"I'm too shy to speak to strangers, I'm an introvert," "She's too strong-willed to be a leader," "He's too over the top, he needs to calm down," are some of the phrases I hear and say in my day-to-day life, especially within church ministry. A believer's faith is oftentimes judged by one's personality. Do so-called negative traits such as being "too introverted" or "too outspoken" make a bad Christian? With so many personalities out there, is there a specific personality type or trait that is best suited for a Christian? I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on and seek explanations to a question I've asked myself for a while--"Can and should my personality define my faith?"
What is personality? According to the American Psychological Association, the word personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. This pattern can be built from a mix of innate (genetic) and learned (environmental) preferences. To put it simply, personality is like a person's fingerprint--unique to each individual, with no two exactly the same. The Bible does not define nor specify the ‘correct’ personality traits, but leaves room for different types of people, all subject to God's grace. Personality can be a great agent in exercising your faith to your strengths. For example, someone who enjoys meeting new people may find their place in an outreach ministry, such as Greeters, while someone who prefers intimate settings with a smaller group of people may find it fitting to join a prayer ministry. Personality itself isn't a sin--God created us with varying strengths, weaknesses, and personality types, not as uniform robots. However, we do need to watch against excusing sin tendencies as our personalities (Morse, 2017). One's honest and blunt personality can be a tool of accountability, but it can easily turn into a weapon of offense and slander. Other's drawn-back, introverted personality can turn them into prayer warriors, mentors, and teachers, but can also lead to unhealthy isolation from godly community. God is not limited by our personalities--He can use anyone who submits to Him. After all, He is most glorified through our weaknesses, not strengths (gotquestions.org).
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9
Even though the Bible does not focus on personalities, it does mention godly character. If personality traits make us ourselves, godly character makes us like Him. A person’s character is the sum of his or her disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires, and actions. Character is gauged by general tendencies, not on the basis of a few isolated actions--we must look at the whole life. It is the Lord's purpose to develop godly character within us (gotquestions.org).
“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3).
Godly character is evidence of the Holy Spirit's sanctification in us. Through Him, we learn to control our thoughts (Philippians 4:8), practice Christian virtues (2 Peter 1:5-6), guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and keep good company (1 Corinthians 15:33).
One biblical example we can look at is King David. I'll admit--it took me a long time to understand the "hype" around David because I was always stumped by his personality flaws. To put it in a worldly sense, there is nothing appealing or outstanding about David. He is the youngest of eight, weirdly confident for what he's got to show, and quite sneaky for attempting to cover up his sins. However, despite his many personal downfalls, he was a man of good character, his heart after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Though he was lackluster in the eyes of his own father, he was emboldened and strengthened by God's promise to be with him (1 Samuel 17:37). Though he was oblivious to the hatred towards him, he was undignified and forgiving in God's presence (2 Samuel 6:22). Though he had conquered many enemies and was led to become prideful, he repented in humility (2 Samuel 24:17). The Lord created in David a heart full of godly character that overcame his personality.
While we live in a generation which constantly encourages us to "be true to yourself" and to "keep it real," we must remember that godly character conquers our personality. Our personality and tendencies must bow to God’s standards, never vice versa. (Morse, 2017). As believers, we are defined and distinguished from the world not by our personality traits but by building up in ourselves the godly character. This godly character comes not from our nature nor is learned from the world, but through the communion with the Holy Spirit and the meditation on the Word. We must not be content with being "just the way we are," but daily strive and be challenged to become more like Christ and embody His character.
Morse, Greg. "Don’t Be Yourself." desiringGod.org, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dont-be-yourself
"Personality" American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/topics/personality
"What does the Bible say about Christian character?" gotquestions.org, https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-character.html
"Is it wrong for a Christian to be an introvert?" gotquestions.org, https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-introvert.html