I was talking to my roommate Laura a couple weeks ago about personality typing and her hesitations about the concept. She was telling me that sometime in the middle of high school several classes had students take this personality test that classified people as different colors. Blue, Green, Purple, Yellow... there were just a handful of possible "personalities" you could be. She ended up being Green or something. She said that for the next couple years of high school her friends would still sometimes refer to each other as the color that they had been classified as, like, "Hey, Red!" To have herself and her friends put into categories felt limiting to her, and she didn't like how it seemed to give reason to be divided, even though it was such a simple thing. Laura realized she wasn't the only one who'd felt this way when a friend asked her later on if she'd ever felt like she could have been a different color, that more than just one personality type and "color" could have worked for them. I told Laura that I really understood what she was saying. Sounds like a common response to those basic personality typing tests. Maybe you were Green, but Pink felt like you too, especially in certain situations or with certain people.
Laura was basically saying that it seemed like figuring out your personality type had the potential to separate you from other people who might have different letters (or colors), limit you from maybe sometimes being another type, and can create boxes in your head and in others predicting how a person of a certain type will act.
I agree with her! It does have that potential. Sometimes, even though I try to avoid it, I start assuming certain things about people with the F or T preference, or thinking automatically that someone prefers N from one single comment or action. I try on this blog to refrain (though I'm sure I'll slip up) from calling someone an E, or an S, or a P, and I say that their letter is their "preference", in order to prevent the feeling of being totally classified.
I told Laura that Myers-Briggs was invented in order to help people realize their strengths. Isabel Briggs Myers developed the system around the time of World War 2 when women were having to work in place of the men who were gone to war. Isabel wanted a system that would help you understand how you function to assist people in figuring out where they would fit in best in the workplace, since many women had never been in it before. MB is now used widely for assisting in career counseling, business development, relationships with family, friends, and significant others, and for general self-exploration. Knowing the four letters of your preference, and then those of your spouse, roommate, or boss should not be an excuse to differentiate yourself from them, but to understand them better. And from there, love them better as well.
Lately I've been pondering an idea related to the "we are more than one color" thought. I've been considering just how different people I know that are the same type are from each other. My friend Becca is an INTP, but so is my friend Josh. My roommate Andrea is an ESFP, but so are several others that I know, including my friends Johnny, Josiah, and my brother Ian. I see how this is made evident in the similarities between these people, and it's fascinating to me. But just how different they are from each other is incredible as well. I've been asked before why that is. One reason for that is this; that two people with the same four letter type can have different strengths of their preferences. One might be an ESFP with a very strong E and F, and another, have a stronger S preference that makes them act differently. But mostly I think it is our humanity that makes us each so unique. And that is obviously not a new idea. We are individuals, and our various backgrounds, parents, college experiences, friends, habits, and surroundings contribute to our whole just as much as a preference for Introversion or Extraversion does.
My favorite chapter in the bible is Psalm 139. To read of how God has searched me and knows me, and is "familiar with all my ways" is so comforting. The verses describing how we cannot flee from him, "even if I settle on the far side of the sea"; they are haunting and beautiful. We are told that we are "wonderfully made." And then we read that His thoughts, toward us, are so vast, so many, that they "outnumber the grains of sand." How utterly amazing. God has more thoughts about me, and about my future, than grains of sand I can put my towel down on at Butterfly Beach. And it's that way for everyone who has ever or has yet to live.
We are so similar to each other in our humanity, yet so different in it too. With God over each of us, with more thoughts towards us than we can comprehend, we will always be more than four letters. Or the color green.