List of Articles by Jack Falt
We sometimes pay lip service to the idea that we are each unique creations
of God, but we also have that serious affliction called “BLM.” BLM stands
for Be Like Me. At our deepest levels we feel that if everyone could just
Be Like Me the world would be a better place.
There is an expression called ‘half joke, whole earnest.’ These are the things we joke about but underneath the joviality we are deadly serious. Things like our jokes about marriage. The man is going to be the boss and train the little woman. The woman looks at her fiancee and sees his faults. She thinks, “Just wait until he’s been with me for a while. I’ll get him in shape.” This is called the Pygmalion Project. We are attracted to our opposite personalities, and then when we have them, we want to make them like ourselves. In fact, if we did accomplish this feat, we would no longer find them interesting. They would become boring!
It doesn’t just stop with trying to changing our romantic partners. We also want to try to change how people relate to God. We think, “If they would just do this or think that, then they would be really spiritual persons.”
Now in Unity we are a lot more liberal in our religious beliefs than many denominations. While we honour Jesus as our Wayshower, we accept that many other faiths also have access to the Creator. But we have our biases as well.
A basic assumption that many people have is that while there are personal differences, underneath we are all alike. This is a paradox that has some truth to it. But we treat it as if it were an absolute. We may think, “If they weren’t so messed up, they would believe the same as I do.”
But there are fundamental differences between individuals. Understanding and appreciating these differences can make life a lot easier. These differences are also reflected in the way we experience our spirituality and what we are drawn to that is meaningful to us.
As often happens when the world is ready for a new idea, more than one person is receptive to it. In this case a woman called Katherine Briggs noticed how different her daughter Isabel’s new husband was from the rest her family. It started her trying to come up with a theory that would explain these differences. She observed her friends and read many biographies. She made many notes and devised elaborate theories.This was prior to 1920. In 1923 one of Carl Jung’s books Psychological Types was translated into English. Katherine read it and decided that here was the answer she was looking for. She destroyed her notes, even though she had come up with very similar ideas to Jung, and began focussing on Jung’s theory. Her daughter Isabel was also very interested in her mother’s work and carried it forward by developing a questionnaire that would identify the different types. As for Jung himself, he considered it only a minor part of his theories and he did not pursue it.
The result of Katherine and Isabel’s work was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It has become the most used psychological questionnaire ever written and a few million new people take it each year.
Let us first look at its concepts, and then we shall see how it fits into what each of us finds meaningful in our spiritual lives.
Jung theorized that the mind does two things. It can either take in information. This is called Perceiving. Or it can assess or process the information. This is called Judging. We look and see some red berries. That’s Perceiving. We then decide that they would be good to eat. That’s Judging. The mind can only do one thing at a time, but it can switch from one task to another in a split second.
Jung saw that there were two ways of Perceiving. One way was to just take in the information from the five senses. He called this the Sensing function. But he also saw that the brain could make a leap and see patterns and possibilities. He called this the Intuiting function.
There were also two ways of Judging. The mind can make a decision by using a logical process. The mind mentally steps back and weighs the pros and cons and comes up with a conclusion. This he called the Thinking function. But he saw that there was another way of Judging. In this way the mind steps into the situation and uses values to determine what to do. This he called the Feeling function. Now we have four mental functions or ways that the mind works: Sensing, iNtuiting, Thinking and Feeling. We might use one or all four within a second.
Jung also noticed that some people were more outgoing and some more withdrawn. It was not a matter of shyness. It was that some preferred one way of being over the other. He saw that it was where people preferred to get their energy. The Extraverts became energized by being with people and being stimulated by the outer world. The Introverts were drained by being in the outer world and needed to draw within themselves to become re-energized.
Now Jung had a total of six preferences and they were three pairs of polar opposites. At any given instant a person could either be an Extravert or an Introvert, but they still did have a preference for one over the other. Let’s show you a practical example of preference. Interlace your fingers. Now look at which thumb is on top, the right or the left or they are side by side. Now try to do it so that the opposite thumb is on top. It feels awkward and it takes concentration. It is like that with a preference. At times Extraverts have to take time to be quiet and think but it doesn’t feel as comfortable as being focussed in the outer world. Similarly, an Introvert has to be out in the outer world, but finds it draining, and after a long day at the office interacting with lots of people, wants time to just be alone. With children and a spouse at home that is not easily done.
Next we look at the Sensing-Intuiting pair of opposites. You also have a preference as to how you like to take in information. Are you Sensing and just taking in data through your five senses, or are you Intuiting, making a leap from the data and seeing all kinds of possibilities? You have a preference for one over the other. You also have a preference for how you like to make decisions. These are the Thinking-Feeling pair of opposites. You either like to do it in a logical way using your Thinking function, or you like to do it in a more personal way and use your Feeling function. Both of these functions are rational, but one is objective while the other is subjective.
Isabel Myers took these ideas one step further and looked at life styles of people. Did they tend to prefer to take in more and more information and postpone the decisions? These people had what Isabel called a preference for Perceiving or being adaptive. Or did they like to quickly come to a decision? These people had a preference for Judging or being organized in the outer world.
Now we have eight preferences or four dimensions of personality–Extraversion or Introversion, Sensing or Intuiting, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or Perceiving. These are the four dimensions of personality. We are born with a preference for one of each of these four pairs. We might prefer Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling and Judging. As a shorthand that would be an ESFJ. If that was your type and you read the description, you would find that it would very accurately describe your personality. We are born with these preferences. They are hardwired into our brains. They do not change over our lifetimes. At the same time we use all eight of our preferences many times every day. We have to. It is just that we prefer to use our special four. They feel more comfortable, just like having one thumb on top felt more comfortable or more natural. Many times we are in situations where we have to use our non preferred preferences. When we have to use something that is not our preference over a long period of time we can find it very stressful.
There are sixteen of these different four-letter combinations. Each has its own specific strengths and weaknesses. No one is more important or valuable that the other. They are all needed and are part of God’s plan.
Now let us look at how these eight preferences relate to a worship and celebration service like the one we are at today.
Here we are gathered together for a service of worship and celebration. That act of being together is one of Extraverting. Sometimes, during the service your mind may wander to ponder some idea you have just heard. At that point you are Introverting. During the times of meditation when you are encouraged to think your own thoughts, that is a time for Introverts.
Extraverts enjoy being with a large group of people. Having a service in the Corel Centre with 18,000 other people would be even more stimulating, although even if you are an Extravert, you may not be that Extraverted! Some of you may have attended the Billy Graham Crusade. There was excitement and energy in that experience. Introverts like to be with people too, but prefer to relate to one or two people at a time that they know. In some services where they pass the peace by shaking hands with a number of people and saying ‘The Peace of Christ be with you,’ Extraverts have a field day and it is difficult getting them to settle down again. Introverts reluctantly shake hands with a neighbour and hope the ordeal is over quickly.
Some services have so much for the Sensors. Think of a Roman Catholic church. It is filled with the colour of the pictures of the stations of the cross and the statuary. The vestments of the clergy are rich with ornamentation. There is the sound of music of the mass being sung. There is the smell of incense. There is the taste of the wine and the wafer of the host. There is the feel of the water as you dip your fingers into the font of holy water.
Contrast that with a Quaker service. The sanctuary is rather barren. There is not a lot for the senses to enjoy. You are forced to think deep thoughts or await God’s word.
Intuitives like possibilities. A thought provoking sermon will catch their imagination. Symbols intrigue them. They can look at a simple cross and for them the whole life of Jesus comes to their minds. They can understand spiritual truths in myths and legends.
The Thinker can discuss the inner meaning of a parable for hours. They want to know what the ultimate Truth is. They enjoy Bible studies or discussion of books like Conversations with God and search for the hidden meaning. They like their sermons presented with logical precision.
Feelers want to be connected to others in a service of worship. They enjoy the hugs of greetings from their friends and willingly reach out to the newcomer. Poignant stories in the sermon tug at their heart strings. They get great joy in knowing that the church is reaching out to others in the community and the world. They want to get in there and help when they can.
For the Judgers a service has to be organized. They like having a bulletin with the order of service written on it. They can get quite stressed when someone decides to change that order of the service. Perceivers on the other hand love the new and different. They think it great when clowns come to present the message. They are much more open to a more spontaneous kind of service. Remember Godspell? If someone feels like singing, then they break into song.
Now it becomes quite a challenge to have the ideal service that caters to all these preferences. This is where appreciating spiritual differences comes into the picture. We can be much more tolerant if we understand that there are these personality differences. The Perceivers may no longer see the people who have a preference for Judging as being so stuffy and set in their ways, and not wanting to change. And Judgers can become a little more accepting when those who have a preference for Perceiving who may want to bring in a rock group to play the hymns once in a while.
Our life is a journey and part of that journey is to explore our inner nature and to expand it during our lifetime. We need to honour our True Type by first finding out what our preferences are. Then we need to try new ways of spiritual growth by experiences some of our non preferences. We come to wholeness by integrating them all into our lives.
Right now, when this church is in a state of transition, we can perhaps see how personality types come into the decision making process. The Sensing-Judging types likely want to quickly come to a decision about the future church. “Let’s find a new location and settle in.” They don’t like to feel unsettled and in a state of flux. The iNtuiting-Perceiving types are more content to experience new possibilities and a variety of volunteer speakers.
Let us be aware of these differences as we deliberate on these important decision. Be patient with those whose needs are different for yours. They aren’t really being contrary just to make your life difficult. Appreciate the gifts each one brings. God gave us all these varieties of personalities for a purpose. Just like a bouquet of flowers, each one brings a colour and beauty to the whole arrangement.
Mediation on the 8 Preferences of Jesus
Take several slow deep breaths and go to that part of you where you experience your connect to God.
Visualize in your mind’s eye the man Jesus and see
him in the fullness of his life.
See Jesus walking with his twelve disciples going forth to spread the word about God’s kingdom. Here is Jesus using his extraverted energy. He reaches out to the people. He gives them his energy freely and lovingly.
Now visualize Jesus after a long day. He is tired and weary. He knows he needs to recharge his emotional batteries. He takes time to be alone with his Father-God. See him sharing his day with God. See him listening to what has to tell him. As an introvert, he needs this time alone.
Now visualize Jesus walking along and noticing the beauty of God’s world. He is using his five senses and he shares what he sees with the people he is with. In his parables he uses the simple everyday things to bring his message: sowing wheat, and the grapes on the vine. He feels the touch of a woman in need.
Experience Jesus as he uses his intuiting ability as he discerns that woman at the well has had five husbands. He can tell that when the crunch comes, Peter will deny even knowing him.
See the young boy Jesus discussing theology with the elder. He is using his thinking ability when he disputes the law with the Pharisees.
Watch as Jesus uses his feeling ability as he reaches out to heal. He shows compassion for those who in their weakness have gone astray.
Visualize Jesus as a devout Jew who observes the rituals of his faith. In that sense he lived and ordered life and was revealing his judging lifestyle.
Now, laugh as you see Jesus feasting with his many new-found friends. He enjoyed the moment. He just took off with his trusty twelve and let God’s will take him where he was needed. Here he is showing his perceiving lifestyle.
We see Jesus as a model who has his life in balance. Visualize yourself being in balance and wholeness.
Now in your own slowly come back to the present moment.
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List of Articles by Jack Falt