Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Four Little Letters

[what's brewing: steam or no steam?]

As hard as it is to believe that we are officially two full months into 2009, the fact is that 62 days have passed since I posted my New Year’s Resolutions . I have had some moments of success and many moments of disappointing failure in my quest to address the emotional depletion that leads to angry, hurtful reactions that surprise me even as they leave my mouth.

I am a firm believer in the expression, “All truth is God’s truth,” and in the past two months I have been learning from many truth-filled resources in addition to learning from his Word and through his Spirit. One of the truth-filled resources I’ve been encouraged by in the past 6 weeks is the Myers-Briggs personality type structures.

When I first took the Myers-Briggs I came out close to the middle on all 4 categories; after being married for a couple of years it became clear that I am an ISFJ*. It took the intimate exposure of living with another person to reveal some of the natural tendencies that I had self-regulated for so long that I almost didn’t even know they were there.

I find it somewhat unsettling to think that four little letters can describe me so accurately, but the profile of an ISFJ reads like an autobiography of my inner world. It captures many of my thoughts, motivations and challenges in ways I never would have been able to.

How is it that I am so easily quantifiable?

On the other hand, it is somewhat reassuring to realize that many of the struggles I face (and to be fair, many of the qualities that make me effective in my work) are natural outcomes of the way in which my personality is comprised. There is a structure to the way I’ve been created, and that structure is known by Him. He is glorified by certain elements of it, and He holds the power to redeem the broken pieces of it.

What has been particularly insightful recently has been the description of ISFJ’s in relationships with others. My mouth hung open for quite awhile when reading the description – I was reading verbatim excerpts of arguments Jason and I have had. And we found the same to be true when reading Jason’s description – verbatim accusations that I have thrown at him in moments of frustration.

In my quest to address my surprising outbursts of anger, I found great hope upon reading this:

It's a common problem for ISFJ's to not express their feelings until pushed to some limit, after which they explode in anger and say things which they later feel they shouldn't have said.
What’s hopeful about that, you ask? It was a moment of hope to realize that I may not simply be an angry missionary who can’t control her temper at the end of a day, but instead have a lot to learn about expressing my feelings earlier on to avoid reaching that point. This may seem like a simple task to many people, but for me it is a big step to start expressing my feelings early on.

Perhaps I have mistakenly believed that a “good Christian” can tolerate frustration, can hold her tongue indefinitely, or can selflessly endure disappointment without speaking up. Whatever the reason, I’m slowly learning to express my feelings as they come up. It doesn’t come naturally, and it doesn’t always go well. But it’s a step in the right direction for The Resolutions of 2009.

How are your resolutions coming along?

P.S. Interested in finding out your personality type? Try this free test and read more about your type here.

*Extraversion/Introversion; Sensing/iNtuition; Feeling/Thinking; Judgment/Perception.


~K~ said...

Hello from a fellow ISFJ!

Sanyu said...

It was interesting to take the test and then read about the personality traits. I laughed quite a few times as it really described me.

Grammy said...

Thank you for sharing your struggles but even more so that you're willing to work on a change. So often I hear people say I'm a "_____". and that's just the way it is. They find a box and put themselves into it. God wants us to renew our minds each day. His mercies are new each day . We should strive not to stay in our box but to emerge the better for it. That sounds like what you are trying to do. Don't let satan's set backs throw you off.

Brenda said...


My whole life. Its the "I" that makes ministry hard sometimes, I would rather read a book!

Libby said...

ISFP here all the way. I agree Brenda, the "I" makes it hard sometimes. I have a husband who's the opposite of me so God uses him to draw me out. :)

I think it's good to remember that we don't have to be stuck in these 4 letters but then at the same time that we can also be content that God will use me no matter how "I" I might be or how "S" or whatever. God can take those things and use us in ways to serve others and see God's love in a different way.

Becky Aguirre said...

According to that little test, I am an EIFJ...I think I would mostly agree that it reflects my personality. I think that it is really important to assess your personality and tendencies for the purpose of understanding yourself...but yeah, not making it an excuse for behaving badly or for not allowing God to change us.

I really related to what you said about not expressing your feelings, though, until you are pushed and then it may come flooding out more strongly than you intended. Even though I'm more of an extravert, expressing myself rather easily in some areas, I find myself doing the same thing in other areas, particularly with negative emotions. I tend to let them go too long, either because I don't know how to say it or because I don't want to hurt people's feelings. But then it turns out badly...I like what you said about it not being an issue of that you are an angry person, you just may need to learn how to express your emotions in a healthy and positive way sooner. I think that I will benefit from this advice. :)

Anonymous said...

Haha, one of my favorite pastimes is analyzing my friends and trying to figure out their four letters. It makes my husband absolutely nuts! :)

It's interesting how much being in a different culture brings out different aspects of my personality. I'd be curious to take the test again after a couple years in the Middle East to see if/how it changes....

ENFJ, by the way :)

Barb said...

I still came out an ISFJ after taking this same test many years ago:) Isn't it exciting to know God has made each of us unique and yet we share common personality traits. Remember we are "works" in process. We can encourage each other as we continue to grow in Him.

Julie said...

ENTJ to the core. I am also grateful that God has given us different strengths to cover each other's weaknesses!

I think it's important to focus our energy on those strengths and not compare...everyone's "style" is needed in the Body of Christ.

Lori U said...

Hmm. . . I am an ISFJ also. It is a lot to think about.

kimom said...

Hi CG! As a teenager I was an ENFJ, but years later tested as an ISFJ. I know my 'FJ' are strong. Our individualities are fascinating to me.

And these 4 letters don't cover everything. My husband and I had to test as part of premarital counseling and were asked, "How will you cope with being so similar?" HA! That was our biggest joke for years because there are other differences that just weren't covered in 4 letters! =) He loves spontaneity and I LOVE predictability. Oh well.

Thanks for your stories! It's good to know I'm not the only one who has to take baby steps in stating her feelings.

P.S. You can add us to the blogroll now that we're back overseas: tenfootfamily.blogspot DOT com

Becky Aguirre said...

I was just reading about my type here and realized I'd posted it wrong...it is ENFJ. My mouth kind of fell open when I read about this type, it really does describe me and explains a few things...LOL! :)

Anonymous said...

Guess, I am late. Catching up on blog reading.
As for the resolutions, I can't even remember what I said. So much has changed over the last weeks, and with it my focus on what is important. My latest focus prescribed by the Lord - letting go of routines, big time. That's huge.

By the way, I am an ISTJ.


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