I enjoy personality tests. Some are more helpful than others, but at their best, surveys tell you something about yourself and the people you live or work with. (I’ve discovered I’m an extrovert in a family of introverts, although the jury’s still out on our youngest!) I’m partial to the Myers-Briggs, but I’ve engaged in multiple tests over the years, at work and for fun.

The problem with personality tests, though, is we can sometimes dismiss or diminish clear biblical standards that don’t align with our self-perception.

A Christian’s Talk

Take, for instance, what James 1:19–20 says about a Christian’s talk and temperament:

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. (CSB)

In our cultural context, it’s never been easier to speak and to be heard. The internet, social media . . . all these new technologies have made it possible for us to say more things publicly than in any other time in human history, to the point some cultural observers wonder out loud, Is this even good for us? Should we be taking in this much information or putting out so many words? Were humans ever intended to speak so much?

Everything in our world makes it easy to speak quickly. There’s nothing out there designed to help you learn to listen well. The way stuff is set up online, the way people climb the ladder socially or professionally, the way people debate—everything is set up for speech. Say something! But Proverbs 17:27–28 says,

The one who has knowledge restrains his words,
and one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding.
Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent—
discerning, when he seals his lips. (CSB)

In other words, if you’re wise, you won’t talk as much. You’ll restrain your words. You won’t vent all your frustrations. You won’t say everything you feel.

Some will say, “Hey, I’m a talker! I’m just being real! That’s just my personality. I blurt things out. I just say stuff without thinking. It’s my Myers-Briggs. That’s my Enneagram number. Have you seen my StrengthsFinders? I’m just keeping it real.”

Sorry, but if you’re a Christian, that’s not what “keeping it real” means. James doesn’t say to be quick to listen and slow to speak unless you’re extroverted. Unless you’re talkative. Unless you have a big following on TikTok or Instagram. No, what he says goes for all of us.

A Christian’s Temperament

It’s not just our talk James mentions but also our temperament: “Slow to become angry.” The proverbs put talk and temperament together too: “The one who has knowledge restrains his words.” That’s talk. “One who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding.” That’s temperament.

Some of us may be prone to angry outbursts. Some of us may be prone to anger that shows up in seething, quiet resentment. Some of us may not find anger to be as big a challenge. We’re all different, yes. But make no mistake: a personality test doesn’t give you a pass on the fruit of the Spirit.

Right now, a lot of people think that if we just let loose, if we say what we feel all the time, if we tell people off, that’s going to fix it. Let me lash out on Twitter. Let me add a sick burn on a Facebook comment thread. The way we make a difference is by “shutting someone down” or “owning the libs” or whatever.

Of course, there is such a thing as righteous anger. James says slow to become angry, not never to become angry. But the temptation in our day is to baptize our anger as righteous, to justify sin in the name of justice. Samuel James writes, “Righteous people can become angry. Angry people have a very hard time being righteous.”

That’s why more than once in James 1, we’re warned about self-deception. It’s easy to think if we can just be mad enough, or if we can get people riled up, then that’s going to bring about righteousness in our lives or in society. According to James, that’s a trap. Human anger—sinful anger—doesn’t resolve our problems. It doesn’t bring about the righteousness of God.

Gregory the Great said, “Because a diseased mind has no control over its own judgment, it thinks that whatever anger suggests must be right.”

If we think our anger is usually or always righteous, we’re probably self-deceived. A diseased mind always finds an excuse for anger, assuming that anger is righteous when really we sound just like the world. We’re to be known for a different kind of talk and a different kind of temperament.

Defined by God

A personality test doesn’t define you. God does. And what’s beautiful about the biblical instruction regarding our talk and temperament is that this is one of the ways we reflect our Maker. Slow to become angry? That’s how God describes himself to Moses in Exodus 34:

The LORD—the LORD is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth. (CSB)

Becoming more like Christ doesn’t mean becoming less ourselves. We become our truest selves when we reflect him through our personalities. This is the paradox C. S Lewis pointed out: “It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

We should be less focused on the personality stereotype of a test or survey and more concerned that we showcase the glory and grace of God, no matter what our inclinations may be. These tests can help us see the unique ways we can bring glory to Christ, but in the end, finding myself isn’t the goal. Following Christ is what counts. That’s why we should seek to bring our personalities in line with the Spirit—so his fruit ripens in our lives in beautiful ways that exalt the Savior.

If you would like my future articles sent to your email, as well as a curated list of books, podcasts, and helpful links I find online, enter your address.