After reading some comments in a few topics about religion on the Adisc board recently, it got me thinking about some things, particularly some things I’ve been reading recently in a few books I got about the Myers-Briggs personality types. This will probably be a really long post, so I don’t know who will read it…but it was on my mind and I wanted to share it.
First off, I know a while ago there was a topic where people could taken an online quiz and figure out which personality type there are. I also know some people said that psychologists don’t think it’s an accurate measure and isn’t worth a whole lot. But for me, not only was my own description dead on, but through reading these books I really felt I’ve learned a fair bit about myself and more importantly, about other people and how I’m quite different than them.
So, I’m not trying to make blanket statements about everything and saying that someone’s personality type tells everything about them. In fact, the books I’ve read have said the same thing…that personality type is merely a natural preference and that there are many other factors that make up who a person is. However, I really have noticed trends about the types among people I know, and I really think there is something to the whole concept, even if it’s not perfect.
So, for those that have never heard about the whole thing, it basically says that in four different categories, every person has a natural preference of one of two things in the categories (even though every person will have elements of both). The four categories are Introverted/Extraverted, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving. Here’s the general breakdown of the four categories.
Introverted(I)/Extraverted(E): This is probably the easiest one to understand and see in people, though it’s not necessarily a measure of how shy or how social someone is. The real test of whether someone is an introvert or extravert is where they get their energy from.
An extravert gets energy from other people. This is why after a hard day’s work, they would prefer to spend some time with friends and they can hang out with larger groups of people for hours. They actually lose energy by being alone because their thoughts can overwhelm them and they need an outlet.
An introvert, on the other hand, gets re-energized by having some alone time. Being around other people, particulary groups of other people, wears out an introvert. That’s why they can only stand being in large groups of people for short amounts of time before desiring to be alone…so they can re-energize.
Sensing(S)/Intuition(N): This is probably the hardest one for most people to place themselves and also the hardest one to see in people.
Basically, a sensing person is more concerned with the details of things. A sensing person is more concerned with the present and everything around them…they’re more concerned about reality and realism and what is (or in some cases what’s been done in the past). They notice the details of situations and what’s going on around them, often following a process in a sequential order of steps.
An intuitive person is more concerned with the big picture and what could be. They don’t notice the details of a situation step by step….they rather look at the whole thing and piece it together from all angles. They tend to be more idealistic and think about how potential problems could be solved using new innovations…sometimes at the expense of the moment. But overall they’re more concerned with the future than with the present.
Thinking(T)/Feeling(F): This isn’t necessarily how rational/logical someone is compared to how emotional they are. A thinking person can have strong emotions and a feeling person can use rational thought just fine. However, the main difference is which one of the two is their general preference for making decisions.
Thinking people tend to be more objective…to make a decision, they look at all of the facts of a situation and choose to make the decision based on how the facts logically fit together. Even if the decision is viewed as harsh or people’s feelings get hurt, they stand by the decision that makes the most logical sense to everyone objectively.
A feeling person makes decisions much more subjectively, based more on their own feelings/values as well as the feelings of others. They tend to take into account how everyone feels and is affected by a decision moreso than what the logical reasons for the decision is.
A thinker in general has an easier time critiquing problems and flaws in something no matter how it makes someone feel, whereas a feeler tends to empathize more with people and be more sympathetic as to how a decision with make others feel. Again, a thinker will make the best objective decision and a feeler will make the decision that fits into their own personal feelings/values more.
Judging(J)/Perceiving(P): “Judging” does not mean judgmental or evaluative, and “perceiving” does not mean perceptive or insightful. This category more refers to how people organize things, particularly time.
A judging person likes to have everything in order and likes to make decisions so that they can move on. They want to have things settled and decided. They like consistency and knowing what to expect. They’re more planned out and organized and have a hard time adapting to last minute changes.
A perceiving person is much more adaptable and “plans on the go.” They would rather things be open-ended and undecided…they hate to be strapped down and forced to make a decision on something. They go with the flow a lot more and don’t have to have everything organized. They may even thrive on change, viewing it as exciting. A lot of times commitments seem negotiable.
Now, like I said, everyone clearly has elements and aspects of both sides in all four of the categories….no one is 100% introverted or intuitive. However, everyone does have a natural preference for one of the two sides in each category, even if that preference is minute. When it comes down to it, they’re going to be more comfortable in the side that they have a natural preference for, and in general the way they see the world is guided by that preference.
Take me for example: I am clearly an ISFJ. I’ve very introverted….I get quiet in big groups and I have to have some alone time to recover after spending time with other people. I’m also clearly sensing…I have a hard time viewing the future and the big picture of things…I’m a lot more concerned with how things affect me personally at the moment. I’m also a feeler…my feelings very often trump my rationality when I make decisions about things, and I have a hard time hurting other people’s feelings, whether it would be the right decision to or not. Finally, I’m definitely a judger…I’m much more at peace with having everything planned out and knowing what to expect. I love making decisions and moving on, and I hate last minute changes. Some people view me as boring because I’m not as adaptable and I don’t like to change from my routines.
One great thing about the books I’ve read is that they’re very clear in saying that no one of the two choices in each category is overall “better” than the other…they are equal, yet different. Each side has their own strengths and weaknesses.
What’s really interesting is how much friction and conflict there can be when people are on opposite sides of any one of the categories. An extravert may not understand why I need time by myself, and I may not fully understand their need to be around people a lot. In fact, I could never picture myself getting drained by being alone or energized by being in a big group…I really have to use my imagination to picture how they feel.
I also have a hard time looking at the big picture, the future, and ideal solutions. I’m not innovative at all and I have to force myself to being interested in more than just the details around me. I can imagine how an intuitive person could be frustrated about my lack of interest in looking at everyone in the world and how they’re affected by things, and I can be frustrated with how they may not pay attention to details and individual situations.
Thinking and feeling can definitely cause friction. A thinker can be boggled by how I may not always make the most objective, rational decision and may think I care too much about hurting people’s feelings. I, on the other hand, can sometimes be hurt by a thinker’s decisions/comments, even though it’s not their intentions. I may believe that they are too cold-hearted and don’t take into account how their decisions affects people personally.
Finally, sometimes perceivers can drive me nuts. When I want things settled, they can’t make a decision. They want change and excitement and view me as boring, whereas I’m worn out and unsettled by their need to mix things up. I’m too rigid for them and they’re too unorganized for me.
It’s fascinating to see how these things can affect people in so many different ways, particularly in school, at work, in dating relationships, and in parent/child relationships. But the one I’ve noticed more recently is how this can play into how someone views religion.
I myself am a theist, more particularly a Christian. My personality type is also ISFJ. Now, certainly all sixteen different combinations of the four categories can yield people of all kinds of different religious backgrounds. However, I think that there are certainly connections to people’s natural personality preferences and which religious views fit best with themselves.
Being an SFJ, the idea of a religion suits me very well. As a J, I like organization and structure…I like having rules to follow and having a guideline to go through. I also get peace in having decisions settled instead of keeping them up in the air. In addition, being an S, I like to focus on how things affect me personally rather than looking at them on a global scale. Finally, being an F…when making decisions about religion, I’m more apt to choose something that feels right to me rather than the one that makes the most logical sense.
It’s also interesting to read about the 16 personality types in books, because my ISFJ description says that I live to do work for others and serve them. I get pleasure out of putting others before myself and staying committed and loyal to something.
So, the concept of Christianity is very appealing to me. The idea of serving a God and following a set of rules gives me peace and comfort. I get the same thing from the idea of having a personal relationship with God. I also am more apt to believe this way because it feels right to me and makes me feel good, even if everything in the religion doesn’t make logical sense all of the time.
However, it’s easy to see how an NTP would have many more problems with organized religions. As an N, they’d be more concerned with how religion affects people across the globe, noting the wars that have been caused by it and the pain and suffering it has inflicted. As a P, they’d also be more open to alternate possibilities and not feel the need to make a decision on the existence of a god or if certain rules are the right ones. They would also have more problem following this organized set of rules anyway. Finally, as a T, if the concept of a god or a religion didn’t make logical sense to them, they would be less apt to follow it, no matter how it makes them or anyone else feel.
I bring all of this up because…I really think it can explain why people are so baffled by other people’s religious beliefs. We always have a tendency to say “Well, everyone has a right to believe how they want” but we personally think someone else’s beliefs might be crazy and we don’t see how or why they would view the world that way. For some with less control, they might even insult, abuse or hurt others simply because they view the world in a different manner.
So I think it’s been really helpful for me to understand that as much as we have in common as people, there are a lot of things that are different about us, and these differences aren’t bad. We might view them as bad in other people because they go against our natural preferences. But if we understand how someone else is naturally different, we can see how their beliefs make sense to them.
I’ll use me as an example. When I first converted to Christianity about ten years ago, it was one of the best choices I made in life. I was at peace because I found something that worked for me and I got so much joy, peace and satisfaction out of it. Due to my natural need to serve others, I wanted as many people as possible to get the same experience that I did and get the same joy and satisfaction. So, I greatly supported the idea of people sharing the idea of Christianity and “converting” them.
Now, being an introvert, I’ve never felt comfortable doing this myself…particularly if the other person was resistant to the idea. However, for a long time I was in full support of other people doing it, because I felt that even if someone else was resistant to the idea at first, it would be worth it if they felt the same joy and peace that I did from converting to Christianity.
However, over the last few years, in talking to people of different religions, I came to the realization that not everyone was bound to get the same positive effect out of it that I did. I realized that because of the way they viewed the world, a different set of beliefs would give them satisfaction.
But it wasn’t until I started reading these books that I’ve come to understand WHY they may not get the same pleasure of the religion that I do. It’s helped me see more about what makes them tick that makes everything make sense to them in a different way.
Now, I’m sure most of us here are of the belief that everyone has a right to believe what they want, and that we have no problem with someone believing whatever they want when it comes to religion. Most people mainly just have a problem when someone else tries to force their religion on someone else.
And that’s why it was so beneficial for me to really understand how different others could be from me. I viewed convincing people to believe the same as me as a good thing because I thought they were like me and would get the same happiness that I did. I really had to understand them to see that this wasn’t the case. And even though I know a lot of people force their religion on others for the sake of power, greed, arrogance or manipulation, I also think some people do it because they simply don’t understand that other people aren’t like them. They may have good intentions but just not understand that they may have a negative affect.
But I think it can go in the other direction too. Someone can think that religion in general is stupid because it doesn’t fit into their own preference of how they view the world. They can cause the same hurt and irritation by not understanding how something meaningless to them can be very important to someone else.
Because, even though I may be wrong, but I bet that some people are completely baffled by someone else’s religious beliefs, and we don’t truly try to understand why someone else believes as they do. Even if there was a topic where people shared their beliefs, most of us would be apt to read the responses with little interest and just think “well, that’s nice”. We wouldn’t truly try to see why someone else would believe so differently. And the reason why would be that due to our personality types, their beliefs may completely go against our natural preferences and it would make us uncomfortable to step outside of them to understand that someone else could be so different.
So, as long as this has been, that’s why I made this topic…in hopes that we can all not just realize, but try to understand WHY people can have religious beliefs that are so different than our own. Not just to think “well, they have a right to believe whatever they want” but to understand how their entire view of life and who they are can greatly relate to those beliefs.
As *B/DL’s we’re often very frustrated because people don’t understand our natural feelings and preferences in this lifestyle. But how often do we do the same thing to other people? If we want others to understand us, shouldn’t we also have the desire to understand others? I really think that so much anger, hurt, and problems in the world comes from this lack of understanding, and I hope that as long as this post has been, it either generates some interesting responses or at least helps someone to think about this understanding.