When reflecting upon Biblical principles, one is impressed with two personal elements for living the Christian life; that of personal spiritual maturity and the other of the marriage relationship. For the Christian it is probably safe to say that fulfilling these two principles takes up considerable time and effort to achieve, in order to measure up to the Biblical standards.
Consider the Biblical injunction, "As newborn babies, crave the unadulterated milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:2), and "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). Then in relation to the marriage principles: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God---- Husbands love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word" (Ephesians5:21-26). These commands are given by God for His children, not to overwhelm us, but to set the standard as a goal and pattern after which we should strive.
Along with the Biblical injunction goes the resources to come to maturity through the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to our lives. Then to, God has given human resources that enable us to better understand ourselves, and among them is the use of the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as an evaluating instrument for character development, and help in a husband/wife understanding of each other.
The complexities of life today as they impact one's personal life, as well as in the marriage relationship can be devastating to every couple. For a Christian couple it can be even more intense, given the Biblical admonition that the Christian is to be in the world, but not of it (Rom. 12:2; Col. 4:6). The question for every married Christian is how one can accept Biblical principles, be accepting and understanding of one's mate, meet the needs of life, and be a good testimony as a Christian in today's world?
The Myers/Briggs Type Indicator (henceforth MBTI) evaluating instrument can be a valuable tool for husband and wife in order to understand each others basic character development. The sixteen different character combinations provide an understanding of how one's character operates in life, and to help in understanding the character behavior of one's mate. Together they are able to use this knowledge in assisting each other in their spiritual development and application of their unique characteristics toward maturity, as well as utilizing their talents in spiritual ministry.
Balance in life is a worthy goal and a noble achievement, and there is a need for a balanced integration of our preferred ways with our less preferred ways of being and doing for holistic (i.e. Sanctification) as well as holistic (i.e. mature) spirituality. The spiritual and psychological wholeness calls for a balance between our preferred and less preferred ways of being and doing.
We all have strongly ingrained tendencies to adopt patterns of spiritual maturity which favor our preferences, but if they are not balanced with spiritual disciplines that nurture our less preferred ways of being and doing, can become destructive of spiritual wholeness. Spiritual wholeness and holiness nurtures our whole person, not simply our preferred ways of operating. This will become clear as we proceed in our understanding of the subject.
In Romans 14:7 we read, "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." In other words there is no holistic spirituality outside the community of faith. The holistic spirituality of the individual is essential for the spirituality of the community, and the health of the Christian community is essential for the spiritual wholeness of the individual. Just as the members of the physical body are interdependent on each other, so in the spiritual body of believers is there an interdependence on one another. This reality provides a basis for us to consider our individual unique gifts, and how to evaluate them.
Over the many years he studied human behavior, Carl Jung discovered that human beings have four essential behavioral preferences that shape the way they relate to the world around them, and process the data that they receive from that world. He organized those preferences in four pairs. These pairs are: Extroversion (E) and Introversion (I); Sensing (S) and Intuition (N); Thinking (T) and Feeling(F); and Judgment (J) and Perception (P). Within each pair persons generally prefer one mode of behavior over another, and the opposite is less preferred. There is no right or wrong to these pairs, but they are equal in worth.
The first pair, Extroversion (E) and Introversion (I) relate to where persons find their preferred focus---whether it is the outer world of persons, events, and things (E), or in the inner world of self and ideas (I). Extroverts tend to be "people persons". They enjoy the company of others. Introverts, while not people haters, tend to prefer the solitude of life to fellowship with others. They prefer to work and play by themselves, and tend toward reflection rather than action.
The second pair of references, Sensing (S) and Intuition (N) have to do with persons' preferred means of receiving information for living---either through primary reference of their physical senses (S), i.e. seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, or through their primary reliance on Intuition (N), i.e. their "urges" or "hunches". Sensing people enjoy routine and details and enjoy established ways of doing things, whereas Intuitives are problem solvers, and envision ways of accomplishing things, then moving on to other problems. They do not like repetitive activity and can become impatient with details.
The third pair of preferences, Thinking (T) and Feeling (F) suggest the means for processing data received through sensing and intuition. There is a primary reliance on the cognitive process of reasoning (T), or a primary reliance upon the feelings of the heart in relation to others (F). Thinking persons do not show emotions easily, and are very analytical and logical, and tend to make decisions in an impersonal way. Feeling persons are sensitive to how others feel. They enjoy harmony, and have a need to please others, and sometimes let their decisions be influenced by others' likes or dislikes as well as by their own.
The final set of preferences, Judgment (J) and Perception (P) have to do with a person's preferred relationship to the flow of life. There is either a primary desire for evaluation, closure and completion (i.e. decision), order and control (J), or a primarily open-ended and looking for more data approach with a possibility of never coming to a conclusion (P).
Every individual has both options of each pair available to him. These preferences are part of the creation equipment God has given to us. Our preferred modes of employing these gifts have been developed as we have progressed through the stages of our psychological development. The predominance of one of each pair is our character, and this development comes through genetic tendencies as well as learned behaviors we have acquired.
Since, as individuals we vary in our basic characteristics, each of these preferences is clearly seen in some, whereas in others the pairs may be equally strong. For example, consider extroversion/introversion. Some persons have a strong preference for extroversion: they enjoy being with others, and are involved
with everything going on around them. Being alone is avoided if at all possible. Others have a strong preference for introversion: they enjoy periods of solitude and working alone on various activities. Being alone invigorates and energizes them. In contrast to these strong preferences there are some persons equally comfortable with either preference, and move from extroversion to introversion, and back again.
In all of this we see that there is no right or wrong in these preferences, no correct or incorrect way. Neither preference is inherently better than the other. One's preference simply delineates the basic structure of approach to life. A person's pattern indicates preferences not rules of behavior. Wholeness of life does not consist of seeking to become a predominate pattern of one each of the four pairs, but in a mature ability to function with whatever side of one's preference pairs is best suited to the situation at any given time.
One of the problems in life, and especially so within the Christian family, is the tendency to evaluate one pattern of preference as being superior to the pattern of others. It seems as if this is the reason why the Apostle Paul, in likening the body of believers (i.e. the Christian family), to the physical body by way of analogy, stated in I Corinthians 12:14-21 that the body is not one member but many, and that each member within the body is necessary. Furthermore, one cannot say that one member is more important than another and, that "God has set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased Him" (v.18). The admonition is that, as far as God is concerned, every Christian is of equal importance to God within the family. The different preference patterns we have, and our character development is by God's prerogative. Therefore, our differences make no difference to God, nor should we feel superior or inferior to one another.
Since we all have our preference pattern, and this is our "strong" side, what about the opposite elements of the four pairs, since we are not exclusively one side of each pair, but a combination of both? In the spiritual maturation of life, as well as the marriage relationship, it is important that we consider the development of our "weak" side, so that we can come to spiritual wholeness as well as psychological wholeness of life, and bring balance and fullness to life. Biblical principles point to this as the optimum for fullness (note: John 10:10).
As human beings we tend to develop and nurture our preferred pattern of being and doing. This affects both our spiritual life as well as our marriage relationship. The "shadow" side (i.e. the opposite of our preferred side: if one is predominately an ESTJ, then the shadow side will be INFP) will languish and go unnurtured. The result will be an unbalanced life.
A one-sided personality can be devastating to the spiritual maturity of life, as well as to the marriage. Sooner or later the undernourished shadow side will demand equal time and consideration. Without a balanced "holistic" spiritual pattern of developing maturity, there will emerge unspiritual behaviors which will be both antithetical to growing maturity, and destructive to the spiritual activities of the preferred pattern, and produce irritation and tension in marriage.
This imbalance may be illustrated in the Sensing/Intuitive type. One of the temptations of the Intuitive type (N) is primitive, underdeveloped sensuality. The reason is that their Sensing (S) side is not nurtured spiritually, and it may fulfill its needs through destructive sensual activity. It may be that recent sexual deviations of Christian leaders might be due in part to their being strongly intuitive types who failed to nurture the sensing side of their preferred pattern.
A number of years ago I had a Mother bring her teenage son in for counseling. The problem, as she told it, was between her son and his father, in that they never could see things the same. She felt caught in the middle, as she loved her husband, as well as her son. I administered the Myers/Briggs to all three, and the results were quite apparent as to the problem. The father was an engineer, and quite logical and analytical in his thinking; he was a Thinking (T) type. The son was a Feeling (F) type, and the mother was very close on the scale to the son, as a Feeling type. When I explained to all three that the father/son problem manifest itself in the differentiation of their types, and that the mother's natural preference was with the son, and that it did not mean she was siding with him against her husband, it clarified the issue. Both father and son needed to develop their opposite type, and as they worked to develop them, they would move closer to each other. The destructive tendencies in their relationship, as the years progressed could be overcome.
In marriage counseling, having each partner take the MBTI, can be quite revealing. It basically does two important things: first, it objectively evaluates the preferred characteristic types of each partner, and they are able to see themselves as they really are. Usually they acknowledge that what they read about themselves in the four type configuration, is quite true of themselves. The other element is the objective understanding of the character of their mate, and how their mate characteristically responds to situations, and reasons in their discussions. This helps to soften animosities and criticisms that arise when a married couple do not see things eye-to-eye. It can lead to a better resolution of issues that tend to divide, and give them a reason for being willing to compromise.
In order for a Christian to become a mature, spiritually minded person, it is essential to know what one's preferred character pattern is, then to flesh out the opposite pattern of character. For example, a person with a preferred ESFJ, needs to work on the INTP side of life. One needs spiritual dynamics in the less preferred pattern, through spiritual exercises, in order to become the whole, well rounded person God would have one to be.
If one does not nurture his less preferred pattern, then the spiritual journey will have problems, both of wholeness as well as holiness. For example, an ESFJ enjoys being with and ministering to people, but if one does not take time for inner reflection and meditation, and think through God's plan for his life, then he will not come to that maturity of life, which God intends for His children to enjoy (John 10:10).
In order for us to understand what and how we are able to develop the less preferred side of our character, The Center for Application of Psychological Type has produced two charts developed by Earle Page, to help us in coming to an understanding of a Holistic as well as a holistic spiritual journey to fullness. The first of these is, "Finding Your Spiritual Path".
First of all, notice your own preference patterns, and then study the opposite less preferred side of each pattern. Persons with strong preferences will find the factors quite accurate, while those with more equal preferences between pairs may find the indicators less well defined, or more blended. Be careful to note the top of the chart which reads, "These words are meant to suggest, not to define or to limit understanding".
As you read down the column for each preference, you will notice how that preference consistently shapes many areas of your spiritual path. The primary context of one's natural spiritual path depends upon one's preference pattern. For extroverts (E) it is the world/others, whereas for introverts (I) it is ideas/self. For the thinking (T) person the natural way to see the Bible and its application would be through the mind, with knowledge as the primary spiritual path. To the feeling (F) person the heart is the primary path to the spiritual journey, as one studies the Bible.
In reflecting upon the teaching of the Bible, it is clearly seen that the truth of God's Word teaches all the areas of spiritual character development, with application that meets the needs of both our preferred as well as our less preferred sides. As we read the Bible it is easy to see the truth that touches our preferred way of development; what we need to do is exercise the understanding that ministers to our less preferred side.
As you look at the bottom of the chart, below the "Natural Spiritual Path", you will see what is needed for wholeness. Each preferred pattern needs the opposite for wholeness, fullness, or balance in the Christian life. In both our personal life, as well as the life of the church (i.e. the collective body of believers), there is the need to provide balance for the corporate as well as individual growth. This is why the Apostle Paul stated the balanced truth in I Corinthians 12, in the manner of the coordinated physical body, as it relates to the spiritual body of Christians.
The different members of the body bring to each other the strengths of their preference patterns as gifts of God's grace to those of different patterns. The ENFJ is God's gift to the ISTP, and the ISTP is God's gift to the ENFJ. Though they may be uncomfortable gifts with each other, the spiritual dynamics of the strengths provides nurturing in development and strengthening the weakness of the other. This is why the admonition of Paul in I Corinthians is that, "There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care, one for another" (I Cor. 12:25). He also states that it is the Holy Spirit who places the members in the body, "As it pleases Him" (v.18).
The second chart, Following Your Spiritual Path, illustrates the need for balanced spirituality. As you can see the note at the top of the page says, "Our aim is a balanced, centered spirituality. These words are meant to facilitate understanding, not to stifle individuality".
The first category entitled, "Some Positive Expressions" speaks to the strengths of each preference. The next four categories help us to see the dangers of one-sided spirituality, and the urgent need for a balanced, holistic spiritual walk. It is important that we not only consider our preferred pattern to understand ourselves, but to understand our less preferred side, and take action accordingly.
Underdevelopment in one category makes it necessary to develop that area, in order to achieve balance and wholeness. The lack of development in one area is not to say that "unspiritual" behaviors and sinful attitudes and actions are simply a case of psychological imbalance that can be easily cured by nurturing the alternate side of the pair. Ultimately the issue of balance and wholeness, as well as Holiness is the matter of control. Who is in control of our mind and heart, with all its desires and purposes---God or us?
This is why the Apostle Paul states his admonition in Romans 12:2, that we, "Be not conformed to this world's system, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (i.e. WILL), that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God". Holy Spirit control of our lives will bring us to wholeness, balance, and holiness, as we allow the truth of God's Word to minister to our lives.
The goal of a holistic spiritual pilgrimage is related to all the creation gifts of our psychological and spiritual makeup. Our spiritual formation always takes place within our given psychological state and personality preference patterns. Our preference patterns don't change too much unless we work at them, but our psychological state is always in flux. The process of our being conformed to the image of God (see Rom. 8:29; II Cor. 3:18) in Christ, is always related at any given moment to where we are in these two continuities (i.e. our preference pattern & our psychological state). We need to be sensitive to this, and if not then our spirituality will tend to be superficial in our lives.
Unfortunately, among many Christians the spiritual side is tied very weakly to the realities of daily living. Thus we tend to become dualistic: the spiritual life on one side (i.e. Sunday church), and the rest of life on the other side (i.e. business as usual the rest of the week). This is because we have not realized how deeply our spiritual life and growth into the wholeness of genuine spirituality is interwoven with our being and doing. If we desire to "Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18), then it is imperative that we allow the Holy Spirit to integrate our being and our doing, so that we become the whole person He desires for us.
Just as wholeness and holiness are important factors in the development of a mature life of the individual, so it is important in the development of the marriage relationship. All that has been said about these things, are the foundational elements upon which a good marriage can be built. The preferred character pattern of each partner imposes itself upon the other partner. Unless each understands him/her self, as well as the preferred pattern of the other, serious consequences will occur. This is why it is so important for each to understand him/her self as well as his/her partner.
Whether a couple is married or single and contemplating marriage, it is excellent for them to fill out the MBTI, so that each is able to objectively understand their preferred pattern, as well as the preferred pattern character of their partner.
One of the significant problem areas in marriage is that of the lack of communication. One reason for that is the "baggage" that one brings to marriage, so that the relationship begins with three strikes against real communication and ultimate bonding. Every marriage is one of incompatibility for three reasons. First, is the male/female mystique which is God ordained in order to urge each partner to overcome their innate selfishness and project themselves to meet their spouses needs. The second problem is that of genetic inherited tendencies, strengths/weaknesses, assets/liabilities, which surface in marriage. The third problem is one of learned behaviors that mold one's character, ingrained in each of us from our family of origin through parental modeling. In marriage each brings all these factors to the relationship, so that they all play a significant role in communication and relationship.
The use of the MBTI is most significant in assisting a couple to understand the character of their mate, given all the background he/she brings to that marriage. The preferred pattern of character behavior is molded by a combination of the aforementioned elements that combine to produce one's character. Consequently, since there are sixteen different combinations of a preferred pattern, it is easy to see that it is rare that a husband/wife would each have the same preferred pattern. Given they might, it may also tend to be a blended relationship without too much excitement.
In conflict resolution the preferred pattern of behavior will always come to the surface, and each will act according to that character pattern. Much of the discord in the differences of seeing something comes because one partner can't understand why the other one doesn't see it their way. Granted the reason may be from stubbornness, but usually it is because the preferred pattern exerts itself, which differs from one's partner. Also, it may be that one or both have not developed their less preferred side, which if worked at will bring balance in life, as we have seen, and thus be able to produce harmony in resolution to the issue.
One of the unique aspects of a husband/wife finding out their preferred side through the MBTI is that of understanding the preferred side of their mate. Often this brings an exclamation, "I didn't know you acted or thought that way". It is hard for us as human beings to place ourselves in the "preferred pattern shoes" of another person, since we usually react according to our own pattern. To at least read and understand how one's mate thinks and acts, is very helpful in conflict resolution in marriage. "Why can't you see it my way", can be overcome by an understanding so that one does not have to say, "you are putting me on", or "you are not being honest with me".
Discord through lack of understanding the preferred pattern of one's mate, often brings unnecessary accusations, which may not be true, and if one is falsely accused then communication is often broken down, and hurts are common. An understanding of one's partner can be acquired through the MBTI, which often ameliorates problems before they arise.
There are various nuances of the sixteen patterns through the MBTI, that are interesting to note. It is impossible to relate them all, though a few may be noted. (See a listing of the books in the bibliography which will reveal others). Extroverts (E) tend to be people oriented, whereas introverts (I) tend to enjoy their solitude. In a marriage to have one of each in the partnership may require some compromise on the part of both, in order to provide a balance in the relationship.
If one is a judging (J) person, and the spouse is a perceptive (P) individual, this combination tends toward frustration, since the judging one likes to make decisions and move on, whereas the perceptive person may feel pressured, and wants more time to evaluate the situation before coming to a conclusion.
The combination of both partners being intuitive (N) and feeling (F) tends to make great lovers, and produce a closeness between them, since both are desirous of projective themselves to meet the other one's needs, without thought of selfishly having theirs met.
In the Christian life, as well as in marriage, coming to balance both in maturation of the Christian life and in personal relationship, is highly desirable as well as fulfilling. It is primarily through recognizing one's deficiencies, taking personal responsibility for rectifying the problem, getting help through various means, of which one valuable tool is the MBTI, and allowing the Holy Spirit through the Word of God to bring wholeness as well as Holiness to one's life, can be a refreshing aspect of life, that will enable one to enjoy the fullness of life that everyone desires, and that God has for His children.
1) Clift, Wallace---Jung and Christianity, Crossroads, N.Y.
2) Keirsey, David & Bates, Marilyn---Please Understand Me, Prometheus Nemesis Book Co., Del Mar, CA.
3) Kelsey, Morton---Christianity as Psychology, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, MN.
4) Kroeger, Otto & Thuesen, Janet---16 Ways To Love Your Lover, Delacorte Press, N.Y., N.Y.
5) Myers, Isabel Briggs---Introduction to Type, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.
6) Mulholland, M. Robert---Invitation To A Journey, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.
7) Provost, Judith---A Casebook: Applications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Counseling
8) Provost, Judith---Applications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Higher Education
These two books by Provost may be ordered from the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc. (C.A.P.T.) 2815 N.W. 13th St., Suite #401, Gainesville, FL., 32609, as well as many other books on the study of the MBTI.
John H. Stoll, Ph.D.
1618 Amy Ln.
THE USE OF THE MYERS/BRIGGS INSTRUMENT IN SANCTIFICATION OF LIFE AND MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIPS
A Paper Delivered to the CAPS Convention
Virginia Beach, VA.