What Didn’t Surprise Me
It wasn’t my type that surprised me.
When I took the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a highly-esteemed personality assessment test) during a class last year, I was told I was an “INFJ.” Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging. I immediately nodded, agreeing.
I am an introvert: I recharge from an afternoon alone with a good book, although I enjoy one-on-one settings, too. I am intuitive (to a degree): I like to “read between the lines” and guess what people are thinking from my perceptions, not necessarily what they say. I’m also an emotion-based person.
And I’m most definitely a Judging type — which, thankfully, doesn’t mean I’m judgmental. Rather, being a “J” means I prefer to-do lists, schedules, guidelines, deadlines, and set expectations to looseness, spontaneity, and the freedom to set my own speed.
I like knowing what’s expected of me. And then I enjoy meeting — or exceeding — those expectations. I check off lists, stay punctual, follow orders, look to others to tell me what to do, and achieve goals.
What Did Surprise Me
No, it wasn’t my type that surprised me that day as I sat at my desk and examined my results with my classmates.
What surprised me is that there are types other than mine. Well, that’s not entirely true; I’d known that other types of personalities existed. I’d even realized that God makes people differently, and what makes one person click can make another cluck. What most surprised me was that a type opposite my own assigned “J” exists.
“P” personalities thrive on spontaneity. They flow best when unhindered, unhampered by the schedules I cling to. They see to-do lists as drudgery. They’d rather “get to it” than “get it done.”
And before I took the MBTI and realized that a personality type did indeed exist for them, I thought “P”s were merely out to drive this “J” crazy.
There was the time the course syllabus my Art History professor handed out was less than one page long. One page! My freshman self glanced up at him in horror. One page? How was I supposed to know what he wanted from me, what I needed to read, when I needed to study? That half a page of “what we might study” didn’t even have dates for exams or the one big class assignment!
I’d much prefer the six-page syllabus my Spanish professor gave out. I clutched it in relief while the rest of the class groaned at the copious amount of homework assigned. It was a lot of work, but at least I knew what I had to do (and when!).
Or there was the time a friend told me she’d call me and we’d find a time to go out to lunch. Of course I took this to mean she’d call later that afternoon. When the phone failed to ring, I shrugged my shoulders and extended my own inner deadline to the next day. She didn’t call that day, either. A week later, I contacted her. As a result, we spent a nice hour over lunch talking and catching up, but I thought I just wasn’t valuable enough to her — because she hadn’t called on my timeline.
That’s why it meant a lot to me when a dear friend invited me to come visit her a state away last summer — and then she actually emailed me with dates and ideas and the names of two bookstores we could visit while I was there. I was beyond thrilled; I knew when, where, and what, and I felt as if she truly cared about me because she operated by the same “J” style as I do.
But the truth is, what I thought I already knew and what didn’t surprise me taught me something last year. I thought I already knew that God makes us differently, but I hadn’t truly understood what that means It didn’t surprise me that I’m an INFJ; I fit the type perfectly. What did surprise is me that my personality type is never “it” or “best” or “better”; it’s just me — and that means there’s a whole beautiful world out there full of people who are different. I can let that frustrate me, or I can flourish in the knowledge that God made me this way for a reason, just as He made “P”s for a reason.
And, although I’m thankful for the “sharpening”, that reason isn’t merely to sharpen me (Proverbs 27:17).
It’s sort of a secret language, these letters that make up the 16 different types. A professor of mine — as hard a “J” as I am — and I even joke about the “P” people in our lives and how they can sometimes still cause us anxiety.
They cause me a lot less anxiety now that I know they’re not trying to make me miserable. They just function best without a set of rigid rules. Me? I think I’ll relax my rigidity a little, forgive that professor, and realize that friend meant well and is, in fact, a good friend. I may even try a little spontaneity on for size. It may not perfectly “fit,” but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything wrong with it.
Want to Know More About the MBTI?
- Discover Your Personality Type — Did you find your type and maybe learn something new about yourself? We’d love to hear about it! Comment below with which personality type best fits you!
- Introverted vs. Extroverted? — How do you recharge?
- Sensing or Intuition? — How do you learn?
- Feeling or Thinking? — How do you decide?
- Judging vs. Perceiving? — How do you function?
- Visit the Myers-Briggs Foundation for more about the science behind the assessment.