I have an annoying personality. That’s what a friend of mine, Ann, told me one evening after countless jabs at her about who knows what was going on that particular day. She and I have this running joke between us because one night we were watching The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Ewan McGregor was the guest.
“I wish I had his accent,” I told her.
“No, I don’t think it fits your personality,” she replied.
“So, apparently, Dave, not only do you not have an accent, but you don’t have a personality either,” our friend Sean chimed in.
After we picked at her a few minutes for her comment, she said, “You have a personality—it’s just annoying.”
Of course, the entire exchange was made in fun, because we’re very sarcastic people who only show we really care about someone if we poke fun at them. Nothing says “I love you” like ridicule and torment. Unfortunately, it’s true. My personality is extremely annoying, as was confirmed by a personality test I took a few weeks ago. No, it’s not annoying because I pick my nose in public or tell dirty jokes, neither of which I do. It’s annoying to me because I have a hard time opening up to people, even my best friends.
Sean, Ann and I, along with another friend, Jeremy, and our campus minister, Casey, will be traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina for six weeks this summer to teach English using the Bible as part of an international ministry called “Let’s Start Talking.” A portion of our training required that our team, along with a dozen others, spend a cold January weekend in Nashville in an intensive session designed to simulate the mission field. For example, we had to go through “customs” when we arrived; we had to set our watches four hours ahead; and we went on a scavenger hunt to test our ability to work together as a team.
During that weekend, we also took the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior test, otherwise known as the infamous Firo-B. The test is designed to examine three sections of your personality: Inclusion, Control and Affection. As you may have guessed, Inclusion measures the extent to which you include people in activities, as well as your own need to be included. Control examines your need to control situations, such as where the group you’re with will go to dinner. Finally, Affection explores how affectionate you are and how much you need affection in return.
If you’ve ever taken a personality test before, you know that the administrator usually gives impossible directions, such as “Don’t spend too much time on any one question. Go with your first instinct.” And the Firo-B, like many personality tests, likes to ask the same question over and over again, only in different ways. For example, one statement may say, “You love being invited to go with a group, with the option of turning the offer down.” Another may say, “You enjoy being invited to events, but may not always go.” Like any personality test, it’s possible to receive different results each time you take it.
Despite that possibility, my friends and I believe that my results were very accurate. First of all, I was almost off the 10-point scale as far as needing to include others and needing to be included. I was right in the middle on control; I can take it or leave it. Affection was the one that really stuck with me and has been bothering me ever since. According to the test, I’m a “Cautious Lover” (sounds like the name of an ’80s hair metal band). Essentially, I don’t really like to show affection to others, yet my need to receive affection is a 10 out of 10. According to the Firo-B’s description of a Cautious Lover, which the test administrator read to us while my teammates laughed, he or she will face great difficulty in creating and maintaining relationships with other people because there is very little giving and a lot of taking. This is very true for me, because I fear rejection from others, even my best friends, so often I remain tight-lipped. Yet it’s a struggle because that fear of rejection is what often keeps people from opening up to me. As a result, I often struggle with bitterness, jealousy and anger when others don’t feel comfortable opening up to me.
After the administrator finished reading off the results, he told the group that “whatever way you are is OK, because that is the way God made you.” Though I think there is a kernel of truth in that statement, and it helps to ease our minds about personality traits we wish would disappear, I think there is an inherent problem with it. Taken to the extreme, it becomes an excuse for spousal abuse, committing sexual sins and alcohol addiction. This statement also infers that you cannot change your personality, that your personality is a creation that cannot be undone.
God Himself calls for a personality change. In Romans, Paul tells the believers in Rome that they must die to themselves and live in Christ. Jesus Himself challenged His followers to do the unthinkable when He told them to love their enemies. If we are to be followers of Christ, we must give up those ugly personality traits and pray that we can be made into a new creation.
In the weeks after discovering the “cautiousness” of my nature, I have failed countless times to be more outgoing and to fight the jealousy that creeps into my heart. But I haven’t given up. We should never give up any attempt to rid ourselves of our nature and clothe ourselves in Christ.