Category Archives: Personality

Are You Guilty of Cultural Bias?

In ministry it is very easy to let our cultural bias, or the way we have been taught to see the world, stop us from being sensitive to the differences we experience in others. When I first met with leaders of Christian community development organizations to discuss bringing groups of adults into their community for mission trips, many of the leaders shared with me their reluctance. The common concern was the fact that so often, good intentioned people end up being an offense. It is easy to be insensitive to the effect we have on other people. For example, we can give cues that are condescending. Comments like, “My, your child sure is well behaved” often comes with a perceived presumption of disbelief, as if to say, “Wow, am I surprised that your children know how to behave.” Often we are more deeply shaped by stereotypical thinking than we are comfortable admitting. This results in cultural bias.
 Part of the reason that we can be so insensitive is that most urban areas are much more culturally diverse than a lot of the churches in America. All we know is the stereotypical images that we see on television. Why is it we expect a foreign missionary to study languages and learn all about the nation they will go to and yet we often do not know anything about the different cultures right in our own urban areas? We need to learn about different ethnic groups through cross-cultural training. We need to train in such a way that we learn sensitivity, respect and love for those that we are going to work with.
 It is hard to admit that we are culturally bias and insensitive, but if we allow God, He can point out any prejudice and ignorance that we have. Then, in His mercy, He can give us understanding and a sensitive spirit to other people. But this is easier said than done.
 I have had to wrestle with prejudice in my own heart. This was extremely difficult because I felt that I wasn’t prejudice. I did not use pejorative language when it came to someone of different color. I didn’t share racial jokes or feel any hatred in my heart. I was convinced that I did not have racial attitudes until I started hearing talk of affirmative action. Until I felt that my own children were victims of reverse discrimination. Until I heard appeals for reparations, because of an economy that benefited from slavery in this country. This movement toward more equality among races started to anger me. This is when I had to face the deep secrets hidden in my own heart. I had to admit that there was a definition of prejudice that I had not considered. It was the simple but deeply profound fact that in this country I was part of the majority. It was the result of pure math. In America, majority rules. Majority has privilege. I never have had the problem of discrimination that a minority person has had in this country.  
 As I considered what I took for granted in my life, I had to admit that much of it was the result of  the color of my skin. Being “white” allowed me membership into a large exclusive club. And in this country this membership has its privileges. Through study and listening to others who have wrestled with this issue, I started to expand my awareness of a lot of the privileges I had, those that I took for granted were mine simply because of my race. This is when I began to see my prejudice and discrimination toward those that were different.
 When I saw that the privilege that I had experienced came as a result of injustice to those unlike me, I had to admit that I was part of a system that rewarded the majority at the expense of the non-majority. The result  was prejudice. It is this awareness that allowed me to begin to feel a sense of remorse and sorrow over the wrongs that have been inflicted on others by my race. I have come to recognize that it is my race that benefited from slavery. It is my race that has benefited from the poor wages of immigrants. It is my race that has participated in better schools, medical treatment, job placement, loans and everything else that comes with being white in America. It is this deeper awareness that has given me a better sense of what injustice is. It is the beginning of this awareness that has opened up for me a much deeper and more meaningful dialog with those that are a minority in this country and is helping me take action toward the wrongs I and my race have done. It is helping me take a stand against a system that ignores the needs of the poor. Prejudice is alive and doing well in the church today and until we start to talk about it and root it out, we will not see people the way God truly sees them. We will not love in the way that He loves.

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Your Personality and Ministry

Your Personality Traits
 
 Paul used the human body as a metaphor of what the “body” of believers is like. The head is different from the hand. The nose differs from the toes. Each is important, each has a job to do, each would be missed if they weren’t part of the body. Hopefully, by now, you are celebrating your uniqueness and are starting to understand how God can use almost everything about you for His glory. Now we want you to consider the many different personality traits that God has endowed you with.
 Our approach to personality is to show you different traits and the broad range of behavior in each one.

Understanding Ourself 
 The main reason for going over personality traits is so we can understand more about our own behavior. Insight into our behavior will help us choose vocations and volunteer situations that best  suit who we are. How can we maximize our effectiveness and experience the deep joy and satisfaction of serving God if we are constantly striving against our self and the situations that we are in? Knowing our traits not only allows us to discern where we may be most effective but it also shows us how to be the most effective in situations where we do not have a choice to serve or not. For example let’s look at parenting. God has called all of us with children to be good parents. He does not give out excuse slips to those that might be high in one personality trait and low in another. He calls us all to be a good parent. What we need to do is to understand the goals of good parenting and accomplish them through the way that we were designed. We are responsible for our behavior no matter what our traits are. Knowing who we are allows us to adjust and adapt any traits that we need to and  to use our others to their fullest advantage.

Understanding Others
 We cannot do ministry alone. We need each other, yet so many times we let our differences in personality separate us. Instead we need to celebrate our differences. God has created a wide range of human experience. We need to understand those that we fellowship with better. How else will we be able to minister effectively together? To do this we first describe the wide range of normalcy in the different traits. So often we narrow what we believe to be acceptable behavior. We look at others through our own bias. We hope that this section will shed some light on why people behave the way they do and that we would extend our hand of love, grace and understanding to each other.

Bearing Each Other’s Burdens
 Not only have we explained the wide range of normalcy for each trait we have included descriptions of  excessive behavior.  Which of us does not have times
when we are excessive in our behavior? Our goal is to help us see these excessive ranges so we can correct them and move more toward a more Biblical range of acceptable behavior. The power of the word of God, the fruit of the Spirit, and the fellowship of loving Christians can be the strength we need for any of our weaknesses. When we can see where our behavior is becoming excessive or we begin to understand someone else’s excessessiveness, we can help each other to patiently move more into normalcy. When this happens, I believe that we will minister together in ways we never dreamt possible. The world will see our love for each other and it will speak volumes of our Savior whom we represent. We need to reach a hurting and dying world, but how if we do not understand, accept and help one another? 
 This is about you volunteering for ministry. In so many churches the routine is to recruit someone to do a ministry. We look at the person’s skills, ability and experience and recruit them. The trouble is that we do not take into consideration their personality traits and the resulting preferences they have. We hope that the result of this will be a better knowledge of where and how you want to serve the Lord so you can talk to those at your church about volunteering in a ministry that fits you best. What a joy, excitement and passion burns in our soul when we are serving God in a way that best compliments the way He has created us.

Personality Theory
 The study of temperaments, which was a primitive form of personality theory, goes back to the time of Hippocrates in 460-370 B.C and the Greek civilization.  In the late seventeen hundreds Kant again popularized temperament theory.  Personality theory, as we know it today, started in the early nineteen hundreds with great advances in the 1950’s.  Although he is more famous for his experiments with LSD and other mind expanding drugs, today much of  our personality testing has its roots in Timothy Leary’s famous study in 1957 at the Kaiser Foundation in Oakland, California. He was also joined by LaForge and Suzek’s study of the Interpersonal Check List. Leary’s diagram, known as CircumPlex, was illustrated by a circle with a vertical/horizontal grid in the middle. The grid’s vertical axis going north and south represented the opposites: Dominant and Submissive. This line intersected the horizontal axis, going east and west, which represented the opposites; Hostility and Affection. This landmark grid created a whole field of personality research resulting in many different variations of this early research.   
 There has been widespread use of personality study in Christendom. While I see the usefulness in the theory of personality traits and want to make some applications in this book, I am concerned about the oversimplification with the use of many personality tests. We are not automatons, programmed with a personality, and therefore destined to behave in certain predictable behavior. We have no excuse for poor interpersonal relationships simply because we are a certain personality type and may not be perfectly compatible  with someone having a different type personality.
 The Bible concerns itself with  a wide spectrum of personality traits. The beauty of the Bible is that it shows that all types of personalities can indeed live for God. There is no “perfect” personality. Rather, every human being is uniquely created and is responsible for their behavior before God. For example, people  representing all the personality types marry. Are anyone of them excused from being a good marriage partner? No, God is able to work through each of us, no matter what our personality type, using our strengths and helping us with our weaknesses. It is up to each individual to be responsible for their behavior.  With the help of the Holy Spirit and the fruit that it produces in our life, we are able to overcome any personality deficiency or overcompensation. All the personality traits, when lived in a responsible way, can be used for God.

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