Friday, May 09, 2008

The more you understand,
the less they correct

Personality tests are on the web everywhere you click, it seems. Books about understanding people's personalities are many. I find these tests fun sometimes. I can also understand how it might be very valuable to an employer to give someone a test such as Meyers-Briggs before hiring. This helps you to know beforehand what you may be getting yourself into . However, where I draw the line is in excusing people from delivering what is expected or appropriate based upon the fact that we all have differing personalities.

Just this week as I was out in the community I overheard an employee complaining that they do things differently than expected at their work, simply because it’s “not the way they’re wired." They spoke of the fact that their personality is much different from those they work with and they think their coworkers need to learn to flow with how they are wired. The whole time the person was speaking, I thought to myself, “they aren’t there to flow with your personality, on the contrary - you are just there to get the job done, personalities aside.”

I believe the only two things that should ever be a reason for not doing things exactly as expected would be if someone is physically or mentally challenged, whether a child or an employee. If you are a mother of physically or mentally challenged child of course you have to make some allowances. Please note I am not speaking of a personality difference, but something as a result of an actual medical diagnosis. If you are a boss, you know up front when you have hired someone with a disability, making allowances for the slower productivity or differing method of delivering what is expected. But aside from actual diagnosed disabilities or challenges, I don’t believe exceptions should be made.

We had a staff member once who was very unproductive and when confronted they attributed it to their “laid back” personality. They said we just differed in our working styles. (I guess so if you consider – we believe in getting something done…they didn’t. LOL) Anyway, in our ministry coaching class, my husband asked our coach, Dr. Wayne Lee, about this, and Doc told us that lack of productivity is not just a personality or working style – it’s a sin. It’s wrong. It needs to be confronted and dealt with, not “understood.” He gave the illustration of the vinedresser - and said that if a branch is not bearing fruit, it must be cut off. That helped put things in better perspective. We were not simply dealing with a difference in personalities – we were dealing with a lack of character.

We see this thought pervading in books about marriage and family that we must seek to understand people rather than expect right behavior. In some matters it really does come down to a right and wrong way to do things. I can understand all three of my children’s unique personalities but the truth of the matter is, if I ask them to do something, it truly doesn’t matter to me what their unique personality is – obedience is expected. I wouldn’t excuse Larry of doing something ungodly or inappropriate in our marriage simply because it’s “the way he’s wired.” As my husband often says, "God accepts us just as we are, however he loves us too much to let us stay that way."

Personality books and tests are a good tool to understand WHAT you’re dealing with and possibly WHY. But as an excuse or a free pass to do whatever a person wants? No.

I’ve ministered to people in the church before who exhibit really inappropriate behavior and people willl say things like, “well you have to understand…such and such happened to him years ago and that's why he respondes the way he does…” Part of the problem in today’s society is too many of us have just “understood” instead of stopping the co-dependent behavior that perpetuates the lack of character even more.

I have been encouraging a pastor friend who is going through a battle with an older lady in their congregation who we'll call "Alice". Alice has sent countless people right out the doors of the church. She has an opinion on all things church, and loudly and sternly confronts people, even brand new people, about changes that she doesn't like. Most of the young people are gone from their church because of this woman and her behavior. There are quite a number of Godly adults in the church and they know what she is doing is wrong. But, when pastors in the past have brought it up, everyone says, "oh Pastor, that's just Alice. It's how she is. We just take her with a grain of salt." Problem is, a lot of younger people, new converts to Christ, and visiting families don't. They have heard her tirades and walked out the doors. Who wants to come to church and hear all that griping? And the pastor is left to deal with Alice and her abrasive personality that is emptying out the church. He and his wife are the first pastors with the guts to deal with it. Most have let Alice beat up the sheep and run them off rather than protecting the flock from her. And then when they have gotten sick of it, the pastors themselves have simply taken a new congregation. They have gone through several pastors with this same garbage, and have had a parade of people who have been totally worn out by her behavior move on to pastures where they wouldn't be bitten constantly by another sheep. They can analyze Alice's personality and upbringing all they want, but until someone demands a change, and holds her accountable as these new pastors are now bravely doing, nothing will move forward.

Okay, maybe Alice had a difficult childhood. I don't know, but maybe so. Maybe she is a choleric. Maybe she is a meloncholy. Maybe she is an ENJF or an ENJT. Okay whatever... but for Pete sake, do something about her behavior don't just analyze or seek to "understand!" I think in many cases there is was too much psycho babble going on in the church today and too little reading of the pastoral epistles to see how we're to deal with things. Sometimes the key is not's correcting. And...are we bold enough to do it? That's the question. It's a lot easier to read a psych book and quietly "understand" someone than it is to read God's Word - see what He says - make it our standard - enforce it.


Tara Sloan said...

Deanna, this is some FANTASTIC teaching! You should do a series on it! I'm taking notes!!!!

Deanna Shrodes said...

Thank you my friend, coming from you that is a high compliment.

Love you