This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Well, hey friends. Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Laura, and I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me.
Emily: Hello, hello!
Laura: Today, we’re talking about personality tests, which is such a fun topic. We got super into these about a year ago; we took one of those free, online Enneagram tests and started texting memes to one another, saying, That’s just like a Three, or whatever. It was really fun for our team, and we had a really good time taking these tests.
Emily: Yeah, and last fall (2018) for our Ask Us Anything show, our most frequently asked question was, What is your Enneagram number? [Laughter] So we know it’s something that has a lot of interest right now. It’s very cool to say, Hey, what Enneagram number are you? But this has been around for a long time; certainly, it’s not a new thing.
Laura: Yeah definitely. I remember when I was young, we did the Love Languages and Spiritual Gifts tests—so fun. [Laughter]
Emily: I remember thinking I have this certain love language, and at times, it’s caused some conflict in our marriage, because I think, No, this is the way I have to be loved. I can’t receive love in any other way! [Laughter] And that’s not true! I enjoy a lot of different ways of being loved. But you can really hone in on that one thing.
Laura: You can! It’s amazing how we latch to it, which is sort of what we want to talk about in today’s show. We have two big ol’ questions we want to ask and try to answer. One is, Why do we all love these personality tests so much? The second is, What role can and should personality tests play in our motherhood and who we are as a person?
Emily: So, why do we all love personality tests so much? Why do we take the 10 minutes and click through the four websites with 100 pop-ups to find out what Disney princess we are?
Laura: Yes! I want to know. I have to know what my emojis say about me. [Laughter]
Emily: I think that question of why it feels good to find out our strengths and our giftings as if we’re special and now we’re able to display them—
Laura: Or share them on Facebook or put them on Instagram to tell everybody.
Emily: Yes. I think it’s interesting that we long to know other people’s personalities. What box do you fit in?
Laura: Right! We want to categorize people.
Emily: Yeah, and how do get our puzzle pieces to fit together really well so our boxes can join together? [Laughter] Isn’t that the next thing you do? You get your Enneagram, and then you think, Wait, what’s my husband’s number? How do those interplay?
Laura: And what are the wings doing? How can we be healthy together?! Totally, totally, totally.
So, to understand this, we can go back to the Creation account. We pulled out a couple of principles. One thing we see obviously in the Creation account is we really long to know ourselves and long to be known. We think things like, If they could only understand me, even my sinful tendencies, they would just love me more. We equate being known with being loved.
Emily: Yeah. Our kids, for the Christmas program this year, did this song called, “My Holy Holey Hole.” [Laughter] You’ve heard it! They sing, My holy holey hole! So, we all have a holy hole in our hearts that can only be filled by Jesus. [Laughter]
Emily: So what I’m trying to say is we’re all created to be known by our Creator. There’s the deep holy hole in all our hearts that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God. They were naked, they were unashamed. They didn’t have any baggage they carried around, nothing they hid. They were known by God himself and enjoyed relationship with him. We long for that.
On the other side of the Fall, we experience separation from God, and we need Christ to come allow us to have that relationship with him again. Now, the reality is we can only pursue knowledge of ourselves—who we are and who we’re created to be—in the Word of God and getting to know him; we do all the things we talk about every week here on Risen Motherhood. But the way personality tests fit into this is they can take us down this path of pursuit that feels like a bandaid, like a little bit of a nugget of truth. You start to pull on that string, but what you realize is it’s never-ending, and it never really goes anywhere satisfying. It does make us start to think that it’ll give us a greater grasp on who we are, and our purpose in the world, and how we fit into the whole universe.
Laura: Mhmm, that’s totally right. The other piece we see is we long for the power the little piece of the personality tests brings.
Emily: I can now manipulate my personality and everyone around me to do what I need!
Laura: Yeah! And that’s why we advertise it everywhere and push it out on social media, so everyone will know how to interact with me, and why I sin and what I do. But we see that this is really nothing new. Eve did this when she took a bite of the fruit. She wanted knowledge. She walked with the source of all knowledge; she could’ve asked God absolutely anything, but she wanted to be in control, have the power, and be able to wield it at her own whims.
I think we do this same thing Eve did when we believe if we know our personality test, understand how we work and what makes us tick, we’ll gain knowledge to help us control our lives. Because personality tests are often kind of accurate, you know? They do reveal strengths and weaknesses. They have this promise if we can balance them correctly and figure out how to be the healthy version of whatever it is, we’re going to be the captain of our souls and the masters of our fate—that Invictus stuff. Since the Garden, we’ve longed to be God, but only he is fully sovereign. But personality tests makes us feel a little bit god-ly.
Emily: In the context of our relationships, all of us experience brokenness, whether that’s a repeated conflict with our husbands, parent, or coworker. We feel like if we can just figure it out, then the sin and pain in this relationship will be gone. We can equate personality tests with a savior. It just can’t do that; it will never heal or be perfect. We’re so tempted to think it will.
Laura: So that’s why we all love personality tests so much. We want to move to that second question about what role these play. We’re not against self-knowledge, and neither is God’s word. In fact, it encourages us to grow in self-knowledge but also in knowledge of God. And those things go in tandem.
There’s this element of relief when you find out your Enneagram number. You’re like, That’s me. Somebody knows me! We’re tempted when we make decisions to add our personality test to the mix, but should we be doing that? Is that something that should happen? Should we be spending hours and hours with our husband, our friends, and our family talking about our personality typology? These are some of the questions to ask to figure out the role of personality tests are supposed to play.
Emily: Yeah, I think in motherhood, specifically, we have to remember our personality isn’t ultimately what defines us. I know for me, it’s easy to take a typology or whatever I heard on this personality test and push that into motherhood, explaining away something that’s hard for me to do or something God is calling me to do. Some common examples might be:
You know, I’m an introvert, I just can’t deal with people at my house and being hospitable. I’m just not going to do that. It’s not my personality.
You know what? I’m an Enneagram 1, so I get upset when people don’t live up to my high standards, and that’s just the way I am and people need to deal with it. I need things to be my way or else—that’s just how God made me.
Laura: Ouch, Emmy, I’m an Enneagram 1. [Laughter] Did you remember that I am?
Emily: I have seven 1s around me, so… [Laughter]
Laura: You need us bossy 1s! [Laughter]
Emily: Yeah...that was an exaggeration. [Laughter]
Laura: I was thinking, I think she’s heard that from me before.
Emily: Okay, I’ll do one for me. I get really wrapped up about feeling scattered. I’m feeling scattered and disorganized; I’m just not really self-disciplined, so of course I can’t figure out how to plan meals, organize our schedule, or get everything under control! That’s just the way I am.
Laura: So, as we said, your personality isn’t what defines you. There’s value in understanding ourselves, but that knowledge of yourself shouldn’t confine you to certain boxes, decisions, or even an action. As believers, we’re only ultimately defined by Christ’s atoning work on the cross. I think that’s where we have to see the examples Emily gave; your type isn’t an excuse for a sinful behavior. It’s really dangerous territory when we start to do this. We’re basically saying, I can be anyone I want. It doesn’t matter who God says I should be like; this is who I am. But you know what? God says, Be holy as I am holy. That leaves no room for sin.
Emily: Yeah, ooh. And we have to compare everything against the Word of God as it provides everything we need for life and godliness. We have the helper, the Holy Spirit, if we’re trusting in Christ. Our type, or personality, or whatever our test results gave us say one thing, but what does God’s word say? I think something that plays out in this conversation is where we’re weak. Personality tests tend to point out where we’re strong and special, and where we’re weak, they say, Oh, just don’t worry about that, or, Just balance it out. But really, weakness is right where God wants us—a humble posture of recognizing our need for him. It’s not something to manipulate; it’s something to take to the Lord, and he can work and show his strength and his ability to transform us into the image of his Son as we continue to walk with him. That’s grace. And we want that in our lives. If we’re clinging so tightly to our personality tests that we can’t ever be weak and come to God asking for him to help us, we’re totally missing out on one of the essential things about Christianity and having a relationship with God.
Laura: Amen. That is so true. I think a lot of us are asking, How am I living up to being the Myer-Briggs letters I am? I don’t even know my own letters. Or, How am I living up to the Enneagram number? But our question really should be: How am I growing in holiness? How am I growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness? Into Christlikeness? Like Emily said, that knowledge of self shouldn’t lead us to pride or a desire to become that best version of our personality test, but it should lead us on our knees to Christ. That’s huge in all of this.
Emily: Right, and I think we said this earlier, but it’s worth saying again: we actually are designed to only understand ourselves in light of God and who he is and the way he has chosen to define us. I think it’s tempting to think we can understand ourselves more if we go down a path that has nothing to do with God. But we actually experience that greater fulfillment the more we’re in relationship with God. The more we know his character, the better we truly understand ourselves. It’s funny, because we just want to disconnect it, but it can’t be disconnected.
Laura: So now we want to look at the second principle: our personality isn’t our destiny. We talked about how our personality isn’t our definition; it doesn’t define who we are. We have to be very careful to be looking at who we are in Christ. With this piece, it’s looking at tomorrow and the next day as we grow and change, and ultimately, where we’re headed as we make our decisions in motherhood. We have to remember we can change. Just because you tested something on some personality test, doesn’t mean that’s who you are and you’re stuck in that forever.
Emily: In Isaiah 64:8, it talks about how God is the potter and we’re the clay; he molds us and shapes us according to his purposes. So he’s really the one who is formulating—and who we submit to as he formulates—who we’re going to become. Laura had a good example about this that I wanted her to share.
Laura: Growing up, my dad was a ceramic artist and professor. In the back of our house, we had a ceramic studio, which was really pretty cool. I remember going out there as a little girl and he’d be throwing pots, working with the clay, adding the glaze, and all of those things. He taught me how to do that as a little girl—or he tried to teach me. I remember watching him, and it was so amazing to watch his hands as he took this unsightly lump of clay and really molded and shaped it into something really beautiful and useful. I’d get on the wheel and try; he’d be behind me, of course, trying to help me. But ultimately, when I tried to do it, I’d put pressure in all the wrong places, and I didn’t use the right amount of water. The whole thing would start shaking and quaking, and the whole thing would slide right off the potter’s wheel. I never was good at it, and I actually kind of regret never really learning how to throw a pot well. It was just amazing to watch him work with that clay! I think that plays really well into this, because often, we’re trying to take our own personalities into our hands. We believe we can become the ultimate version of our Myers-Briggs, or our Sandlot character, or whatever it is that we tested for, but we’re just like me behind the potter’s wheel. We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re on a path of destruction. We might start to take some shape, but it doesn’t last and it doesn’t allow us to reach our full potential of what we truly could be. God’s plans for us are higher than we could ever imagine and too wonderful for us to attain, but the potter—like my dad, the expert—is so skilled. God knows the exact amount of pressure we need in our life, and he knows where to put it. As we grow in our knowledge and understanding of ourselves, we have to trust God to do that work and for him to be the potter who presses, releases, and forms us in the way he desires us to become and grow in holiness—to be holy as he is holy, loving our neighbors, growing in wisdom, and mercy, and goodness, and all of those things. I think we have to remember who’s in charge and that we’re not very good at being in charge when we start taking it into our own hands.
Emily: I love that example and the words you’re using—pressure. That’s what it can feel like whenever God is conforming us to the image of Christ. These are all of those experiences that come up in motherhood everyday, the circumstances that feel like God is applying pressure to our lives as things don’t fit our personality the way we think should. I don’t feel like I have the personality to do x, y, and z. I’m not a mom that does whatever this thing is over here, so I’m not going to go that route. But God is actually applying pressure to us, saying, This is uncomfortable to you. This may hurt. It might make you cry and come to your knees. But this is what I’m using to conform you to Christlikeness—the trials, the things where you don’t feel like you’re doing a good enough job. That’s where we shouldn’t disregard the thing that isn’t our personality and throw it out the window in motherhood, because these are the moments God is often using to draw us to himself.
Laura: Yes, so that means be willing to take risks and jump out of your personality box, trusting God has great plans for you. If you feel him bringing things into your life that feel uncomfortable and you want to say, Nope, not gonna do it because that’s not who I am!, remember you can always change and grow. Ultimately, God is much more concerned about how you make the decision and the process of pruning you in that decision rather than the decision you make.
Thinking through this whole show, we want to remind you there’s a lot of value in being known and it’s okay to want to grow in your own understanding of yourself. We do think there are good things to personality tests; I know we’re kind of ripping on them a little bit here towards the end. We do believe they can be really helpful too.
Emily: Yeah, and one helpful thing in particular is sometimes as we want to look at our heart attitudes, examine what we worship, and see areas where we habitually sin—by not loving others and not worshipping God—personality tests can help us. They might help us see patterns, reveal things we’re wrapped around too much, and identify what motivates us when God should be motivating us. So they’re not an end in and of themselves, but they can be one of many tools used. Most importantly, we use the Word of God, but certainly, I’ve learned from personality tests. I need to be careful because my tendency is to do that, so what does that mean about my heart?
Laura: Yeah, I think they’ve been really helpful for revealing sin and areas of need for repentance. I think that’s really helpful. Also, personality tests can be really beneficial in expressing communication in your marriage or with other people. They can help put into words what you’ve known about yourself but don’t know how to articulate. And the same goes vice versa. Maybe you see something in your husband and think, I don’t really understand that, but then someone in a personality test has written it down and showed you. There are a lot of positive benefits in them for sure.
Emily: We’ve really seen that in Laura and I’s working relationship and in our own marriages. Having words for something can help you realize that something isn’t sin, it’s just that this person thinks differently than me. They were created differently than me. They like to do different things than I like to do. So, they’re not trying to hurt me, they’re not out to get me; they’re just different. Which is like, Oh! Now I can approach them with a greater degree of love and understanding! I think it can remind us God created everyone differently, so praise him. And I calm down a little bit now.
Laura: I think there are areas where personality tests sort of go wrong. That’s not me, that doesn’t sound like me! I think that reminds us the only one who can fully know us is God. There isn’t anyone else out there that can fully know every area and part of you intimately, but God does. What great hope that is that there is someone out there who knows every facet of our being even better than we know ourselves. That’s an area we can choose to worship God in, and in all of this.
Emily: We wanted to bring this up even in the context of motherhood, because we think it is a thing that impacts us on a daily basis—the way we think and the things we value. If you want to find out more, definitely visit our website risenmotherhood.com and follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.