Monday, June 11, 2012


Quiet and reserved. Seeks a few close friends and to conserve his energy in social situations.
Sees the big picture before the details. Looks to the future before the present.
A preference for the personal over the objective. Values will trump logic.
Gets his act together pretty quickly. Knows what he is going to do and when he is going to do it.

Ah, the joy of recognition. God made me an introverted, intuitive, feeling judger. My kindred souls, psychologists speculate, are Mohandas Gandhi, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jane Goodall, Sidney Poitier, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Bless the Lord, all you shy ones, you abstract ones, you heartful ones, you predictable ones. All the way, INFJ!

Had fun this morning in class learning together about personality types. This afternoon I took a short-form version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a diagnostic called the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Any activity that has to do with self-knowing is a joy for me.

Religious men and women use personality tools to serve the project of human formation. The Catholic Church today emphasizes the value of human formation in the fulfillment of vocational preparation. Our formator quoted from a document written in 1992 by Pope John Paul II on the formation of priests:

In order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity. It is necessary that, following the example of Jesus who "knew what was in humanity" (Jn. 2:25; cf. 8:3-11), the priest should be able to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to express serene and objective judgments.

Future priests should therefore cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realization of self, but also with a view to the ministry. These qualities are needed for them to be balanced people, strong and free, capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities. They need to be educated to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and, especially, to be balanced in judgment and behavior.

What is good for priests is good for religious men and women and, indeed, for all disciples of Jesus, who followers confess by faith to be the most fully developed human person.

An individual's personality reflects the strategies one uses to engage others in the world. Each personality is the outcome of choices, made from within a range of innate tendencies, that fall along spectrums of behavioral preferences. Although by nature we gravitate toward certain modes of engagement, we are not absolutely limited by our preferences. We have the capacity to choose strategies that veer from our innate disposition. Thus we have the ability to grow and change. Our personalities may be relatively stable over a lifetime, but our responses to the environment are not fixed. The human person is in constant development. From a Christian perspective, we are advancing toward newness of life, toward greater flourishing. We are deepening our relationship to God and God's people. The further our personalities develop, the better our relationships. Knowing personality types helps us to relate to others better and gives us strategies for resolving conflicts in our relationships. Focusing on the nurture aspect of our personality -- think preference, not essence -- helps us to believe in our God-given ability to make intentional, positive, and healthy choices for engagement with life.

Check out the works of the grandparent of personality typologies, Carl Jung, who published on his theories of psychological types in 1922. I don't often recommend random web surfing, but I encourage you to explore the Internet in search of good personality tests. It's good for people to be self-aware, whether or not religious (in either the general sense or in the particular sense of consecrated life). It's good to take a look under the hood, to figure out what our conscious looks like, what it does, and how it works. How do you engage life? Do you gain energy by getting in touch with the outer world or the inner world? Do you look first at the details or at the pattern you perceive? Do you make decisions according to your feelings or do you want just the facts? Do you relate to others by making plans and following through with them, or by remaining open to whatever chance and/or destiny will bring? Look under the hood!

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