Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “become who you are.”
Maximise on your natural proclivities and gifts.
Develop. Grow. Find your niche.
He was right.
Myers and Briggs (1962) formulated the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, a psychometric questionnaire which measures psychological preferences in individuals specifically focusing on how they perceive the world around them and make decisions. From their research Myers and Briggs determined that we each fit into one of sixteen personality types and these categories are still used today to help people understand themselves better so they can grow in their strengths and shore up their weaknesses. Now, of course, as with all research it has been subject to criticism, however, what we can take away from the research as a whole is that we don’t all think or behave in the same way and by understanding ourselves better we can maximise on our natural dispositions and talents while at the same time becoming more aware of the areas in which we are weak so we can then improve on them or at least make sure they don’t interfere with our strengths.
I find all of this very interesting. Maybe I’m just a narcissist but I really enjoy learning about how my mind works and trying to improve because there are a lot of areas in my life which require improvement! But what has this got to do with Jesus or the Bible or the church or anything remotely related to Christianity? I’m glad you asked!
These personality types are great. They are really helpful at developing self-awareness so we can grow in our strengths, fix (or hide) our weaknesses, and find our place (to some degree) in the world. However, they do pose a significant danger: they threaten to define us by shaping our identity around 4 letters. Once we learn we are ESFP or INTJ or whatever combination we happen to be according to the MBTI assessment it is very easy to fall into thinking that is who we are. As we read the descriptions of each personality type we may have many Ah! moments as we resonate with what Myers and Briggs have said about us, and we should take that on board, but we shouldn’t allow that to be all we are. We shouldn’t think 4 letters are the sum of who we are in some kind of fatalistic determinism, as though we can never exceed the expectations of a psychometric questionnaire. Certainly we all have natural dispositions and gifts but Jesus came to give us life to the full, a life that is more than what we are naturally (John 10:10).
Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV). We are not all hands or feet or eyes. We are not all ENTJ or INTP or ESFP. We are not all Counsellors or Greeters or Sunday School Teachers. And that is something to be celebrated because where then would the body, the diversity of personality, or the Church? God has not called us all to be the same. He has given us all different personalities and gifts to steward, to develop and mature, as we follow Jesus and serve others.
So Nietzsche was right. In Christ we should become who we are, who God has made us to be. But that’s not the whole story. We have to become more than who we are if we are to experience the fullness of life Jesus promises us because no one, if left to their natural tendencies, will pursue fullness of life in every area of their lives. I know I wouldn’t. I’d rather just become who I am; stick to my strengths and minimise my weaknesses. But that isn’t the life Jesus has called us to. He wants us to rejoice in our weaknesses so his strength can be perfected in us, so we can experience fullness of life in and through him:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)
We are not all gifted at, or naturally disposed toward, serving others but we are all called to love and serve our neighbours (Mark 12:30).
We are not all gifted at, or naturally disposed toward, being generous with our time, our money or our lives but we are all called to be generous in these ways (2 Corinthians 9:7).
We are not all gifted at, or naturally disposed toward, teaching the Bible but we are all called to share the gospel with others through our words whether with a co-worker, a family member, a friend, or even to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ by reminding them of who Jesus is and all he has done for us (Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 3:12-15).
In what ways can you become who you are in Christ by growing in the gifts and natural disposition God has given you? And, as importantly, how can to become more than who you are? How can you become the person God has called you to be in the fullness of life Christ has promised and called us to through our weaknesses?