of knowledge. I was reminded of this again recently when my team at work revisited the Myers-Briggs personality test. Loads of these kinds of tests are out there to categorize and classify learning styles and behaviors, all intended to help a person pursue that age-old desire: to know thyself.
Know thyself. That’s from ancient Greece, y’all.
One of humanity’s greatest pursuits, especially within the Christian faith, is to know God and to be known by God (Gal. 4:9). This life is a journey of discovery, a hunt after the Creator by the created, a discovery of self, and then a search for how that self fits into the larger world.
The larger world and its body of knowledge forever point me toward God, but they are actually in harmony with many concepts in the Bible. “Know thyself” is a lifelong journey Paul may be reflecting on in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
I find the Myers-Briggs personality temperaments and other such classification systems to be an expansion of the passages in the New Testament that talk about the body of Christ. For instance, being able to identify one’s self as the big toe helps us figure out that we are not the lungs, and thus we’re better able to function within the body. We see our strength in providing balance and grip instead of oxygen and filtration. We recognize our shortcomings as not-lung and therefore celebrate lung for all its glorious contributions to this body.
The body of Christ does not work well when its big toe gets a little too big, thinking it’s the hot stuff of the body, with its hard shell of toenail and tough toe callous. Why are the lungs so porous—and internal to the body, when out here is so much brighter? Did you even hear the lungs last week in that meeting, so wheezy and opinionated? What does the toe need the lungs for, anyway?
This happens on the universal church level, yes, but a quick zoom in on our everyday relationships—marriages, work, parenting, and so on—and there it is, too: the big toe getting a chip on its…I don’t even know. Its shoulder?
When I am at my best, operating in the realm of knowing myself and practicing one another-ness, I see my introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging self in glorious harmony with all the other personality types. I am big toe serving in the same spirit as lung, doing my part and being the best, fullest version of myself. But when I am under stress and operating out of crisis, I get all sore and needy. No one else matters. Only me, the big toe. I need to be reminded that I am not the only type of person that exists in the world, and thank God for that. It would be a really introverted, introspective, insensitive place. All vision and strategy. No details. No spontaneity. Not a whole lot of fun.
Being in community—any community—requires the humility of self-knowledge and general respect and appreciation for the way God has made the others within that community. Even when our personalities and opinions clash. Especially when our personalities and opinions clash.
We are all on this journey individually and together: Together, because we all have the deep desire to know and to be known as part of the collective people of God. Individually, because each of us has our own unique path and history to explore and learn from so we can find ourselves and know how we connect to that bigger body. Let’s help each other see who we are and how we were made. Let’s help each other identify our strengths, recognize our weaknesses, and be aware of our crisis moments that bring out the worst versions of that self. Let’s help each other discover what our places are in the world.
We can encourage each other in our pursuits for the best versions of ourselves, and by doing so maybe we’re fulfilling the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. To love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. To know and to be known by God. To know thyself, no matter what personality assessment test you prefer.
See what I did there? Synchronicity.