Do you recognize the names Myers and Briggs?
Do the initials MBTI mean anything to you?
Can you define the phrase “personality inventory”?
I knew nothing about any of them until I became a judge in 1995. My state has intensive judicial training and education, including a two week judicial college required of all new judges. One of the instructors at the college was a veteran judge from southern California who had done a lot of research in Myers-Briggs personality types in the judiciary. He was so well known in this regard among the Myers-Briggs community that his work was used by other researchers.
But I get ahead of myself.
Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, mother and daughter, researched personality types. Their questionnaire leads to labeling someone’s personality as tending either extraverted or introverted (E or I), sensing or intuition (S or N), thinking or feeling (T or F), judging or perceiving (J or P). Whatever combination a person comes to is laid out on the grid of the MBTI – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
All judges at the judicial college filled out the questionnaire. I turned out to be an INTJ – Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking and Judging. Here’s how the Myers & Briggs Foundation describes my personality type:
INTJ – Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.
These are stated as fairly positive attributes, but can you see where things might get dicey? You’d think that a judge with high standards of competence and performance is a good one to have on the bench. But notice that the INTJ person applies those standards to themselves and others. Imagine being a neophyte attorney in that courtroom.
Knowing my personality type helps me see what I need to do in that situation because, as Anne Bogel said in a recent post, “Your personality type isn’t an excuse, but it is an incredible tool for understanding why some things are tough and how to get through them.” So I take steps to be patient, recognizing that my own desire to move ahead efficiently may not be possible with some of the people who appear before me. I have to take the time to recognize when they are doing the best they can.
One of the most interesting things that came out of everyone at the judicial college taking this test is that the research showed most judges in California have the same personality type I do – INTJ.
Not that INTJ is merely the largest category of judges. Most judges are INTJ. Like more than 70% at the time I took the test. That means that all of the other 15 categories of personality types had to share the remaining 20+%. In fact, there were some categories that went completely unrepresented.
What does this mean for people appearing in court? It means that if you are up on your MBTI, you have a good shot at understanding what type of personality your judge has before you even enter the courtroom. INTJ, baby!
What Personality Typing Means For Christians
While my own profession might be overwhelmingly stocked with only one of the 16 personality categories, the same can’t be said for the Body of Christ. We’re not the Borg after all. (Neither is the judiciary, although some people who appear regularly in my courtroom might beg to differ.)
God’s people come in all shapes, sizes and personalities, equipped for a wide variety of work in God’s kingdom. (See, for example, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Ephesians 4:11-12.) And in case you’re thinking that you are too flawed in your personality to carry out anything significant in the kingdom, take a look at this list of people:
Noah was a Drunk
Abraham was a cowardly liar
Jacob was a deceiver (just like his grandfather Abraham)
Samson was a womanizer
Moses was riddled with self-doubt
Rahab was a prostitute
David was an adulterer and a murderer
Solomon never met a woman he didn’t want in his harem
Jonah had a rebellious spirit
The Samaritan Woman was divorced (repeatedly)
Peter denied knowing his best friend
And Paul thought that killing Christians was the best thing ever
If God can use people with all those personality types in his kingdom, he has room for you.