A friend of mine came to visit a couple weeks ago, and he had me take the “Color Code” personality test. Perhaps you’re familiar with it. It divides people into red (control-oriented), blue (intimacy-oriented), yellow (socially-oriented), and white (peace-oriented) personalities.
There are plenty of tests like this — Myers-Briggs, enneagrams, etc. — that result in classifying the taker into some class or archetype. I think they’re fun, and even useful. They provide frameworks for looking at oneself and one’s relationships. I don’t expect that any of them are The One True Truth, but insofar as they offer guidance and understanding I’m certainly a fan of them.
My biggest complaint with these kinds of tests is that the results only address quality, not quantity. To use the Color Code as an example, take the following two individuals:
The Color Code test would return the same results for both of these people — primary red, secondary blue. But, obviously, that’s missing a big part of the story. Jill has a “muchness” (thanks Johnny Depp, for introducing me to that useful word) that Matt lacks.
Culturally, we treat personality like an attribute (or set of attributes) when it’s really a skill (or set of skills). In other words, we treat personality like eye color: you can have brown eyes, or green eyes, or blue eyes, but you can’t have brown eyes AND blues eyes AND green eyes (well, unless you’ve got some freaky eyes…but you know what I mean). And so we look at people as being ambitious or fun or quietly nice, but we have a hard time seeing that a person can be ambitious AND fun AND quietly nice.
I think it’s more useful to look at each personality trait as a “well” — a source of power that can be drawn on. Sometimes it’s good to be assertive, and sometimes it’s good to be conciliatory. In the graph above, Jill has more access to being conciliatory than Matt does, even though both are primarily assertive. And that’s a difference that you won’t see in the personality test results.
(On an unrelated note, when I started my current school program, the student orientation included having us all take personality tests. I decided to answer the questions randomly, and the test results said I was “an ambitious reformer”. The funny thing is, even though I knew the results were entirely spurious, they affected my self-image and the way I interacted with my classmates and teachers. That was an awesome placebo effect!)
I believe that developing a “muchness” of soul is one of the primary reasons we get to experience this earth life. I recall a student FHE at BYU where the lesson focused on personality traits. We all took a test similar to the Color Code test, and the group leader talked about the results. He said, “Obviously Jesus had a ‘white’ peacemaker personality.” Really? I think the idea of a “one-dimensional god” is a common perception among Christians. Yet it’s not what I see when I look at the character of Jesus in the Bible. And it’s not what I see when I look at the depictions of the prophets and holy men and women of scripture and history. They are vibrant, capable, multi-dimensional individuals, who have access to a variety of perspectives and powers. And that kind of example is, I believe, worthy of emulation.