My LifeKey

2. Discovering My Personality Type.  My LifeKey.

 According to: Jane A.G. Kise, David Stark, and Sandra Krebs Hirsh, LifeKeys: discovering who you are, why you’re here, what you do best.  Bethany House Publishers, c1996.  272p.  

These three authors make a wonderful transition from the “better management through psychology” approach to values-based, kingdom of God-oriented personal worth and work.  They do so by using their talents and skills as a writer, pastor, and management consultant with actual experience in the techniques the book outlines.  As a team, they worked with their own congregation, a Minnesota Twin Cites suburban protestant church.  This stance, a pronouncedly evangelical one, presents Biblical grounding and psychological foundations so that individuals see their gifts and connect with opportunities to use them in serving God and others.

Their aim for Christians is that more lives will be fulfilled with purpose and meaning because they have helped individuals see the match between who they are and what they do or may do.  Service and satisfaction are the desired intertwined outcomes.  They found church members curious about lives of fulfillment or bothered by changes, either external forces or their own anxiety to find a better fit by doing something different.

Often members do not recognize the gifts they have, do not value them, and do not use them as they might.  Change begins in the Christian understanding that God created and values every individual and that God has work for each person to do.  Members may accept this piece of doctrine, but regard their own part in it as insignificant and in no way special.  By a combination of scriptural promise, scientific information, life examples, exercises and thoughtful self-examination men and women open to their LifeKeys.  The battery of techniques used in small group settings come together in this manual for self-analysis and personal decision-making left to each person.

Holland’s hexagram of six areas of preference in work becomes the first approach.  The preference clusters are the Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.  Identification tables for each preference lead to an examination of experience in each of work area and rating what one liked most or where individuals feel most comfortable.  These preferences are called “life gifts,” what we have been given for our lives in the world.

The Biblical bases of “spiritual gifts” follow as evidence of God working in people’s lives.  Each gift is peculiar to Christian life and teaching with meanings distinct from their secular references where they may occur: Administration, Apostleship, Discernment, Encouragement/Counseling, Evangelism, Faith, Giving, Healing, Helps, Hospitality, Knowledge, Leadership, Mercy, Miracles, Prophecy, Shepherding, Teaching, Tongues, Wisdom.  Questions help identify one’s experience of each gift, and suggestions offer guidance in how the gift may be exercised and strengthened.  Afterwards, people rate their endowments in each gift and select their top five.

A section on the Myers-Briggs typology briefly guides people to identify their preferences among the E-I, S-N, F-T, P-J pairs.  Profiles of each of the 16 resulting types follow.  They identify the order of Jung-identified dominance among preferences and warn against a dysfunctional “trap” for each type.  Types come with an identifying scriptural quote and outlines of church relationships:

  • Contribution to the spiritual community.
  • Leadership style.
  • Preferred environment for service.
  • Common confessions [that is, weaknesses].
  • Possible spiritual helps [ways of addressing the weaknesses].

 In an exercise of values clarification, 51 values are stated and briefly defined on attached card sheets.  The 51 range from “Accuracy: Being true or correct in attention to detail” to “Variety: Desiring new and different activities, frequent change.”  People may include values not listed.  The cards allow for sorting and prioritizing.  By this process, individuals identify the top 8 that are “very valuable to me.” 

In putting all these self-assessments together, the inventory asks people to consider their “passions,” where they are most eager and how they want to expend their energies.  Concluding chapters take a “go slow” approach so that people give thought and reflection to themselves before they identify their mission in Christian life and plan how they will commit to it.

 Where I match with Kise-Stark-Hirsh has its basis in that I am a Christian of the Lutheran persuasion and believe that I have had a blessed and fortunate life within the church that has been one of the major factors in my life.  Although dutiful as a child and teenager, and although I attended a college of the Lutheran church, I have had a number of ethical and theological issues with the church over the years, most of which I have resolved.  I was very studious about the Bible and church teachings as a child and remained active in Luther League and attended Sunday School until I graduated from high school.  I was best friends with the pastor’s son, and his father encouraged me towards the ministry and most likely assumed I would go there.  I certainly thought about it but regarded myself as too shy and incapable of performing all the social requirements placed on pastors, especially Lutheran ones.  Chiefly, I did not see myself as overtly evangelical and shunned intruding too much into the lives of others.  Had it been presented to me,  I could have gone to seminary and become a theologian and teacher.  I might have done that, but it never dawned on me.  I never really thought how pastors in the Lutheran church prepare to be pastors.  Besides languages were always difficult for me and I doubted I could learn Greek, let alone Hebrew.

My alignment with Holland’s hexagram is in the obvious Investigative preference where possible activities include:

  • Inventing; for me, inventing systems and expressions of thought.
  • Researching; for me, learning and examining what our progenitors thought, especially philosophers and theologians, and what is thought about them.
  • Conceptualizing; that is, developing ideas and theories.
  • Working independently; which is obvious when you do thinking and research, though I do acknowledge the benefit of dialogue with others of shared interest.
  • Solving complex problems; which are, what shall we do in our contemporary lives and society in the light of the Gospel?  This is an age old problem expressed as, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

 My identification of my spiritual gifts readily named the top five (listed alphabetically):

  • Administration: the ability to organize to work efficiently for the Body of Christ.
  • Discernment: adept at recognizing what is and what is not of God.
  • Knowledge: the ability to understand, organize, and effectively use information for the advancement of God’s purposes.
  • Teaching: the ability to understand and communicate God’s truths to others effectively.
  • Wisdom: the ability to understand and apply Biblical and spiritual knowledge to complex, paradoxical, or other difficult situations.

 For me, these five are interrelated aspects of one whole.  The administrative ability is of information and ideas, not of organizational structures.  The teaching ability may be face to face but is more likely communication through some media.  Knowledge is more my forte.  I recognize discernment and wisdom in myself, but discernment is a scary business bothersome to me by its potential for falsity and persecution; and wisdom shall ever be humanly incomplete though I most desire and seek it.

In practice, it is easier for me to find my niche outside of a specific congregation or denomination in the wider community.  There the teachings of the church in the universal sense can be announced and explored as a basis for human behavior, human relationships, and social or political action.

Of course, I am an INTJ.  “I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven.—Ecclesiastes (NRSV) I:13.  Incidentally, Saint Paul by psychohistory gets typed an ENTJ.

The profiling fits me to a T, such as “Contribution to Spiritual Community:”

  • Envisioning systems to create a better world.
  • Breaking new ground, shifting paradigms, and changing the way people view things.
  • Designing or adjusting strategies and structures for future needs.
  • Thinking and acting independently from traditional or outmoded ways.

As far as values—those things I most deeply honor and must follow to achieve the life I want – I  identified only 6 of the requested 8.  Kise-Stark-Hirsh ask for 8 and a second 8 as they expect people to grow and shift their relative values over time.  At my age and after decades of reflective introspection, I have settled on 6.  My ranking as follows. 

1. Learning—Lifelong commitment to growing in understanding.  For me, lifelong questioning and growth of knowledge towards breadth and wisdom.

2. Independence—Wanting control of own time, behavior, tasks.  For me, freedom and ability to probe and formulate.

3. Artistic expression—Expressing self through the arts: painting, literature, drama, etc.  For me, high quality creative written communication that reaches others with meaning and significance.

4. Service—Helping others or contributing to society.  For me, benefit the common good over time and distance.

5. Influence—Capacity to affect or shape people, processes or ideas.  For me, positive impact on others learning, thinking, knowledge and understanding.

6. Friendship—Placing importance on close, personal relationships.  For me, close and deep personal connections; these are necessarily few. 

I thought it significant, that though the exercise asks for no more than 8 values, I could readily identify the six priority ones in the first pass.  In part my selections are due to my own definitions of them.  Service ranks high because it is for the common good, not otherwise listed as a value.  Influence ranks because it means ideational impact.

 As far as “passion” is concerned, it is hard for me to think of this characteristic other than where I focus my efforts.  I am not passionate about anything in the emotional sense because I am usually and try to maintain a rational, reflective, objective, polite and sedate approach to life and its challenges.  I do get quickly irate, however, over stupidity-based decisions, persistence in ignorance, the flight from problem identification, and the persistent desire for a simplicity that is less than the dimensions of reality.  Unfortunately, none of these demonstrate positive passion.  Nevertheless, I regard that my whole life has been in the service of human potential through discovery, learning, educated growth and informed decision-making.  For these eneavors, I see myself a missionary.

Besides the weaknesses already mentioned, my preference for distance from most other people limits me.  It is difficult for me to get too far engaged in my own congregation, though I have at times taught Sunday school, served on committees, been an usher (which I detested), led adult forums, and participated in many other forums, especially if they had intellectual content.  Mostly, I find it exhausting to expend the effort to do things that ought to be done in due course in the church anyway.  Within its bureaucratic structure, Lutheran congregations and the church-wide assembly can be more concerned about not giving offense than about doing the right thing.  If I was better with people or felt I had more time, I might try harder.  At my age, I feel myself in retreat to regroup, psychologically and intellectually, and choose the battles where I just might be able to do something productive.

My LifeKey is part 2 of a multi-part look at my personality based on various approaches.  See also My INTJ (1), My Learning (3), My Thinking (4), My Solo (5).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog.  Personal comments may be made to my email address,

My LifeKey appeared first in the blog CeptsForm on Blogspot, 2009, and moved to WordPress, 13 November, 2010.

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