Learning about ourselves is a lifelong quest. And the more actively we pursue self-knowledge, the wiser we become.
A well known sixteenth century Christian mystic wrote:
“Self-knowledge is so important that even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it.” (Saint Teresa of Ávila, Interior Castle).
This self-knowledge leads to a greater recognition of our dependence on God. She continues, “so long as we are on this earth, nothing matters more to us than humility. . . . As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating on His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.”
C.S. Lewis echoes this sentiment.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed. (Mere Christianity).
As part of my self-examination, I have recently revisited my “personality type” as assessed by the well known Myers Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI).
Without over-explaining the MBTI, it measures an individual’s preference related to four ways by which we experience and make sense of the world. (News Flash: Not everyone perceives reality the same way!)
These dichotomies are:
Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
Whether your preferred focus is outward or inward.
Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
How you focus on information and process it.
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Primary preference in your decision-making.
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Your orientation towards making sense of existence.
You can get some additional authoritative information here. There are also numerous “unofficial” websites related to the subject.
Sixteen combinations are possible, and each has its respective strengths. (None are “better” than others, of course, since we’re all created in the image of God.)
Speaking of which, I’ve also been studying the different combinations that are more common to Christian ministers than they are within the general population.
For example, the following types (with their shorthand title) range from two to six times more common for male clergy than the general male American population:
ENFJ (The Teacher)
ENFP (The Provider)
INFP (The Healer)
INFJ (The Counselor)
ENTJ (The Field Marshal)
Which type of pastor do you prefer?
Online Surveys to Visit …after you finish this post
There are a number of free MBTI-type tests online. Naturally, they are not as reliable as the official inventory given through a certified provider. Nevertheless, the following sites did render accurate assessments for me, based on my formal scoring.
I have mentioned in the past that I am an *NTJ… with the asterisk representing that my I/E preference is too close to call. A previous post shows how that makes me a blend of Middle Earth’s Elrond and Théoden.
Humanmetrics Jung Typology Test
CelebrityTypes Personality Type Test
So, What Is C.S. Lewis’ Personality Type?
This is a subjective question. The MBTI is a self-reported assessment, so guessing the type of another person is by nature dicey.
In Lewis’ case, however, there is a fair degree of consensus. This is due to his openness about his personal life and his extensive writings. The general agreement does not mean though that there are not minority opinions.
The most common argument is that C.S. Lewis was INTJ. I find the reasons persuasive, and not just because it matches my own type!
One student of the subject says “Check out this quote—how INTJ is this?!”
Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them—never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through? (A Grief Observed)
One blogger writes, “There is no doubt in my mind that Lewis was an INTJ. It seeps off all his writing and is blatant in his behavior in all of his biographies.” She continues:
Highly imaginative child who lived in a dream world? Check.
Someone highly emotional/sensitive but that never showed it on the surface? Check.
A prolific writer who blazed through finishing projects at an astounding rate, who was so successful at everything he did, despite never having done it before, that he quickly rose to the top? Check.
Another site considers both C.S. Lewis and his fellow inkling J.R.R. Tolkien to be INFPs. The aptly titled CelebrityTypes.com offers a brief selection of quotations to illustrate the reasons for their identification.
If the site’s identifications are accurate, the two are in good company. Other writers include John Milton, Augustine of Hippo, Hans Christian Andersen, William Shakespeare, Søren Kierkegaard, George Orwell, A.A. Milne, Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin.
A Warning from Lewis Himself
Understanding ourselves better than we already do, is a good thing.
Being overly curious about the personality of someone who is deceased is another matter. Lewis’ point in the passage that follows is that such concerns must never supersede our regard for others, in the spirit of Matthew 8:22.*
There is a reaction at present going on against the excessive love of pet animals. We have been taught to despise the rich, barren woman who loves her lap dog too much and her neighbor too little. It may be that when once the true impulse is inhibited, a dead poet is a nobler substitute than a live Peke, but this is by no means obvious.
You can do something for the Peke, and it can make some response to you. It is at least sentient; but most poetolaters [worshippers of poets] hold that a dead man has no consciousness, and few indeed suppose that he has any which we are likely to modify. Unless you hold beliefs which enable you to obey the colophons of the old books by praying for the authors’ souls, there is nothing that you can do for a dead poet: and certainly he will do nothing for you. He did all he could for you while he lived: nothing more will ever come.
I do not say that a personal emotion towards the author will not sometimes arise spontaneously while we read; but if it does we should let it pass swiftly over the mind like a ripple that leaves no trace. If we retain it we are cosseting with substitutes an emotion whose true object is our neighbour.
Hence it is not surprising that those who most amuse themselves with personality after this ghostly fashion often show little respect for it in their parents, their servants, or their wives. (The Personal Heresy: A Controversy).
Reflecting on our own nature, and pondering the personalities of those we respect, are worthwhile activities. However, it’s best to remember that all we can see are mere glimpses into the depths of who we truly are.**
* Matthew 8:22 quotes Jesus’ response to a disciple who demurred that he could not follow the Lord until after he attended to his father’s burial. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’”
** As Paul words in Romans 8:27 are paraphrased in The Message Bible: God “knows us far better than we know ourselves . . .”