Tuesday, November 10, 2009

37. WHO AM I?

I began to write this some years ago at the beginning of a period of retreat/ reflection (14 November 1999). My task until June 2000 was to figure out who I was/am, where I can be more fully aligned with God's will for my life, and how I can live more simply. An interesting (!) byproduct of this journey (the Desert Fathers and Mothers also experienced this sort of thing in their solitude) is that I am sometimes attacked by negative thoughts about myself and my journey. I am regularly recollecting the dozen times I got into trouble for speaking my mind. I have never knowingly (I hope) set out to hurt anyone with my words, but I have certainly offended stuck-where-they-were 'permission-witholders' occasionally. 

This all relates to the important question my favorite preacher John Claypool used to ask: 'Who is my audience?'

Reviewing the most 'successful' pastorates recently - at Narwee and Blackburn - I honestly cannot recall uttering an unkind word to anyone in those congregations. (We were 'attacked' in other ways then). These days I counsel hurt pastors who enjoy recounting episodes of  'one-upmanship' - yes, they're males.  

At a Richard Rohr conference in Canberra in the late 1990s Richard said that at his first retreat at Merton's hermitage he was similarly invaded with negative thoughts about himself. [Here's a sermon on What to do with your Regrets: That's the subject for another post].


In random order:

1. HOLLYWOOD CONTRIVANCES. There are very few actors who don't come across as 'camera fakes' (Robert Redford, Jack Nicolson would be two exceptions... others?). Also I find special effects fascinating. Whilst my wife held my hand tightly in Evan Almighty - when a huge flood swept the ark away to Washington DC - I was thinking (as I usually do at these traumatic cinematic moments) 'How did they do that?'

2. CLOSED MINDS. My first encounters with closed minds were in the Brethren Assembly I attended as a boy: but generally those elders could discuss their differences congenially. Not always: Mr. Clines and Mr. Messer had a public row about whether it was right to play hymns from a radio 'in church'. Mr. Clines believed radio waves were controlled by the Devil ('the prince of the power of the air') - and was the one with the raised voice in this argument (remember the preacher's margin-note: 'Point weak: shout!'). He later relented when the family doctor suggested that his wife's loneliness and depression could be helped by a radio in the home.

The second experience I remember was a communication from John R Rice, an American fundamentalist, whose paper 'The Sword of the Lord' I used to get as a young teacher. I disagreed with something in a letter to him, and he wrote a two-page diatribe accusing me of all sorts of things (including 'formalism'!!!) which were not true... That experience helped me to see fundamentalism - at least his brand of it - for what it was...


According to a Facebook personality type inventory taken tonight (21/7/2008) I'm now INTP (but the last two times - 15+ years ago - when I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory Test, I came up with INTJ... Oh well...).

The Theorist

Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

INTPs are known for their quest for logical purity, which motivates them to examine universal truths and principles. They are constantly asking themselves and others the questions 'Why?' and 'Why not?' Clear and quick thinkers, they are able to focus with great intensity on their interests. They appreciate elegance and efficiency in thought processes and require them, even more so, in their own communications. They may be seen as unwilling to accept what everyone else regards as truth. While often low key in outward appearance and approach, the INTP is 'hard as nails' when challenging a truth. INTPs do not like to deal with the obvious. They are at their best in building conceptual models and developing unusual and complex ideas.

 As children, INTPs are inwardly focused, often enjoying their own thoughts more than the company of others. They are full of questions, sometimes voiced, most often not. INTP children often challenge and even stump their elders. They enjoy fantasy, mysteries, inventing, thinking and doing things that may be somewhat atypical for other children of their age, and they sense their uniqueness early on. If INTPs are fond of books or games, it is likely that their choices will be the current rage. If an INTP is fond of music, it is likely to be of an unusual sort.

INTPs tend to either respect and go along with society's rules, or to question and rebel against them. Their response to these rules depends on how the rules might affect them. When INTPs do not like the rules, they are quick to find the flaws in the rule-makers' thinking, regardless of their status, position in the hierarchy, or renown.

As young adults choosing careers, INTPs either set a course and work toward it quietly yet forcefully or continue to resist and rebel against society's expectations and irrational rules. They may either focus in depth on a major interest or move from one interest to another without showing others - friends, colleagues, and bosses - their reasons why. It is the process, the quest, that has been most interesting to them. Once they have found the answer, they do not often share it because the answer is obvious, and documenting the obvious is redundant. This attitude includes a tendency not to respond or speak up in groups, because the INTP feels that what he or she was going to say seems so obvious that no one would want to hear it. As INTPs mature, they continue their quest for logical purity, but now it includes more balance in their activities.

Learning and Working

The INTP is a relentless learner in areas that hold his or her interest. They often seem 'lost in thought,' and this characteristic appears very early. INTPs enjoy the life of the mind and the learning process, regardless of whether that process takes place in a formal sense. They are often characterized as life-long learners.

In school, well-rounded INTPs work on their assignments with a great deal of inward energy and interest that is usually not apparent to others. They tend to connect unrelated thoughts. As learners, they are able to find logical flaws in the thinking of others. They analyze these flaws and find ideas for further study. They go to great depths in their analysis.

In taking exams, they prefer theoretical questions. When INTPs view a test, teachers, or subjects as irrelevant, they may respond as follows: 'I know what I need to know about this topic; I may even know more than my teacher. The teacher made this test, and this test is dumb. Therefore, my teacher is dumb, and I will not do the test.' Because of such reactions, the INTP's academic record may include successes or may be filled with failures.

INTPs contribute a logical, system-building approach to their work. They like being the architect of a plan, because of the scheming and thinking involved, far more than being the implementer of that plan. Implementation tends to be drudgery. They are content to sit back and think about what might work, given their view of the situation. INTPs may ignore standard operating procedures. The hours that they spend are not what is important to them, but rather the completion of their thought process. When their projects are of interest to them, they can become mesmerized and may even work through the night. when their projects are not intriguing, their work is considered drudgery, and the INTP finds it difficult to stay motivated.

INTPs usually find a place in their work for using their logical and structured thinking. They enjoy work that allows them to abstract, to generalize beyond the data, and to build models. Flexibility is desired because INTPs like to 'do the job when they want to do it and as they want to do it.' They also prefer occupations in which the hierarchy is minimal and not important. This attitude stems from their firm belief that, to be legitimate, a hierarchy should be built on the competency of individuals who are logically placed according to their talents.

Some occupations seem to be more attractive to INTPs: biologist, chemist, computer programmer, computer system analyst, lawyer, photographer, psychologist, researcher, surveyor, writer, and other occupations that allow them to use their logical thinking in appropriate ways.


For the INTP, love has three distinct phases: falling in, staying in, and getting out. These phases relate to their thinking preference and its need for order and sequence.

An INTP characterized falling in love as a stage of complete loss of rationality that may last a year or less. When an INTP falls in love, he or she falls hard - an all or nothing phenomenon. At this stage, INTPs are likely to be very lively, almost giddy, in their new love. The experience rushes over them and carries them along. They do not structure or control it but simply enjoy and experience it. They do many loving things and they are curious about their loved one and are able to overlook his or her flaws. They may bravely ignore the realities of distance, weather, and time to be with the loved one.

As relationships progress to the staying-in-love phase, INTPs begin to evaluate their structure and form. They may withdraw at this point because they are moving toward their more customary inward style. Outward demonstrations of affection occur less frequently, and the giddy state changes. Interactions are more matter of fact, perhaps even impersonal. INTPs take their commitments to their partner seriously; however, they may not discuss these commitments at any length with their partner or with other people, because their commitments seem so obvious to them.

Falling out of love, which may not always occur, results from an analysis of the real expectations and needs of the relationship. Often an undefined line is crossed that neither partner knows about ahead of time. However, the INTP knows after the line has been crossed, and then the relationship deteriorates or ends. If INTPs recognize their emotions and needs as valid, they are able to sever relationship ties fairly cleanly. However, if they misjudge their own needs and those of their partner, the breakup can be messy, perhaps affecting other aspects of their lives for a long time. If the INTP shares some common interests with the former loved one, the relationship continues but on a different level. When INTPs have a reason to continue relationships, they do so.


Here are some interesting prayers for each personality type.


And a few of my favourite things:

Hymns: (Which don't necessarily coincide with others'): When I Survey; Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts (which I'm rewriting to excise archaisms); Because He Lives (special to us as we left Blackburn Baptist Church to go to Vancouver). 60's - Be Exalted O God, 70s - Because He Lives. 


The quote which, more than any other, helped rescue me from fundamentalism: ‘The worst evils in the world are not done by evil people, but by good people who do not know they are not doing good’
– Reinhold Niebuhr

'Charity is no substitute for justice withheld' (St. Augustine). (Ask Dawn Rowan!)

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