“For real?” She looks at me with big surprised eyes. “Can you react differently? How?” A young lady sits in front of me. Together we talk about what came out of her MBTI * questionnaire and which personality profile suits her best. I often notice that people are surprised at how different people can react in the same situations. During the conversations about personality profiles, I see that people are beginning to understand where these differences come from. I regularly experience when the penny drops: “Now I suddenly understand why my colleague frustrates me.” “Oh…And vice versa too!”
Differences in reaction and perception occur just as much in spiritual life as in everyday life. Prayer and faith experience are personal and can differ greatly from one another. It is good to get to know yourself in this area. A deep prayer and faith life flourishes through good self-knowledge. In addition, it is also helpful to discover where the differences are.
Although MBTI is based on 16 personalities, you can also make a rougher classification. For example, based on four preferences. It is fascinating to discover these different preferences in the Bible. The New Testament begins with four gospels, all of which have their own color, their own preference. You can find four personality preferences in the style of writing.
First of all, there is the Gospel of Matthew, a logically structured book. It is Matthew who gives many references to the OT. He describes discussions and arguments. Especially in this gospel there is a great emphasis on obedience. See, for example, the temptation in the wilderness, the baptism of Jesus, and the great commission in chapter 28.
This ties in with the people who, according to MBTI, have a “Thinking” preference. These are the people who are very rational in life, who find it important that the truth is found and who do not shy away from a vigorous discussion. The life of faith is more of a head-to-head relationship for them. They don’t care much for emotions, and like Abraham, they enjoy reasoning with God. Justice and obedience are terms that suit them. Sometimes they find it difficult to see their more intellectual relationship with God as a full life of faith or prayer.
The simple, short story of an eyewitness is written by Mark. It is striking that Mark adds many details to his descriptions that we do not find in the other Gospels. We read at the feeding of the 5000 that the grass on which they sat was green. Mark also tells that Jesus was sleeping on a pillow during the storm on the lake. Or that he put his arms around the children as he blessed them.
This attention to details and life in the here and now. (Mark frequently uses the word immediately.) The book of Mark is typical of “Sensing” types; people who absorb information mainly through their senses. These are often the more creative types. They use their senses in their prayer life, for example, by adopting different prayer positions, through artistic expressions such as drawing, painting or poems. “Mark” types will also think of the use of objects that represent a deep symbolic value.
Luke, the third gospel, is inclusive and empathetic. This inclusivity is reflected in his descriptions of encounters with women. Also in the line of Jesus he goes back to the first man, Adam. His empathy and compassion can be seen in the stories of many healings. Intimacy and harmony dominate. People with this same preference are natural intercessors. Their prayer touches the heart whether it be fervent or very sweet. They are generally friendly people and will especially emphasize God’s goodness. For people with this “Feeling” preference, the relationship with God and with the others around them is essential.
John as the fourth and last gospel is constantly looking for the meaning of Jesus’ life on earth for the future. This is immediately apparent from the first five verses with which John begins his book.
He uses metaphors and concepts to explain this to his readers. This appeals to people with a preference for “Intuition”. They are always looking to improve today for the future. Their prayer life is often more of a sojourn in the presence of God, a dreaming with God. They seem to be more receptive than the other types to dreams and visions, to which they can give meaning.
Everyone has their own preference(s) and therefore their own unique personality. In order to achieve a full worship of God that is due to Him, we desperately need each other. One is not more than the other, but different.
- MBTI Myers Briggs Type Indicator, psychometric tool used worldwide for personal development, team development and organizational development
Julia MacGuinness, Growing spiritually, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2009
Bruce Duncan, Pray your way- Darton, Longman and Todd, 1993