Do You Know Your Purpose? Is Your Personality Related to Your Beliefs about God?

Wow – recovery from a coma!

What a crazy week. Thank you, Pascal and friends, for your prayers. I added my own to the mix. I’m so glad J’s (CC’s) brother is doing better! The girls and I have been sad about my brother-in-law’s situation but we’ve been having a blast together, with many giggles while we await J’s return. In the meantime, I wanted post about something J and I discussed just before she found out her brother was in a coma and had to leave. But first…

Do you struggle to find fulfillment?

When I was a believer, I felt a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose in my time on Earth. I knew my future lay in designing software tools to help myself and others increase and live-out their faith. Since then I’ve been deeply interested in imagining myself at the end of life, looking back and taking stock of which things I’m glad I spent my time on vs other things that I wish I hadn’t. Life seems more real, precious, and fleeting now. That has as much to do with having children that I know will eventually suffer and die (likely without me by their side) and my recent focus on metacognition as it does on spiritual matters and a loss of confidence in eternity.

Time is a most precious resource and I desperately want to use it wisely (to find that minimal set of things which satisfies my soul’s purpose, or at least my mind’s estimate of such). In addition to time with my amazing wife and children, which is always well-spent, I’ve been in a deep struggle to find that right choice of career alignment – the optimal challenge and purpose that drives enthusiasm and productivity towards a noble cause – one that’s practical, within my skill-set, and in-line with interests. On the list are many things ranging from teaching STEM in high-school or college to going back for a PhD to further science in some small corner of one or more of the intersections of theoretical computer science, artificial intelligence, software simulation, genetics, math, biomechanical engineering, the philosophy of science, or some subspecialty of physics.

I’m certainly not claiming to possess the mental prowess to accomplish these goals or do them well, but I know my interests. I love learning for its own intrinsic value, and I’m not afraid of difficult challenges if they align with my goals and provide time and support for my family. Your goals will vary, but I wonder if you feel like your on the right track or if, like me, your looking for something more.

Do you know your personality type?

My work and family life, with J (CC) in medical school, doesn’t allow time for further education at the moment. However, I also have a list of things that require no further formal degrees yet seem very fulfilling. I’ve sifted through many and found very few that my future self might deem to have been more valuable than extra time with my children.

In my research I recently came across a test similar to one I’d taken about 15 years ago. It is a modified version of the Myers Briggs test – the old one was over 100 questions but this one was much shorter and took less than 5 minutes to complete. I took it because I wanted to see if the results could help me narrow in on some subset of my possible career or hobby deviations that would be more natural for my personality than others. After taking the test, the descriptions of my personality type were shocking in their accuracy. I recognize that confirmation bias plays a role here, but other personality types do not describe me as well. This isn’t astrology.

I did learn a few things to think about when considering my future goals. I actually have an idea of what to do next. Perhaps I’ll share that another time. Something at least as important came out of the test. I learned about my wife and she learned a little more about me. I’ve since ask her, Howie, Vance (aka Toad), and Vance’s spouse to take the test and I’ve learned quite a bit about them as well.

The main reason for this post is to learn more about you. One of the primary goals of the blog is to increase our understanding of ourselves, one another, and the universe (any deities included). The hope is that understanding will lead to compassion and love. Personality type tools are not perfect and some people don’t like being put into such a box. They can be useful though, and I think they’re worth a shot. Only you can determine if they’re accurate for you or not.

My wife and I have learned quite a bit about each other through reading the details about our types that relates to how we tend to handle our careers, relationships, friendships, parenting styles, and the overall strengths and weaknesses that accompany our personalities. Also, after reading about INTJ’s (my wife did not get this type) I now understand how some people can be strong atheists – something I had trouble accepting before. That personality type seems particularly capable of such reasoning.

Personality may be correlated with belief in a higher power

The other intriguing reason for this post is a question based on a pronouncement made by one of the sites that interprets the personality type results. It says my main personality type, INTP (read about it here or here), is:

one of the types least likely to believe in a higher spiritual power

I googled INTP’s (my main personality type) to see if many of them believed in a higher power. The main answers I saw were from Reddit threads, and I think these say more about the base-rate of the Reddit audience concerning religion than they do about the general population of INTPs and faith. However, very few INTP’s held a religious belief on those threads.

My wife, however, has a personality type that is:

most likely of all types to believe in a higher spiritual power

You can probably complete the test in less than 5 minutes by opening this link.

Once you’re done, check out what your results means by clicking here and here, and then please drop back by and comment. We’d all benefit from learning more about each other. I’m specifically curious about the following:

  1. What type did you get and do you feel the descriptions in the links above are fairly accurate for you?
  2. Do you believe in a higher power? Some descriptions discuss this and I’m interested to see if there is a general correlation between personality and faith in the readers of our blog.

I’ll go first.

  1. INTP (with INFP as a close second) – yes, they seem accurate, especially INTP.
  2. INTP says I’m among those least likely to believe in a higher spiritual power. I don’t hold a positive belief in a higher power but I’m still drawn to the idea and searching for one.

This goes for you, too, Pascal! I can’t wait to learn more about you my friend! 🙂

Gentleness and respect,
–Russell

29 comments

  1. Hi, It’s nice to hear in the midst of angst that you and the girls have been able to enjoy your time together.
    I have done the Myers Briggs test a few times over the years. The first time I did it, at about 15 years of age, I was INTP. Each time I have taken the test I have come up the same, bar one time, 3 years ago where my T was an F. I did it again recently (not the one you have linked to though) and it was INTP again. My T score is close to that 0% so not unusual to swing both ways. The rest are relatively strong traits so while they may move closer they have never swung over to the other side. Yes I would definitely say it is accurate. And when I did score that F I think it had a lot to do with where I was in my life at the time.
    Do I believe in a higher power? I’m at a point of quandary with regards to this. The last month has seen me re-exploring the possibility of a God. And it being ‘the’ God. But like J, I think my faith and belief will be different to that which I grew up with, if I come to that resolution.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi JJ,

      This is great feedback. Thank you. My type changed drastically between the three times I took it over the past 15 years. I’m glad you’re still seeking, and I hope both you and my wife find what I’m looking for – if not a solid resolution for the question, at least an acceptance and enjoyment of the winding path towards discovery. I think I’m going to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance again. It’s been far too many years. 🙂

      Gentleness and respect,
      –Russell

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Neat post, and an interesting experiment.
    I am an INFJ, and I do believe in a higher power. I didn’t see anything on either page about being likely to believe in a higher power, but it did say INFJ’s were likely to have careers in religion, counseling, teaching, or the arts.
    I hope you get some more responses. I’d be interested to see how it turns out. Peace to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting! Yes, I think INFJ’s are more likely to be believers than many other types. I had this pegged for Pascal and he just confirmed it. I’m glad to know a lot more about you Louis! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting test. I fall into the upper right quadrant with INFP (71%) INFJ (70%), INTJ (70%) and INTP (69%). The lower left quadrant (ESTP, ESFP, ESTJ & ESFJ) are between 45% and 47%. The rest are in the high 50s and low 60s.

    It seems to be a reasonable result. I definitely fall into the I and N camps, and lie somewhere around the middle of the T & F spectrum and J & P s[pectrum.

    I don’t hold a belief in a deity, but I do have a sense of the divine. I’ve always considered myself religious, but don’t have a theology to accompany it. This combination seems to disturb both the religious and the non-religious alike.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Barry!

      Thank you for revealing yourself here in such detail. I’m sure we’d get along well as friends. I think your faith position is in line with where you find yourself on the personality type spectrums. Interesting.

      Since you’re a new commenter, I wonder if you might be willing to share how you stumbled upon our blog. The follow-count has been going up steadily for some time and Pascal and I have some loose ideas about why, but nothing concrete. The referral analytics aren’t great. Did you just see a post in the Reader?

      Gentleness and respect,
      –Russell

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the welcome.

        Actually, I have been following your blog for some time, but I don’t recall exactly how I stumbled upon it. Most likely your blog is one followed by one I follow. I follow a number of blogs that have pro-religious and pro-atheist leanings, although some would be more accurately described as anti-atheist and anti-religious. I like that this blog does not consider differing perspectives foolish.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Pascal,

      I’m glad you said that was your type. I was going to be a little confused if it wasn’t. You have a lot of different types in your personality, but that one definitely nails you. This is so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to go through it and let me know.

      Let’s make a time for breakfast.
      –Russell

      Like

      1. My best friend is an ENFJ. I’m an INFP and I find this personality duo to be interesting as we “get” each other but live out our lives very differently. She has traits that I admire and wish I had (and vice versa).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post. I suspect personality has a lot to do with it. I am an ISFJ, I am not sure how that fits into religion, but I can see how it fits into my commenting style. As I really find it hard when the discussions on some forums get robust in a personal manner. On another blog a Christian commentator accused me of being duplicitous. That hurt me so much, I realised I had no problems discussing my opinions but found it very hard when people attacked my personality (note to self: never ever consider politics).

    I recall some months back seeing a discussion of how people of another personality type (I think it was INTP) found Pentecostal Churches so difficult because the whole worship style went against their core personality. They wanted quiet and contemplative worship – but were seen by others as not entering into worship properly because they did not want to jump and dance around with hands in the air.

    Some years ago the BBC undertook a documentary on religious experience and the brain. They found that there is a part of the brain that acts as a type of religious antenna. In those people who had a more developed part of the brain there, they were more ‘spiritual’. What was significant was that the actual religion appeared to make no difference.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Peter!

      Very good points. As an INTP, I can definitely say that I have a hard time with the herd behavior in worship services and what it says about the psychology of those experiences. However, I definitely think I’m not alone there. I used to be an E instead of an I, and at that time I was at a Pentecostal church leading the Congo-line-for-Christ. 🙂 I think that, for most people, personality is much more plastic than it is commonly believed to be.

      This site says that ISFJ is “Among types most likely to believe in a higher spiritual power” and “Religious educator” is a common job for that personality type. I have no idea if that’s accurate and a population statistic does not apply to and individual. How does it strike you? Did the other, non-religious-related results match how you see yourself?

      Thanks for taking the time to go through the survey! 🙂

      Gentleness and respect,
      –Russell

      Like

      1. I had done this test some years ago as part of a work related project. Everyone who knew me said that ISFJ summed me up very well. It was called a Guardian Protector in the study I had done, the least hedonistic of all personality types, that definitely sums applies to me.

        Whilst me mind tells me that religion is a human psychological construct, I just can’t seem to cut myself finally free from its grip on me. I keep feeling that God is going to wreak some horrible revenge upon me.

        Our personality can swing around a bit over time at the edges, but I do think we have some basic underlying personality types. I am very much a natural introvert, but I can at times act in a way that people might think is more extroverted, especially when dealing with technical topics. However put me in a social function where I know no-one and my natural introversion comes to the fore.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Peter,

      You said this:

      On another blog a Christian commentator accused me of being duplicitous. That hurt me so much

      Peter, I have had the great pleasure of reading many of your comments across several blogs. I usually skim comments (especially on highly commented blogs like Nate’s), but when I come across yours I often read carefully, and never once have I ever thought of you as duplicitous. It screams so much against how I view you that I couldn’t let this comment of yours go without response.

      I don’t know if this person who called you that was the man who recently got banned from Nate’s blog, but if it is I want you to know that he is the most psychologically manipulative person I’ve ever met on the internet. You and I both can be controlled by these kind of attacks. Let’s both rise above it and see it for what it is. A way to control us and nothing more.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. My father-in-law is an ISFJ and he is the most hard-working kind person I have ever met. I love that he gets stuff done but loves to have fun with his grandkids (my kids).

      I know what you mean about discussions getting personal. I also get really hurt when others attack my character. There is no reason for people to attack others whom they disagree with.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is no reason for people to attack others whom they disagree with.

        I suspect it is an easy response for someone either too lazy or unable to mount a cogent argument. Of course in some cases it might somehow make the abuser feel good, like letting off steam. In my view they demean themselves.

        Like

  5. Hi Russell,

    I have been reading this blog for a little while (and appreciate it) but haven’t commented before if I remember correctly.

    I did the test, and my results were INFP 81%, ISFP 76% and INFJ 73%. I found many of the questions difficult because I felt fairly equally on each side. It is obvious from that that I and F are the strongest, which is a little surprising to me. I think the I is probably right, but not strongly, but I’m more doubtful about the F – at work (I was an environmental manager) I would have been considered quite strongly T though with more F than many of my colleagues.

    The profiles for these three results suggest I am caring and sensitive, a little artistic, maybe a little mystical, which I think few would see of me, so I don’t know. Overall, I think in reality I am more pragmatic than the results say but I have aspirations to be different.

    I believe in a higher power, I wasn’t brought up christian but I have been one for 50+ years, though hopefully a thoughtful and innovative one. Not sure how all that adds to your thinking, but that’s it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Russell,

    It’s been very good to hear the positive progress that J’s brother is seeing and I hope it continues.

    I can’t find my report from when I took the test in the early 2000’s, but I do remember distinctly that my bar was maxed out for Introversion back then (something I laughed with my co-workers about). I was pleasantly surprised to find that I landed slightly in E this time as I have been trying to nurture my social side in the past 10 years or so. So I agree that these personality types are quite plastic (both as changeable over time, as well as complex and variable even in a single moment), although I hadn’t viewed them that way in the past. A few years back my father told me a story of his mother going from A to Z on the introversion spectrum in the course of her lifetime. I have many fond memories of her and perhaps that will be my story as well. Perhaps someday I’ll max out on the Extroversion side.

    I find my own personality to be a bit complex, as this time I didn’t score strongly in any of the categories and even fell very close to center on E-I and J-P.

    Regarding your questions:

    1) I am ESFJ this time, and many of the descriptions fit me quite well. The ESFJ description on the TeamTechnology MMDI report fits me very well. Especially this: “you seek to develop harmony in relationships”. If anyone wants to know about me they should always remember that one thing. Almost all of the detailed descriptions on the 16personalities website also fit me extremely well, but I feel it misses the mark quite a bit on a couple of things. This one stands out as way off: “being so comfortable with introductions and small talk, ESFJs are naturally very popular in pretty much any environment.” -> introductions and small talk stand very high on the list of things which make me very uncomfortable, and “popular” does not fit me either.

    2) I am doubtful of the existence of a higher power, at least in the sense of a personal being. Interestingly, ESFJ is noted as “second most likely of all types to report believing in a higher spiritual power”. This may align however with my open mindedness to spiritual or supernatural concepts, and my feeling that “possibilian” describes me best.

    As you and I texted Saturday it is a bit strange that our types are complete opposites on every letter. I find this only partially baffling. I definitely wouldn’t expect every letter to be different, but I’ve noticed several differences between us to know that we are not doppelgangers as some have thought. We do share a love for logic/math/science and our brains tend to think along those lines, and we also share values of “gentleness and respect” so I think this may be the commonality people see. But even with my love and inclination for math-like thinking my desire to connect with people on an emotional level wins out quite a bit, and that may partially be what makes a difference. Perhaps you’ve noticed that in some of our phone conversations. I’m sure there are other factors involved, but my comment is long enough. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t put much stock in such tests. The research just doesn’t support them, but you’re right, it’s not astrology. I’ve taken the MB test a few times over the years. I am always INTJ. The only trait that is ever near the line is T/F. Though I identify with INTJ, when I look at the figures and characters that supposedly exhibit those traits, I do not feel I have their cunning. I don’t identify strongly with INFJ figures either, so I’m probably in between.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am an INTJ. INTJ does describe me well. I also am Christian but strive to have an open mind. I think with my personality though having a set mindset and certainty of opinion is generally prefered as reflected by my J. Oh, last letter indicates whether you function more out of you second (perceiving) letter or your third (judging) letter. I function more out of my third letter, my T. I like to make decisions (J) more than gather information (P). So second letter is how you perceive the world and gather information (sensing or intuition eg walk in a house and say its messy and then state specifics or walk into a house and say it seems dirty or unwelcoming) Third letter is how you judge the information gathered (feeling or thinking)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. For the MOST part I find the Myers-Brigg’s personality descriptions fairly accurate and so, unlike M.M.J., I actually DO put a lot of stock in them.

    In the test you linked I got an INFJ with INFP secondary. That’s interesting because after taking multiple tests I am fairly certain that I am an INFP. It seems that I am an INFP at heart (in my core of who I am) who has grown a little in my personality as I’ve gotten older so I’m becoming less of a idealist dreamer and am looking at things more practically. I love logic and categorizing (which makes me seem stereotypically less like most INFPs) but at my core what’s important to me is authenticity and my being true to my values.

    The deciding factor for me in deciding whether or not I was an INFJ or INFP was looking at the 8 cognitive functions (the way our brains access, organize, and evaluate information). See here: http://www.cognitiveprocesses.com/.

    For example when looking at whether or not I’m an INFJ or INFP it seems these personalities have dramatically different cognitive functions and aren’t as alike as you’d think. So it’s not just a matter of J vs P. For example INFJ’s primary cognitive function is introverted intuiting (foreseeing implications, transformations, and likely effects) and INFP’s primary cognitive function is introverted feeling (valuing and considering importance, beliefs, and worth).

    INTP’s primary function is introverted thinking (analyzing, categorizing, and evaluating according to principles ) which does sound a LOT like you based off what you describe.

    To answer your question about whether or not I believe in a higher power. I always had but for years I had my doubts and a month or so ago realized I no longer believed. INFPs tend to be spiritual but hate dogma and I think that might be the case for me. I’m still trying to figure out what I believe after having had been an evangelical Christian for many years. I am now agnostic and believe that a personal deity probably do NOT exist but have not been able to give up the concept of the soul or the concept that everything is somehow connected. The website you listed didn’t say if INFPs were religious however I have read on many sites that they tend to be spiritually agnostic or Buddhist.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have always found the Myers Briggs test to be accurate and always came up with an INFJ but this short 5 minute one made me out to be an ESFJ…really strange and I found it inaccurate. Maybe having a shortened test makes it less reliable?

    Liked by 1 person

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