Some weeks ago, spiritual direction colleagues and I were talking about the use and value of personality assessment tools in the spiritual direction encounter. Thinking about it since then—I can see the use and the value. Crucial to note that the person coming for direction gets to decide whether to participate or not. I suggest that just having the conversation can prove fruitful.
Reading about the history of Personality Assessments was fascinating. The idea goes back to the 1800’s when it was thought that a person’s character and personality could be assessed physiologically by examining the bumps on the skull (phrenology) and facial features. Since then, there have been many types of tests, many of which have been discredited over time.
The personality assessments I recommend are the self-reporting ones, for example, the Meyers-Briggs, Gretchin Rubin’s Quizes, the Enneagram, and the DISC Communication Profile. Why? The use of these tools stimulate self-reflection through questions about one’s feelings, drives and possible courses of action. Just considering the questions can challenge unconscious, unhealthy narcissism—the deeply rooted belief that I am the norm; that my way of being in the world, in community, is the only way. St. Teresa of Avila insisted to her nuns that the spiritual journey required that the bread of self-knowledge must be eaten with every meal. These assessments can serve up all sorts of nutritious bread.
We come to our relationships with each other, the world around us, and the Divine Other as persons—each unique—and at the same time embodying patterns of behavior and thought which can be life-affirming or life-limiting for the person and the community-at-large. Why wouldn’t we want insight into these complexities? How can the questions liberate us from our certainties that trap us?
Full disclosure—here is some insight into my process:
DISC Communication Profile (team participation)
Role on a team – Assurer
- Natural Style – Steadiness and Conscientiousness
- Challenge Area – Influence and Dominance
Gretchin Rubin – Obliger
One important caution in all of this? AVOID LABELING ONESELF AND OTHERS. I am not an Enneagram-8. Or an INTJ. I am Peggy AND each of these assessments sheds light on how I behave and make decisions; areas where I need to grow; aspects that can get in the way of effective communication and participation in community. A more nuanced self-understanding helps me grow in compassion for myself and for others.
It’s not about right or wrong. It is about curiosity and discovery. AND GROWING.