3 Things to Remember When Taking Personality Tests

When I was a young teen, it was the “four temperaments” that were making the rounds and people were often labeled and boxed up. (“Oh, you’re just a melancholy. Loosen up!”) I was loathe to take any of the personality tests so when people would ask, “What are you?” I would shrug and never tell.

It wasn’t until I was older that I admitted the truth: the few tests I did take behind my bedroom door left me downright confused. I didn’t fit into any of the boxes. I was a choleric, sort of. Except that while I can take charge, it actually makes me horrendously nervous and I put it off as long as possible. I was slightly melancholy, in that I am slow and thoughtful on many fronts, but I was also sanguine because I greatly enjoy groups of people and making new friends.  I also tended to be phlegmatic in the way I was loyal and slow to judge and incredibly stubborn. And the lists of negative tendencies? Oh, my. They all fit.

In fact, when I filled out the “test”, the numbers were all within a single point of each other.

I was terribly jealous of those who knew their personality and claimed it. I, apparently, had no personality at all. Talk about boring.

But over the years I learned something:

1. It’s actually a good thing when your personality type is less defined. 

Learning to be balanced when you have a strong “type” can be difficult. When you’re more even-keeled, it is less likely that you will ostracize people by being overwhelmingly one way or another. I also realized, at the same time, that God created us all different. None of us completely “fit” in one box or another so it is foolish for us to ever think that we’ve “pegged” someone or even ourselves.

We are also in the process of being changed moment-by-moment, day-by-day. The Bible says that we are “clay  in the Potter’s hands”. So even if you are a definite personality type at one time, that may change over the years.

2. We need to be careful in labeling other people’s personalities.

I learned this point on a crisp winter day in North Port, Florida. We were working at cleaning up an elderly widow’s yard; spreading mulch on the flowerbeds, carrying buckets of weeds back to the woods, planting bulbs for spring. There were a dozen people working and the level of efficiency was minimal at best. Finally, after some time had passed and no one seemed to be stepping up to bring a bit of organization, I called everyone together and suggested that perhaps we’d work better in groups. Everyone seemed agreeable so we paired off and started to return to the assigned tasks. It was then that someone laughed and pointed a finger at me, “Well, well, aren’t you just the little choleric?”

Looking back with maturity on my side, I’m quite aware that it was not meant as an insult. In fact, it was probably meant as a compliment.

But the fact is that I was hurt by the statement. It seemed like I was being accused of thinking too much of myself and taking control where I had no right to be. What I heard was not the positive side of this personality type, but the negative.

In fact, it would be a long, long time before I could be thankful for my ability to organize groups of people to accomplish a task. And I learned an important lesson:

People are not the sum of their personality types. And labeling can, in fact, hinder rather than help.

3. Your personality type and the weaknesses you may deal with are not excuses to sin.

The third thing is possibly the one that I am most passionate about. I remember, distinctly, being a young teenager and watching a scene unfold where a peer would manipulate everyone around them to get what they wanted and when confronted, would shrug and say, “Well, I am choleric after all.”

Your personality type and the weaknesses you may deal with are not excuses to sin. If you are gifted in leadership that does not give you an “excuse” to abuse that position. If you are gifted in being extroverted and outgoing, that does not give you the excuse to be flippant or harsh with others. If you are more laid-back and easy-going, that does not give you an excuse to be lazy or ignore your responsibilities.

In the end, no matter what label you may fit (or not fit) under, you are still responsible for you.

And in the same respect, you do not have a “right” to your personality type. These labels are not here for you to claim and wear as a badge.

Too many times I have heard people say, “They just don’t understand my personality.”

This line of thinking is dangerous and immature. It is a victim mentality where you are an innocent left to the devices of those around you. This is simply not true. Through Christ Jesus we have the strength and ability to change negative thinking and poor habits. We have the ability to acknowledge truth over lies. We don’t have to believe we are not understood because no one is showing us love in the one certain way we want it. We can learn and grow and change.

So, by all means, enjoy reading about and taking personality tests.  Laugh over how accurately a description may “fit” you. But dear ones, do not forget that personality studies should be addressed with a measure of maturity and used to expound our knowledge rather than limit us.

16 Comments

  1. Thank you for your article about 3 things to remember when taking personality tests. My husband was fired b/c his boss at a church had the staff take personality tests, and my husband tested introvert leaning, which as you know, doesn’t mean he’s incapable of drawing crowds or being outgoing, it just means that he is thoughtful and needs down time to recharge. His boss “locked him up into a box” and assumed that he was not up to the task at hand (had his boss had the maturity to understand these tests, he would have looked at the bigger picture: reality vs. personality test results, we wouldn’t have had the rug ripped out from under us) and let him and another staff member go b/c of this. This article has provided some justification for me to read b/c I felt like I was crazy for thinking just these things. THANKS!

  2. Natasha, I’m a little late to the party but I LOVED this! Thank you so much. Your wisdom is a blessing in my life.

  3. Thanks for the reminder that each personality type has up sides as well as the down sides. There is a time and place for each to be used as a gift to glorify the Lord!

  4. Thanks so much for these wise words. It can be fun to discover our “personality type” and the types of others, but we can’t let that keep us locked in little boxes. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks again!

    1. It can be quite fun. ๐Ÿ™‚ And it can be insightful! But you’re exactly right– keeping people locked up in a certain box can be quite disastrous. We learn to grow, we don’t learn to just “clean people up” as one friend so eloquently put it.

  5. Sandra Wright says:

    Thank you for this post! I have yet to take a personality test such as you have described, and I think I must be somewhat like you. I hate labels and I never seem to fit into any box. You have given a very balanced perspective on personality tests. God bless you !

  6. Amen to this: ” Your personality type and the weaknesses you may deal with are not excuses to sin.”
    I have to admit that it really does bother me when people use the excuse of being an introvert as a reason to not communicate properly or to be lazy etc… and then there are those who use the excuse of being an extrovert as the reason for their overly apparent bossiness etc…

    I’m also really against labeling. I don’t think anyone truly fits into a “box” as far as personality goes. We all have our quirks after all ๐Ÿ˜‰ and God made each one of us unique. We all have positives and negatives for sure.I’m probably more of an introvert and also probably a bit choleric but I honestly never dwell on those labels or even let them define me at all. I’m just me; a sinner saved by Grace who wants to Glorify the Lord in all I do and say!

    1. I do think there is a time and place for labels, but all things should be measured against two important things. 1) it is glorifying to God? and 2) are we continuing to grow in grace AND knowledge?

      Gaining knowledge and labeling people alone is a terrible thing, but growing in grace? (learning to understand and offer grace to others because of our knowledge) THAT can be valuable.

      And, of course, all things should be done for the glory of God. Using our “labels” to excuse sin, of course, will never glorify Christ.

      1. I agree with you on all points! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Very written! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Natasha. It was really helpful and insightful =0)

  8. So… I can’t pick a favorite quote from this post… I like several of them so much! I especially liked the part about growth. Oh, yes yes yes!

  9. Amen and amen. Thanks for putting to words some lessons I’ve learned (and am learning) the hard way.

    I’ve always “heard” the negative side of the labels of my very Choleric personality through the years. Not only did I have to learn the fact that my personality was not an excuse for sin (beginning at a young age when I was always the “bossy” one), but I also had to learn to embrace the strengths God has given me and recognize that there are positive sides to my personality as well.

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