Understanding Personality Types

Man is created in the image of God –

Genesis 1:27 states “So God created mankind in his own image…” consequently, we are by nature, complex. We are also fallen, and as much as God is holy and perfect, we are not.

 

We can see, by simple observation, that man’s personalities are different and varied.

Although all Christians have access to the same fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, patience, etc.), we can see that the gifts of the Spirit are different and varied, and further that God gives man an unique combination of these for our service to the body of Christ.

Now to be clear, all believers are endowed with the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as characteristics of all of our Christian walk: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.

Spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; and 1 Cor 12:28) come in unique combinations for service to the church body and include – prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, discerning, speaking and interpretation of languages, and helps. Some of these were for a time to point to the truth of Christianity, while others are permanent.

In like manner, although there is no clear biblical verse that prescribes this, He also gives an unique personality to each person. This, we can easily observe.

God is a God of purpose and planning and these characteristics display this purpose and planning.

It is with this premise that I will attempt to group these varied personalities.

Temperaments

One of the oldest groupings is that of Temperaments and includes four groupings as described below.

  • Sanguine –

    • this personality tends to be lively, optimistic, buoyant, and carefree. They love adventure and have a high risk tolerance. They seek variety and entertainment and will dress with flair.
  • Phlegmatic –

    • this personality tends to be a people person, who seeks harmony and close relationships. They avoid conflict and are easy going and generally of lower energy. Usually, many issues, such as appearance and dress, are simply not important to them.
  • Choleric –

    • this personality is more goal oriented and include an analytic and logical personality. They are straight forward and naturally speak what is on their mind, sometimes without any filtering.
  • Melancholic –

    • this personality is the traditionalist, and tends to mind the details. They are not particularly adventurous but are social, thorough and accurate.

Of the four temperaments, most agree that we have a dominant and recessive temperament. In other words, we may be a Phlegmatic/Melancholic or a Choleric/Sanguine.

In addition to differentiating degrees of each of these characteristics, there is the element of maturity. For example, an immature Choleric may easily be overbearing whereas a more mature Choleric could be a gifted leader.

These temperament types are from ancient Graeco-Arabic times and are simply observational characteristics. You can see these features in the people around you and hopefully in yourself.

The point of understanding personalities is really acceptance. That is to say, we’re all aspects of God’s image. No one portion is right or wrong, it is just an aspect of a bigger picture.

To have a melancholic mind the details and a phlegmatic be more concerned with harmony is not a judgment of one or the other as good or bad, right or wrong, it is simply an acknowledgment of our personality differences.

This is important since we naturally tend to think that who we are is good and every other personality is somehow flawed. In fact, again, we are all simply different. If we recognize that other personality types are equally viable, we can learn not only acceptance but how we can work with others for higher purposes.

It is interesting to note, that the terms: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic, are characteristic of early American writings. It was obviously commonly understood and used to convey a sense of the person’s personality. More modern writings generally lack an understanding or usage of these personality characteristics, in spite of the substantial advances in technology and learning. We erroneously assume that individuals in earlier times were less knowledgeable. One wonders if, in fact, the opposite is true.

Personality Types

Personality types are really simply a more detailed division of the four temperaments. The personality types are 4 groupings of 2 characteristics each which form up to 16 personality types. The personality types were developed by Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs (Myers and Briggs) and were built on the work of Carl Jung in the early 1900s.

There are free online tests that will help you determine your personality type and more detailed insights that will give you further information.

  • Introvert and Extrovert (I and E)

    • Most view introverts and extroverts as reserved and outgoing. To a degree this is correct, but we are really talking about the source and direction of a person’s energy expression. The extrovert’s source and direction of energy expression is mainly in the external world, while an introvert has a source of energy mainly in their own internal world.
      • For example, come Friday night after a long work week, the introvert is likely to stay at home and read or watch a movie, whereas the extrovert revitalizes their energy level by going out to a party.
  • Sensory and Intuitive (S and N)

    • The S and N represent the method by which someone perceives information. Sensing means that a person mainly believes information he or she receives directly from the external world. Intuition means that a person believes mainly the information he or she receives from the internal or imaginative world.
      • For example, S’s are usually “by the book” and look to the rules. N’s on the other hand are more willing to see if the rule should be bent and go with their gut feelings.
  • Thinking and Feeling (T and F)

    • The T and F represents how a person processes information. Thinking means that a person makes a decision mainly through logic. Feeling means that, as a rule, he or she makes a decision based on emotion, i.e. based on what they feel they should do.
      • This does not mean that thinkers don’t feel or that feelers don’t think rather, we are prone to think first or feel first based on this personality type.
  • Judging and Perceiving (J and P)

    • The J and P reflect how a person implements the information he or she has processed. Judging means that a person organizes all of his life events and, as a rule, sticks to his plans. Perceiving means that he or she is inclined to improvise and explore alternative options.
      • Another major aspect of the J and P is closure and openness. For example, the J would rather make a decision and move on, whereas the P would rather keep their options open. You can observe this characteristic when two people, a J and a P, plan a trip to Disneyland. The J has arrived before they’ve even left for the trip. The P, on the other hand, on the way to Disneyland, may suggest that another destination would be more desirable.

The Myers and Briggs typing combines these four types into 16 groupings. For example, someone may be an INTJ or an ESTP. The INTJ may be called “The Mastermind” whereas the ESTP would be referred to as “The Doer.” A good reference for understanding these groupings is available here.

 

Sample conflicts and resolutions

After studying and understanding this for a while, you can easily determine the temperaments and types of the people around you. You won’t need to have them take a test and the knowledge will become more automatic and natural.

You can see in business and personal relationships where understanding these personality types could help in understanding and hopefully improving relationships.

For example, you may have a P boss while you may be a J. Your frustration is simple, your boss never wants to make a decision. You need to understand this and come up with ways to convince your boss more effectively. Likewise, it would be important to hire J type assistants for you.

Another example, you may be an I while your spouse is an E. At the end of the week, you want to sit at home and watch a movie while she wants to go to a party. You’ll need to understand each other’s needs and come to certain compromises – such as going out to a quiet movie and dinner.

Recognize that some of these difference will result in natural, almost automatic, conflicts. Understanding the differences and moving towards a mutual understanding and resolution, will go a long way in smoothing relationships.

Summary

This is but a brief summary of two general personality grouping – the basic temperaments and the Myers and Briggs personality types.

The goal of learning this is to help you to understand others as well as yourself. We are all different but still made in the image of God.

As much as another personality might rub you wrong, your personality is not necessarily a delight to them. Conversely, certain opposites do attract and the element of this opposition is essentially that person’s personality temperament and type.

The more you know about personalities, the better you are equipped to understand and accept others, realizing that we all have something to contribute and this knowledge may just enable you to be more successful in these relationships.