For the unindoctrinated, MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator) is a psychometric that classifies people into one of 16 profiles. It is primarily used to help people get along better at work (along with staples like Wacky Bowling and Ropes courses). So, what is Jesus’ MBTI type? Does Jesus’ personality type create a subtle bias against religious leaders (or even followers) with different personality traits?
In MBTI, participants complete a 20 minute questionnaire to gauge their preferences between 4 dichotomous pairs. MBTI is based on the premise that people tend to prefer one of each pair more than the other. The 4 pairs are:
- Extraverting (E) vs. Introverting (I) - this pair describes where a person gets his energy and focuses his attention. Extraverts (E) tend to be outgoing, energized by people and the world around them. Introverts (I) tend to be deeply involved in their inner life with a handful of intimate friends.
- Sensing (S) vs. iNtuiting (N) – this pair describes how a person likes to gather information. Sensers (S) like things that are concrete, realistic, practical, and experiential. Intuitors (N) like things that are imaginative, seeing connections between things, using analogies, and understanding the big picture.
- Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F) – this pair describes how a person makes decisions. Thinkers (T) like to make pro and con lists, use objective means to decide, and consider facts and principles. Feelers (F) like to make decisions based on personal values, how things impact people, and they tend to be more accepting and accomodating.
- Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P) – this scale describes whether the person prefers to operate in “information gathering” mode or “decision making” mode primarily. Judgers (J), those with a decision making preference, tend to be more decisive, organized and planful. Perceivers (P) like to be flexible, keep options open and live in the moment.
MBTI is regarded by various people to be as insightful as the I Ching or as meaningless as a horoscope. Others object to MBTI as being a simplistic way to pigeonhole people. Practitioners of MBTI often like to “type” fictional and historical characters, often with differing opinions.
So, what is Jesus’ MBTI type? Most who’ve attempted to answer this question prefer to keep their options open, approaching Jesus as a role model or deity rather than a person. Because all types have different “gifts” they bring to the table, Christ would have to have ALL the gifts (so their logic goes). Therefore, He is described as being both extremes simultaneously. Personally, that feels like a cop-out to me. Others theorize that if all people continue to develop and grow over time, they will eventually be able to progress and use all functions of type (Source: From Image to Likeness by W. Harold Grant, no relation to Heber J. Grant).
I’d like to believe that Jesus had an actual personality, and I’m interested in understanding the type of person Jesus was when He was on the earth living His life. Here’s my guess, and my rationale (below): INFP.
Introverted – where did Jesus get his energy? Evidence for introversion: 40 days in the wilderness. Come on–an extravert would have gone nuts with no other people around for 40 days. I personally would have struck up a friendship with a volleyball after about 48 hours. Jesus often retreated after being around all those people. He also quite literally felt the energy (virtue) go out of him when he was touched in a crowd; one could say He literally found crowds to be draining.
iNtuiting – how did Jesus gather information? This is the one with the strongest evidence, IMO. Intuitors like to speak in analogies, and Jesus spoke almost non-stop in analogies (parables). He frequently spoke with double meanings (“he that hath ears to hear, let him hear”), and He was visionary, having to remind disciples that He wasn’t there to save them physically but to redeem them spiritually.
Feeling – how did Jesus make decisions? Feelers make decisions based on their personal values & how things impact people while Thinkers prefer to maker decisions using logical, objective analysis. Personally, I feel a case could be made for either on this one. There is not a lot of direct information about Jesus’ decision-making process in the Gospels, perhaps for a couple of reasons: 1) introverted intuitors rarely share their internal thought process with others, so there is less material to work with, and 2) Jesus doesn’t seem to go through a decision-making process much in the Gospels, and the few decisions He does make are made under extreme stress and may not be typical (e.g. atonement).
Feelers tend to be more accomodating and compassionate making compassionate exceptions for individuals, while Thinkers tend to be more critical and direct, preferring fairness and consistency. There are examples of Jesus taking both approaches in the Gospels. At times, Jesus is moved by compassion (e.g. loaves & fishes, calming the storm), and he makes exceptions (e.g. “neither do I condemn thee” to the woman taken in adultery); yet there are also many examples of Him being very direct and provocative (e.g. cleansing the temple, announcing “this day is this scripture fulfilled” and then continuing on in a pretty direct speech that really ticked people off); if those characteristics are more prevalent, that would make Jesus an INTP. I let the atonement itself tip the scales in favor of considering Jesus a Feeler, and as a sinner, I’m really hoping he’s an “exceptions” decision-maker more than a “fairness” decision-maker.
Perceiving – how did Jesus approach his life? Planned and orderly or “go with the flow”? His ministry seems very “go with the flow” to me. There was no time table, seemingly no schedule to their days. There was a lot of wandering. Also, the loaves & fishes incident smacks of a lack of planning (but just like a Perceiver, it all works out anyway!). Jesus was nothing if not flexible in His schedule, IMO. Ironically, many Christian churches have a much more “J” style–hierarchical, organization-focused, tightly scheduled.
Does anyone care to disagree with me and take a crack at Jesus’ MBTI? For MBTI novices, there are many sites with easy to read descriptions of the 16 types like this one.
If these are the characteristics Christ had, does that also color our perception of the suitableness of other personality types to be religious leaders? Let me further hypothesize that we are probably more critical of religious leaders who don’t fit this type, especially those who are outgoing or extraverted or boisterous, who are less theoretical and more hands-on. Again, I could be totally wrong, but I would go out on a limb to suggest that Joseph Smith was an ESFP. ESFPs are very sociable, tend to be athletic and fun-oriented, may be very charismatic, and like to live in the moment. Not exactly a “man of sorrows” personality type.
BTW, lest I be accused of type bias, I only have one letter in common with INFP, so my assessment is not based on a belief that my way is the way, the truth, the life (literally, in this case). I also only have one letter in common with ESFP.