I remember when I first took a personality test, a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and read the results. I was shocked that my temperament, choices, enjoyments, and flaws, were completely categorized and understood. In time, however, I found myself relying on what those spot-on results told about me. Sometimes I would even contrive my behavior to be what the profile stated. If others commented on my actions, mine was a handy reply: “My personality profile says…”
I had a problem and I was it. The profile merely presented a biopic of my personality type. I was very much the person it described, and some of it I wasn’t, at least then because personalities evolve. The real problem for me was my attempt to live up to what the profile revealed. The Holy Spirit convicted me because the personality profile, although a worthy psychology tool, held too great a priority with me. My interest in my self-development was a good thing, but unchecked it could put my life out of balance.
Psychology is good and proper in its place, but, like all things, it must take the backseat to the word of God, or what God says about me and my potential. The Word tells me that I’m created in God’s image and that my attitudes and actions are to resemble his. I saw then that everything about me, even my personality, must be submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The Landscape of Choice
I wish to approach the subject from a different vantage now. I believe that untended character traits eventually spoil. I mean that they will begin to qualitatively detract from us should we do nothing to develop and mature them or, in some cases, rid ourselves of them. I take comfort in the fact, however, that this is not often the case with people. We usually self-correct amidst the pressures of parents and friends, reward and punishment, gratification and pain. Furthermore, we possess decent enough morals to know when something is wrong in our lives and needs to be changed.
Unfortunately, some people do fall through the cracks, maybe because there was no proper rearing or they were subject to extreme dysfunction. The saddest thing, however, might be said of the one who perceives a flaw but makes no effort to change. It is a possibility to allow flaws from our earliest childhood to manage our lives without a real attempt to replace them with new and better behavior. In my opinion, that is an unhealthy choice for dysfunction.
It gets more interesting with my next few sentences. I believe that people can be genetically predisposed to certain behavior patterns. We know this to be true about depression, just as we know the same is true about diseases, like cancer. Such is a fact that has to be overlooked. For instance, humans have successfully engineered most of the dog breeds we know today for our own very specific purposes and continue to do so, the benefits of which are helping us understand more about ourselves. And consider a hot topic in the world today, homosexuality. Might there really be a genetic predisposition toward same-gender attraction? If it is true, what would it mean to choose or not choose the lifestyle? What would any of this mean to our ability to choose?
What Choosing Really Means
My point is to understand what our choices really look like. I could choose to read my ISTJ temperament profile, accept the good and the bad about it, and declare to the world, “This is who I am—deal with it!” I have met people like this and so have you. They are not pleasant to be around, and, honestly, their way of life is nothing more than a cop-out. I’ll get to that. Still, there is a real reason why I cannot accept that who I am is merely written in black and white and that I’m doomed to be what it tells of me. That goes for a profile and anything else. Let me explain what I’m saying.
I have no choice but to accept the hand that I’ve received in life. A college professor of mine used to refer to it as ‘getting to the table,’ meaning on a level plane where life situations internally and externally (to an extent) coalesce and allow for actualization.
Some people are privileged enough to start somewhere close to the top because they lack no comforts and are blessed with great families and support systems. Others are essentially “scaling a chair”—probably where most of us are found—with varying degrees of home but also with real struggles to consider. The remaining few of us are clinging to sanity somewhere in the thick of the carpet, looking out for big feet and vacuums!
But the one truth is that none of us had a choice in our arrival. Let’s deal with that and get over the rest. To be fair, sometimes what we’ve been allotted just isn’t fair, and it helps our perspective to know that someone in the world is in a far worse situation than we are.
I don’t think we can blame God either. We live in a fallen world, and I believe the Bible about how it has gotten to be this way and why it remains this way. (So we have to point all ten fingers at ourselves.) God permitted it, too, and you’ll just have to ask him why when you see him. But I celebrate the human spirit because God has made it an indomitable thing. We all have been made emotional at the stories of people who have proven that the ravages of a fallen world or an incredible challenge are not enough to give up on life.
No, I don’t curse the hand I have been dealt. I don’t accept that the black-and-white is everything about me because what flaws may characterize me are not indelible and do not have to remain the truth about me. I have a lifetime to perfect myself. What matters is whether I choose to remain as I am or to improve myself, even if this means a fight to change.
As has already been mentioned, this means everything, from attitudes to health and even homosexuality. (I single out homosexuality because it is ripe for this topic and so many people tend to view it as an arch sin and, with such attitude, castigate people but never heal them. Further, I differentiate between homosexuality, a sexual orientation or behavior, and gay, a subculture lifestyle that accepts and readily indulges in homosexual behavior. Homosexual orientation I don’t believe is a choice but homosexual behavior is.)
Ultimately, we choose to resist or give way to the decisions that determine personality, for nothing prevents us from scrutinizing anything we notice about ourselves. People with anger issues generally know it and can find ways to mitigate their feelings or will choose to let those feelings grow into tantrums, rage, or even violence. The same for those with homosexual urges: although they may not choose the urges, they do in fact choose whether to follow through with those urges and so partake of that lifestyle or resist it.
So consider this: it wouldn’t matter if a genetic link to homosexuality were discovered—do you see? If the heart morally resists a path, that path is the wrong one to take. There would need not be the argument of a denial of one’s authentic self or the banishment to lifelong struggle. The woman who is overwhelmingly predisposed to breast cancer and who acquires it like the many women in her family did—does she simply accept the cancer as her lot and let it kill her? Indeed she does not. Instead, she fights it and so chooses to live.
To live authentically and to draw on the power of our human spirits is first to say, “Here I stand.” It is where we arrived and where we have the privilege to build. What a landscape it chances to become!