I lay back on the pillows, tears leaking from the corner of my eyes. My husband looked across at me.
I hesitated, not because I didn’t know what was wrong, but because it was sort of ridiculous.
I was crying because of a personality test (well, three, actually). But who does that?
Only a few nights earlier, my family members entertained ourselves by trying to figure out which Star Wars character we were. My husband was Chewbacca, my daughter Wicket. My son was Princess Leia—and he cried (so maybe my eight-year-old son and I are the only ones who cry over personality tests). And my result? Emperor Palpatine. It seemed pretty innocuous, and we found another test, this time Harry Potter. I was Draco Malfoy.
I was starting to sense a pattern. But I didn’t think much of it until a couple of nights later, when a friend posted another personality test online, also based on Myers-Briggs. (If you hadn’t already figured this out, I’m a sucker for personality tests). Here’s what this one had to say about my “type”:
INTJs are independent types, wildly intelligent and creative — but rather un-interested in what anyone else is doing. . . .
Although that, at least, was better than this:
loner, more interested in intellectual pursuits than relationships or family, not very altruistic, not very complimentary, would rather be friendless than jobless, . . . detached, private, not much fun, hidden, skeptical, does not tend to like most people, socially uncomfortable, not physically affectionate, unhappy, does not talk about feelings, hard to impress, analytical, likes esoteric things, tends to be pessimistic, not spontaneous, prone to discontentment, guarded, does not think they are weird but others do. . .
Suddenly I no longer recognized myself. I’ve taken several different variations of Myers-Briggs over the years and pretty consistently been INTJ. But reading these descriptions one on top of another—suddenly it seemed as if I belonged to a group with sociopaths and evil dictators: cold, calculating, ruthlessly ambitious.
This was not at all the person I wanted to be. Hence, the crying.
My husband valiantly suppressed any desire to laugh as he listened to me. (My mother, in the rational light of the next morning, was not so restrained). “You’re not like that,” he said. “You care about people.”
I hope I do. But here’s the thing. I recognize the truth of those tendencies in myself. Sometimes I struggle to sympathize or empathize as I should. Most times I prefer a good book to a party. And sometimes I am more critical than I should be—of myself and of others.
But I’m more than the sum of these preferences. And I think the gospel of Jesus Christ has a lot to do with that.
I don’t know if we can change our personality preferences. But I do know that living the gospel (or trying to) has changed the extent to which my preferences manifest themselves. If I am introverted, attending church has forced me out of my comfort zone again and again, giving me opportunities for friendship with people I might not otherwise have known. Praying for charity, serving in the church, reading my scriptures (in fact, reading in general) has taught me more empathy than I would naturally possess. Learning to exercise faith forces me to confront my doubts, reach beyond my innate skepticism, and rely on a Higher Power—an exercise that is at once humbling and empowering.
King Benjamin told his people: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). And perhaps the real truth is that in our natural states, none of us are terribly likeable people. Luckily for all of us, our innate preferences aren’t prescriptions for how we have to live our lives–the atonement means we all have the potential to be better than our baseline.
(And it’s lucky for everyone that I’m not really the evil genius type. I’d make a terrible super villain.)
What about you? How has the gospel challenged your “personality preferences”? (And please tell me I’m not the only personality test junkie out there . . . )