I once read an article at the Cherry Hills Library about this stage of our brain development called Object Permanence.
Object Permanence is your brain’s ability to recognize that objects continue to exist even when you can’t see them. And I learned that lots of babies don’t develop this whole thing of Object Permanence until they’re around 7 months old. I thought that was really interesting, and it also made me feel very sorry for babies. When you think about it that way, it’s not so surprising to see desperate kids clinging to their moms.
Do you catch what I really mean? If our brains never developed this one thing called Object Permanence, it would change everything.
I was speaking to this group of women here a few months ago, and I asked them “why do you think we need to be important?
At first they started saying definitions of what being important was, so I tried again. “Why does it matter that we’re important at all?"
We all were quiet together for a while. Finally one girl raised her hand and said in French, “because when you're important and you walk into a room, everybody else seems invisible.”
I thought her honesty was sort of beautiful. I also thought it was really brave. It takes a lot of courage to say the truth. Because here’s the thing, we can’t have importance without other people. We count on them to tell us we’re visible. We need the food chain to tell us we’re on top. We need trophies and AP classes and concerts to showcase the things we cover ourselves up in to feel valuable. We rope in an audience to look on and applaud us.
Isabel Briggs Meyers was a genius if you ask me. Because at the bottom of all 16 personalities she developed for her test, she realized a fundamental truth. People like to feel valuable.
We want someone to see us. It doesn't have to be everyone. Just someone. We want them reaching out hard enough to touch the pieces of our souls we've buried deep. And we don’t just want to be accepted for what they find, we want to be loved for it.
I think we get tickled by personality tests because they tell a story about us. Not just that we’re funny or clever or good with people. Our personality results say that all of our buried pieces are special and they make up a whole something that makes us who we are. They tell us we're important. At least that's what mine told me.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against my friend Isabel. I actually wish I could've bought her a cup of coffee. I would've sat down with Isabel in a heartbeat and asked her all about herself and what she thought about stuff like Object Permanence.
But here’s what I’m trying to say. Maybe our Meyers Briggs test isn't about getting labeled with four letters as much as it's about feeling loved.
Here’s the funny thing about love, no one I know explains it really well.
I know deep down what it means because I’ve seen it. But I can’t define it that well. I took a whole Saturday one time and just sat in my room eating Pop-Tarts and combing though pages of the Bible to figure out this whole love issue. I wanted to understand how Jesus Himself defined it, but He was actually not very textbook about it at all. I was annoyed at Him. Loving people would be a lot easier if He would’ve spelled it out.
But here’s what Jesus did. He gave a lot of examples of what love looked like, and then He died for everyone.
Sometimes I wish I could buy a red velvet bathrobe and talk in a British accent like C.S. Lewis and get famous for monologuing about philosophy and talking lions.
If I ever owned a velvet bathrobe, I’d develop a new personality test and this is what it would look like:
And I’d tell people to circle the one they were.
It might seem funny at first, but I would be very serious about it. I don't think it would get too famous, because the test would tell most of us that we weren't as important or perfect as we wanted to be. Even saying that out loud to ourselves might feel like it was costing us something.
If I took that personality test, it would mean some hard things for me here in Africa. It would say that I'm not just here serving INFP’s and ESFJ’s. I'm serving humans who care as much as I do about things like being visible and loved and important and understood.
We’ll never know whether Jesus was an introvert or an extrovert because He never bothered telling us. Actually none of Jesus' advice was laid out too neatly for my friend Isabel's 16 personalities. He did talk a lot about value though, and He talked about loving people. He told us to love other people the same way God loves us (John 13:34). He said that true love looks more like action than words (1 John 3:18). He said we can't love Him and hate people at the same time (1 John 4:20). He didn't even ask first whether we were more task-driven or relationship-oriented. He didn't throw in clauses for people who were dreamers, shy, or oversensitive. If I didn't know any better, I'd say He didn't care.
I don't mean to seem harsh. I'm just not sure that He needed love to fit inside our system. He mostly addressed it with simple statements like "feed the poor" and "defend the fatherless". It didn't leave lots of loopholes for our personality test results.
When I get to thinking about love and ISTP’s, I think about Object Permanence.
I think I've spent more of my life loving like a 7 month-old baby than anything else. I like to love within my system, like it costs me something when I don't. Jesus loved people even when it cost Him His life.
Africa's teaching me to unlearn something I picked up as a kid–to hold the things I love too tightly. The more I loved something, the tighter I'd hold. Like love couldn't exist outside my line of sight.
Love is starting to look more like opening my hands wide and letting people come in and out. It’s lighting a fire in my heart and setting out coffee and telling anyone to swing by if they want, but if they have a dentist appointment to do that instead. It's showing them that Christ sees them and thinks they're important no matter what Meyers-Briggs told them.
And it's not always needing something to come back to me. That's more for babies anyway.