Personality

Wonderful and uniquely made.

Ps 139:14

I have done many personality assessments in the last few years. They have greatly helped me discover, accept and develop who I am.

Describing myself

I have studied math and computer sciences. I love the exact sciences. I admire math, I love computer sciences as a kind of applied logic, and I put up with physics and the like. They are somewhat wishy-washy.

Thus, when it comes to personality assessments, I find that George Box, a British statistician, is absolutely correct when he tells us that “all models are wrong, but some are useful”.

Let me give you some of the results of my assessments:

As for the Enneagram, I am a 5w4so. Or as I like to put it, an iconoclastic professor. In the MBTI, I test as an INTP, sometimes called the logician. In CliftonStrengths, I have 7 strategic thinking themes in my top 10, and the other 3 are heavily biased towards thinking. And in Spiral Dynamics, I have access to yellow thinking, and even my COG seems to be there.

For the purists, let me add my big5 results: Agreeableness: 17th, Conscientiousness: 1st, Extraversion: 3rd, Neuroticism: 3rd, and Openness to Experience: 96th percentile.

To put it bluntly:

I am an introverted thinker that does not give much about old and tested ways, a lone wolf that depends on its own intuition and logic, a person that is doing repressed and at times falls into deep rabbit holes of analysis paralysis.

I have learned to be polite, which does not come natural for me. I have for a long time made myself obey the rules, which was very hard. And I have fallen into a rut of starting things, if even that, without finishing them.

I am a normal, multifaceted person with natural positive and negative sides that has learned some positive and adopted some negative things.

Development

From early on, I have constructed what some call a false self. It is a pain induced shell around the true self, which is God’s make-up and intention for me. Others call it the ego. This is where the notion of personality comes from in the first place. Persona comes from the Greek and means mask. It was a mask that actors wore to portray their role.

Our false self is shaped by our environment, but not fully. It cannot depart totally from our true self and is imprinted by both. This is what we call nature and nurture. We do not come to this world as a blank slate, as the constructivists would say, but with a wonderful seed that is there our whole life, even if burried under the persona we portray.

Our journey then is one of dis-covering the true self, ridding it of the parts of the false self that are destructive and those that are just good, but not truly us.

As I said above, I learned to obey rules. I was convinced that this was christlike, polite, and enabling order. And that is true.

But it is also stifling and prevents chaos and growth. Many times, to obey is just another survival strategy and protection mechanism of the ego, the false self.

God has a plan, an order that is well tested to lead us as humanity and as individuals to greater maturity. The outworking is individual, but there are patterns. God wants to bring us from instinctual survival to a grand unity of individuals.

Obedience as Example

Obedience is one big issue we have to deal with on this path. We need a certain complexity of thinking ability to do it. Early on, what we interpret as obedience is fear induced conformity and the definition of a power hierarchy. Toddlers learn that Mommy and Daddy are stronger, and out of an instinct and craving for security and mere survival, they start to behave as expected.

Obviously, there comes a point when they want to break out. They start to develop their ego, but also learn basic features of decisiveness and courage. Both stages obviously help to build both the true as well as the false self. As parents, we can stifle the true self through overprotecting or neglecting the child, or asking for too much submission as well as too little. We all fail, by the way. God knows and has the remedy.

It is not before a child can start to postpone gratification, that is, has a concept of the future and basic trust in that concept, that obedience is possible and becomes about building that future. Obedience naturally depends on what was previously learned, especially decisiveness. Without the ability to make decisions, what seems to be obedience is mere going along.

Historically, obedience was the big learning point in the wilderness, with the freshly received law, up to the reformation. As individuals, we start to learn obedience maybe around 5-7 up to our teenage years. Obviously, we never stop, but we have more complex issues to learn afterwards.

One of the things that comes after obedience is systems optimisation. Let me explain.

When we enter the workforce or higher education, multiple stake holders expect different things from us, and those things contradict. Many things become optimisation games, where we either have to decide to obey one and disappoint the other, or do as much as possible for both. And sometimes, we just give up and fail both sides. It depends on our personality and the health of what we have learned so far: submission, decisiveness, and obedience, and so much more.

It becomes obvious that the world is not black and white, but that there are grey scales. We also learn that, though the first attempt of being egoistic was beneficial for our decisiveness, it was immature and bad for belonging. We now start a new attempt, bending the rules instead of breaking them, optimising free will, individuality, personal success with our need to belong, community, team success. We learn to play and sometimes hack the system.

There is obviously much more to learn even after that, but as an example, this might suffice for the moment.

The Shadow

We push things down that we cannot live with or do not believe about ourselves. Our false self protects us from the former and hides from us the latter. Most often, the false self does that with the best intent. It truly believes that it protects us from the ugly and the too good to be true.

It is confronting this shadow that uncovers the false self for what it is. It is knowing the worst that happened to us, and the worst we are capable of doing, as much as seeing what positive we are able to do that brings forth our true self.

This true self has been under attack all our life. Since it built its survival strategies when we were little, based on the perceived threats and expectations of our family and closest tribe, the strategy is bound to fail when we grow up. But it will do almost everything to protect itself, and always think it does this to protect you.

The false self will adapt and adopt strategies of tribes you have grown up to live in. Church is such a tribe. Religion tells you that you have an old nature and a new one, and that the old has to die, while the new has to come forth.

As we interpret old and new, and with the complexity of thinking we are capable of, we think, that the new nature exists only since we gave our lives to Jesus.

I have come to believe that the new nature is nothing but the true self, the godly spark instilled into us from the beginning. It is new because it is the first time we consciously are confronted with it.

The old nature therefore is the false self, built by the pain body, our reaction to the circumstances of life and the lies we were told.

To become whole is not as much to die to self, as it is to die to the false self. It is not to become obedient and give up our individuality, as much as it is to grow and incorporate both obedience and individuality as well as many other things we learn on the way, but shed those that are not godly.

To confront the devil so that he will flee from us is to confront our shadow. It is nothing out there. It’s not a supernatural being in opposition with God. We are well capable of doing all this to ourselves. Jesus gave us the means to cope with it.

Look inside for change.

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Accompanyist | Pastor in Exile | Iconoclast — I am a Gallup certified CliftonStrengths coach and a Spiral Dynamics practitioner.