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I realize you have to carry some cultural attitudes and expectations because we live in the world. But we have blurred too many lines so often that the culture has made more significant inroads into our processes than we have affected them. For example, many organizations require personality testing to discern the type of person they want to hire. Because most companies reject a biblical approach, they develop their systems.
I understand. They did the same with evolution. To reject God’s Word, you must dismiss the Bible’s claim on how we got here. Rather than sitting in the corner with a dunce cap on, they came up with their version of history. They did not stop with personality tests and evolution. They dismissed the Bible’s teaching on the sanctity of life and marriage. You can get a legalized abortion, and any combination of humans can marry, e.g., gay, trans, sologamy, etc.
It makes sense why they do what they do. The biblical record is chocked full of misguided souls with futile minds (Ephesians 4:17). I was one of them. If you’re going to reject God, you must insert your dead and darkened ideas in the culture. The real problem is when the Christian community divorces itself from biblical typology. It’s worse when we no longer see a problem with the Christian community’s diluted approaches and improper understanding of the human condition.
If you ask the average Christian to describe his personality, he will say something like,
It’s like the DSM-5 that describes a condition and then slaps a label on it. It’s the world’s way of giving us an identity, i.e., ADHD, OCD, etc. It’s a pragmatic way of ticking the box so that you can move through a hiring process. Honestly, corporations do not have the time or biblical insight to understand the potential pitfalls.
Figuring out someone is not rocket science. God is complicated and does complicated things, but understanding humanity is not one of those things, or else He would not call us to care for each other (Galatians 6:1-2). The real issue is that we have become so enamored with the culture that we no longer know how to filter a person’s personality through a biblical grid.
When a person tells me they are Type A, it says very little about who they are. I think it means they are driven and get things done. Perhaps they are confident or, at least, want you to think they are—something like that. When I meet a Type A individual in the counseling office, I see many things that their Type A stereotype could not tell me in a hundred years. I call this their biblical baggage, which looks like my baggage, BTW.
Here are a few of those everyday items with the Type A personality type that their test did not discern: insecurity (fear of man), self-righteousness, arrogance, harshness, unkindness, controlling, stubbornness, lustfulness, greed, critical, and selfishness. Worst of all, he doesn’t know how to apply the gospel to his life practically. His personality test did not paint an accurate picture.
Let me add that when Mr. Type A tells you about his personality, he will state it in the most favorable light; he conveys it as a positive thing, which should be your first clue that something is wrong. The biblical narrative would paint something different, and if you really want to get to know him, you better do more diligence, or you’ll have the world’s greatest go-getter who could be your biggest pain in the neck in a work environment.
Biblical personality assessments are not as flattering (Romans 3:10-12), which is why the culture rejects the Bible’s assessment of themselves. They have a problem with the deceitfulness of sin as well as the doctrine of total depravity. It conflicts with their self-esteem gospel. None of their systems will accurately identify the more insidious things about us.
Because your starting point determines how you finish, if you begin with the culture’s methods, you’ll end in a psychologized soup. Most personality testing is not about transformation anyway. It’s about the best-perceived fit on a team. The company mainly looks at productivity and possibilities from a pragmatic perspective rather than the whole person—our authentic character.
You can have the most talented quarterback in the lottery, but he destroys the team. It’s a long-term messy “fire or no fire” tension. You got a high D guy but did not factor in his high S (Sin).
The word personality is a combination of characteristics and qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character—qualities that make someone who they are. The Bible provides several ways to figure out a person. We find two templates in the New Testament—1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Galatians 5:22-23. Either one can quickly assess a person by telling you who they are or are not. They permit you to get to the heart of their character (personality) quickly.
These assessments go further by pointing you in the direction of who we need to be. Isn’t that the primary goal of personality testing? We assess ourselves to find out that we’re not perfect and how we can change. Then we begin to make a plan to become better. The standard for better is Jesus Christ, and these two templates give us a perfect snapshot of His personality and a goal for us to aim toward.
You’ll find the best template in the Bible in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The test would be to read all four gospel accounts and identify, isolate, and notate the personality of Jesus. Then make a plan to change into Him. It does not matter what kind of personality test the culture puts before you; if the person does not have passion for Christ and to be like Him, it will be a problem hiring. Will you name a better personality type you’d like to hire than a Christlike soul?
Besides 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Galatians 5:22-23, and the examined life of Christ in the gospel accounts, we find another place where you can access a person’s personality. In Proverbs, we see six personality types—wise, foolish, simple, prudent, scorner, and wicked. I’ve narrowed this down to three for simplicity’s sake—wise, foolish, and simple. The prudent are wise. The scorner and wicked are foolish.
What is your personality type according to Proverbs? Because the Bible gives us a wider panoramic and understanding of our personalities, we can conclude that we are a combination of all three of the ones we see in that great book—we’re a work in progress.
To label me as Type A does not help, but to unpack me according to proverbial typology and then factor in my pursuit (or lack thereof) of Christ, you would have a more accurate assessment of me. I want to think that I am wise on most days, but I also act like a fool and simpleton at times. You must know this about me if you’re going to hire me.
When developing leaders, I’m always looking for the primary characterizations of a person. I’m interested in their patterns rather than episodes. Looking inside patterns, you can factor in the doctrine of sin. You overlook episodic failures while assessing personality trajectories. It’s like the stock market in that you’re looking for an upward trend while expecting dips (episodes) along the way.
When sitting across from a person in a caring context, I’m looking for these trends. I do not care about their personality type. Is he wise, a fool, or simple? This assessment can be tricky for sure because when a person comes to you for counseling, you have to make your assessments from their catalog of victories, failures, sins, strengths, weaknesses, relational interactions, and more.
It takes biblical discernment to see a person through a biblical lens. Is the individual acting out episodic foolishness? What is their life’s trend? Is there a pattern of wisdom, or is this person foolish with little regard for the Lord? Only the Spirit of God will be able to sort this out in your mind as you engage Him through the Word of God.
To help discern a person, you want to develop a word cloud around these three words. For example, there are associated characteristics that come with the personality trait of the wise person. These characteristics are what make them wise. If you want to know if you’re working with a wise personality, look for these traits.
This list is a wise assessment test. As you read those items, how did you do? Are you trending upward toward increasing wisdom? Would you characterize yourself as a wise person? I’m not asking if you have perfected these things, but is there a consistent presence of them in your life? None of us have perfected these personality strengths. I use this type of assessment to evaluate the students in our Mastermind Program.
The foolish person is the exact opposite of these things, which makes their personality easy to discern. If they are foolish, they are anti-wise. However, you want to remember we all act foolishly at times. What you’re looking for are general and consistent characterizations of foolishness in a person. When I get angry at my wife, I’m flatlining on many of the wisdom traits. The real question is, how am I most of the time when I am around my wife?
If the person you’re assessing does not fit in the camp of the wise, you have a fool on your hands. At that point, you want to discern as best you can if they have the Spirit’s power to change. Wisdom is a gift from the Lord, but don’t think that unregenerate people can’t be wise. They can. Many lost souls exhibit some of the wisdom characteristics. They may do it with the wrong motives or inconsistently, but they have a God-given, innate ability to be moral creatures.
The fool can’t claim that he did not know better. E.g., he’ll be nice to his bar buddies. If he is universally un-nice, inconsiderate, unthoughtful, and selfish, he may not be a fool but a simple person lacking common sense, which is rare. It’s usually not an ability problem. Typically it’s a character issue—a foolish person. A fool can repent (Luke 15:17).
The simple person is naive. They lack good biblical common sense. They will do dumb things, which will leave you scratching your head. Though they are simple, they typically have the ability to exercise some wisdom. It is possible to have a simple-wise person or a simple-foolish person. The former is naive but wants to mature. The latter is spiritually dumb and is not interested in changing.
If the person is genuinely simple but wants to walk in wisdom, make sure you surround them with the right kind of companions. If the simple person is interested in wisdom, he will take your advice, realize their limitations, and surround themselves with wise friends (1 Corinthians 15:33). If the person is simple and is interested in foolish things, may God have mercy on his soul.
They will be forever getting themselves into trouble, having little discernment about how they got into it, taking on a victim’s mindset, and sucking the life out of you if you make it your mission to rescue them. The hope is that they would be willing to respond well to confrontation for their foolishness, realize they need help, and regularly seek the guidance of those who are wiser.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).