I'm beginning a series of posts stemming from the post last week about "thinking or feeling" your way to God. Some of the insights in this series come from my doctoral thesis (I'd post it, but I don't want to subject you to 300+ pages of torture) as well as two key resources. The first is Prayer and Temperament (Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey) and the second is Please Understand Me (David Keirsey & Marilyn Bates). Now, on with the show...
When I take the Keirsey-Bates temperament sorter*, which has it's roots in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I find that I am an NF temperament. These two letters stand for an "intuitive/feeling" temperament. I call these folks "The Sensitive Ones." It doesn't mean that other temperaments aren't sensitive, it simply means that this is an NF's primary "residence." Here's what the NF means, in a nutshell:
I take in the world through the emotional lens. How do I feel about the things that are happening? How does the world effect me emotionally?
I make decisions based on intuition. I process the world through hunches and gut feelings and plan my actions accordingly.
I don't think these psychological tests are on par with Scripture, but I do think they can give us insight into how we can relate with God better. Honestly, He designed us and is seeking to redeem us as we are, not as we should be. There are parts of being an NF that aren't great - sometimes I miss out on important decisions that need to be processed factually rather than emotionally. NF temperaments get antsy when they have too many boundaries and restrictions and given the fact that they aren't often detail-oriented they usually suffer in their ability to stay organized and do administrative tasks.
Guilty as charged.
But what does this have to do with the way an NF relates to God? The upside of an NF is that they are the "kings of the possible" - they are always seeking improvement and pursuing possibilities, so they are open many times to new ways of growing spiritually. Also, the NF tends to be "inside their own head" on a regular basis so spiritual practices such as meditation and silent prayer are comfortable and critical to their balance and growth.
Here are a few key hints for you, my fellow NF, in your interaction with God:
- Allow time for prayer - you will likely struggle with highly structured prayer times, so allow yourself to become comfortable with winding, meandering conversations with God. It would help, however, to balance these prayers with something loosely formal like The Divine Hours.
- Journal your thoughts - NF, as you know, is a temperament that is rarely short on thoughts or mental conversations. We can get stuck in our heads however, and lose important insights that God may be opening to us simply because they never make it out of the room between our ears. Write down insights, thoughts, questions, and conversations that you may have during times of quiet with God. This is helpful to order your thoughts in reading Scripture as well - NF temperaments tend to get emotional impressions from the Bible, and God can teach us a great deal if we simply put those insights on a page.
- Discipline your variety - this temperament is always scouting out new resources for growth, and the Christian publishing market is all too happy to provide new ones (nothing wrong with this) but an NF needs to create some boundaries to what they choose for their growth. I recommend picking one idea (prayer, compassion, justice) per month and then explore the wide variety of ideas and practices as it relates to that idea. In other words, spend one month reading on compassion and asking God to reveal areas to you where you can practice the compassion of Jesus.
- Vacation in other temperaments- this series will cover the other three temperaments (SJ, NT, and SP) throughout the month of May. The direct opposite of the NF is the SJ temperament, and it would benefit your growth greatly to "vacation" in SJ-land for a while. Try some of the SJ practices and know that they could have a huge impact on balancing your soul.
Next Wednesday, we'll cover the SJ temperament. The hope in all of these posts is to help you break through some of the age-old growth traps to find new ways in which God is bringing transformation to you by tapping into your natural personality.
*Feel free to take this free version of the Keirsey-Bates sorter as a way to engage with the posts that are upcoming.