Myers-Briggs (commonly referred to as MBTI: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and the Four Temperaments are exceptional tools for learning about one’s self for self-improvement. After all, St. Augustine’s well known prayer is: Oh God, let me know myself; let me know you.
St. Augustine understood that to grow closer to God, one must overcome his own spiritual obstacles. To overcome such obstacles, one must know what they are. Personality classifications, such as Myers-Briggs, are excellent means to assist us in knowing ourselves so we can conquer our faults and become holier.
But how does the modern world use Myers-Briggs? Do they use it for proper reasons? Let’s consider some observations.
MindTrackers has been doing the rounds recently in psychology social media circles. After taking the test, my brother pointed out how it is yet another source that pumps people’s heads with all the good things about them but omits mentioning any impulses to weakness.
Upon re-reading my results, I discovered he was correct. This realization reminded me of all the other online quizzes where you put in the data and get a result of why you’re so awesome (with no mention of potential faults).
Actually, lame is an understatement. Harmful or evil is more apt.
I’m sure we are all familiar with the term narcissist. It’s become quite the buzzword recently. Based on research, narcissistic behaviors are becoming more rampant due to various factors: constant selfie taking, entertainment encouraging sociopathic behavior, social media platforms where people are encouraged to monologue about themselves to an unhealthy extent etc.
Most fun psychological tests fuel narcissistic supply because they constantly remind one of his positive traits with little to no mention of his shortcomings.
Upon joining MBTI-specific Facebook groups, I witnessed firsthand abuse of the knowledge.
In these groups, people would complain about the differences and flaws of other MBTI types, followed by agreement from fellow MBTI types, patting each other on the back by putting others down in their XXXX fest. This is an abuse of the psychological analysis and is non-Catholic. A charitable and Catholic approach would be to acknowledge the defects and different characteristics of somebody else and, taking into account their MBTI as well as yours, suppress your conflicting tendencies prudently.
The modern world’s application of Myers-Briggs consists of:
- Learning about yourself (especially your strengths).
- When presented with frustrations as a result of other MBTI types, falling into your weaknesses and justifying it because your MBTI is simply different and the world needs to accept you as who you are.
- Researching other MBTI types so you can boast about your strengths that other types lack.
- Failing to even attempt ridding your weaknesses (unless for worldly gain) because you’re an XXXX and that's that.
This is an inappropriate application of Myers-Briggs and other psychological analyses. The Catholic mentality is to know yourself so you can acknowledge your strengths, but more importantly admit your weaknesses. Furthermore, researching others simply to nitpick at them or to proudly differentiate yourself is total abuse. The Catholic mentality of knowing others is to understand them more deeply so you know how to act more charitably.
Signs you are abusing Myers-Briggs:
- You can rattle off your MBTI’s strengths but can’t recall the listed weaknesses.
If you constantly find yourself in conversation raving about all the great and interesting things about your Myers-Briggs type, with little to no mention of its weaknesses, chances are you're using MBTI improperly. Ask yourself right now: what are my MBTI's strengths and weaknesses? Off the top of your head, can you list as many weaknesses as strengths? If not, Google and review.
- You’ve read almost every online source of your MBTI, but have spent minimal time learning about other types.
If you have not bothered researching your friend's and family’s MBTI types, you are demonstrating signs of self-absorption with minimal regard for people close to you. Catholic practice would involve learning about those in your life so you can better understand them, tolerate their weaknesses (to a reasonable degree) and, when around them, suppress any tendencies that may lead to undesirable outcomes.
- When confronted with challenges, you fall into your weaknesses and excuse yourself because they are part of your personality.
If you excuse personal fault because it’s the “way you are,” then you are failing to apply Catholic principles in your life. If one of your weaknesses is poor handling of others’ emotions, do not excuse yourself because it’s in your being. No. Admit your weakness and strive to be more cognizant of others’ feelings.
Or maybe one of your weaknesses is reluctance to change. When faced with an unwelcome change in your life (such as moving house or a new process at work), instead of complaining and moping about, acknowledge your weakness and grin and bear it. Deal with your challenges the way God expects.
In conclusion, Myers-Briggs and the Four Temperaments are highly effective tools for searching deeper into ourselves and others. However, like almost everything, the modern world has ruined these by catering to its selfishness and using them as a justification for its own failings.
It is imperative we remember to use psychological knowledge correctly: to acknowledge our strengths, but more importantly, to determine our weaknesses and work relentlessly to overcome them, and to understand others so we can more easily practice Christian charity.