Judging Myers-Briggs

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.

The 16 possible combinations of personality tendencies

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.


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42 Responses to Judging Myers-Briggs

  1. Amen! Funny just started working on a post that will deal with what does Meekness, Gentleness and Humility mainly, but the other fruits of the spirit as well, look like in different individuals. I think there is and always has been this tendency with Christians to define stepford Chritians. Rather than looking at those who may be radically different than us and seeing how even though their Christlikeness might not be like ours, it does not make them wrong but as the post you linked to said different.

    When others don’t act as they should we go your not very ………… rather than so God does use the Peters, not just the ……………….

    Thanks for the post and the link to the other one.

  2. Love it all. (But you already knew that.)

    Also, how typical is INTJ for judges and attorneys? I’m pretty sure my (attorney) father is an INTJ. I’m sure they’re vastly overrepresented in your field, but I was wondering to what extent.

    • Tim says:

      At the time I took the test, I was told that INTJ was the type for over 70% of California judges. I don’t know what the stat is for attorneys in general, but I would imagine that it is not as high. Being an attorney is a much broader occupation than judging so the spread among the 16 types is probably not as skewed toward just one of the 16.

  3. INTY it explains why you are such an interesting blogger and think independently. I have a cousin and his wife who are both your type and this has helped me understand them. With my outgoing type (ENFJ) I want to be closer to them, but it is not as possible as I had hoped. The test helps me understand why everyone is not a ENFJ like I am. It doesn’t excuse my sin, however.

    • Tim says:

      I came to the same conclusion, Carol. Not everyone acts like me because not everyone is INTJ. Good thing, too, because there are a lot of things to do in this world God created that are not within my wheelhouse.

  4. janehinrichs says:

    Good reminder, Tim. Thanks!!!

  5. Jeannie says:

    That’s truly fascinating about the preponderance of INTJ’s among judges. I like, though, how you’ve noticed not only the strengths that being an INTJ gives you as a judge, but also how you need to watch out for certain things that might be problematic in the courtroom.

    Anyway, I LOVE personality typing and talking/reading about it so thanks for sharing this today.

  6. Bronwyn Lea says:

    I read once that a vast number of pastors are ENTJ’s… Interesting, yes., similar to judges but with a higher people-contact-tolerance?

  7. jamie says:

    I’m an attorney and an INTJ. Does this mean I automatically get to be a judge?

  8. Mary Anne says:

    Heavy-duty ENFJ here. I once took the test from a therapist who examined my results and told me that the Feeling and Judging scores were extra-high (Judging, especially, was near the Inspector Javert level). It opened my eyes to a lot of things when she explained that people like me who feel A LOT and have a strong justice drive get really hurt when they see the shape the world is in–unjust, much?–and want it FIXED, immediately if not sooner. She also said that the pain these people experience often leads them to self-medicate; an astonishingly high number of her patients of this type had had or were having problems with alcohol, drugs, overeating, overspending, you name it. It was their buffer between them and a painful world they just couldn’t fix.

    As you say, not an excuse, but in my case it explains a good deal and it’s a fine early-warning system. I’m not especially inclined toward any of the self-medication methods above, but I do try and keep a more vigilant eye out for the ones that are tempting to me.

    It also explains one of my favourite jokes: “There is no gravity–the earth sucks.” 😉

    • Tim says:

      Really interesting, MA. I can see how people with such a high sense of justice coupled with the strong feeling category would bee susceptible to finding some way to buffer that.

      Love the gravity joke.

  9. jenmuse says:

    INTP checking in (I’ll probably be the only INTP since we are the smallest % of the population, likely unrepresented in the ranks of the California judiciary). Fascinating. I’ve been reading about personality types as research for writing characters. This is an extremely helpful bit of information for a writing project of mine because it will have a judge character.

  10. Great insight Tim, interesting about the Judges stat. BTW, I’m also an INTJ!
    – Rodney

  11. Roland K says:

    Wait, you’re a INTJ?! Sweet!!! I’m also a INTJ, so I guess that explains why I enjoy reading your blog.

  12. Aimee Byrd says:

    This takes me back to a book I bought when I had my first child, “Understanding Your Child’s Personality.” It takes you through the whole Myers Briggs and how to relate better to your children accordingly. Of course, the book also helps the parent understand their own personality better. As I was reading all the labels and traits in detail, I was convinced that I was in every category. When they focused on the core (middle letters), I got to the “NF” description that said if you think you are all of these, you can pretty much be confident that you are an “NF.” I cracked up laughing. So those are the two I am sure of. Of course I agreed with the rest of the description–“Yep, that’s me too!” And then they said most NF’s are writers…

  13. Adriana says:

    Tim, the last time Anne put up a post on Myers Briggs I followed her link and took the test. I came out INFP. So tonight, inspired by your post, I thought I’d read a little more about my personality. I read the full profile aloud to my husband after dinner . . .

    And it was SO me that it was CREEPY! I kept pausing while we stared at each other in disbelief.

    Of course we had to read about my husband next — ISTJ all the way. I need to memorize his page because it really helps me understand him better.

    Very interesting post today, Tim.

    P.S. Glad you are a judge and not me! 🙂

    • Tim says:

      We talked about MBTI half way to the Bay Area to send our son off to Vietnam today. He’s got this stuff wired and knows his own personality type to the minutest detail it seems. Then again, he’s an INTP so that figures!

  14. Jaimie says:

    I can never remember what exactly I am. Extrovert, but hovering at about the 50/50 mark between extroversion and introversion. (Do you have a link to a reliable, free, online Myers-Briggs test?)

    Thanks for the reminder that God can and does use all of us, no matter our personalities!!

  15. Jaimie says:

    OK, got it. ESFJ. But I’m only 11% Extravert and 22% Judging–and then 75% Feeling and 38% Sensing. That makes sense to me! 🙂

    • Tim says:

      Here’s how the Myers & Briggs Foundation describes ESFJ, Jaimie:

      Warmhearted, conscientious, and cooperative. Want harmony in their environment, work with determination to establish it. Like to work with others to complete tasks accurately and on time. Loyal, follow through even in small matters. Notice what others need in their day-by-day lives and try to provide it. Want to be appreciated for who they are and for what they contribute.

      Not bad traits!

      • Jaimie says:

        Yup, that sounds like me all right. I was reading another analysis of it– solid sense of right and wrong, but a major dislike of conflict, and the combination of that can lead to intense inner mental battles. YES. Also, “wears heart on their sleeve.” Yeah, that would be me!

  16. It’s claimed that Jane Austen was also an INTJ:
    And so is yours truly. You’re in good company, Tim! Ha Ha. Not sure that this part of the description applies to me: “great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals.” Can perfectionism stop an INTJ before they even get started?

    Also, I think I recall that there isn’t an even percentage of each personality type in the population and that INTJs are one of the more rare types. Do you recall reading this? It’s been a long time since I’ve read about the Myers-Briggs personality types.

  17. Pingback: Why I haven’t Seen 12 Years A Slave (and probably never will) | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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