Saturday, April 28, 2007


Cage of a Million Names

Names exert a pull on us. Layla wrote "I think there is some value in these "temperament" tests when taken in a work or team environment to assist people in understanding why one form of communication (or appreciation or instruction or whatever) works for some but not others." I agree, so long as the temptation to pigeonhole people is strongly resisted. Any tool can be misused.

The problem is that this one is easy to misuse. The temptation is to think that when your co-worker comes out as "Type AEQM" you know everything about her. This is as absurd as astrology and the planets, or the Chinese zodiac assigning us to niches based on birth year. I was born in the year of the Dragon. It's easy to find characteristics of the dragon in me, but there are many others.

Alfred Korzybski delineated a lot of this, and then got stuck in a pigeonhole of his own. People who want to appear erudite quote Korzybski and entirely miss the point.

People are complex. There are many threads in the individual tapestry and no one is the same as anyone else. Yes, I have some dragonish characteristics, but many others and our sets overlap those of others. The problem with the Myers-Briggs and other such instruments is that they exert a pull of definition that makes like similar to walking a plain of holes. The flat area between holes is narrow and footsteps have to be made carefully, as I've done.

Yes, I'm Intuitive... but not only intuitive. I like the sensing of the sand under my fingertips as I carve. I tend to leap from crag to crag instead of climbing down, across and back up. This is good and bad, just as any other characteristic is.

And then Lu comes up with this little bomb: "And [hearing God] seems to be tied more to hearing the difficult than doing it.... I know lots of people willing to "go the distance" for God, so-to-speak who don't hear His voice no matter how much they cry out. But after knowing them I realize they aren't really willing to hear difficult things; things that challenge their paradigms about themselves or the world or God." Read that again and realize how radical an idea it is. The general culture and especially that of most evangelical churches would turn it around: deeds are critical, no matter what you say about your relationship with God. Love is shown in doing.

I guess it really is. If there isn't any doing how does anyone know anything? I can talk about and imagine all kinds of sculptures but how do you know unless I make them? Still, the emphasis on doing above all can be the worst distraction of all.

God started singing our names before the creation of the world and hasn't stopped yet. You're going to try to fit that Name into four positions with two symbols each? Sixteen combinations, sixteen pigeonholes for people. No wonder we're all angry. No matter whose assignment you take on, you won't fit the niche. I'd expect this kind of thing in the world but it's shameful that followers of Jesus follow the same model. Jesus himself has been assigned to a niche: savior who lived 2000 years ago. I wonder how He'd come out on a Myers-Briggs. "Mr Jesus, I think you'd fit in with our futures evaluation team."

And yes, I'm angry too. This is one of the unpleasant truths I'm having to deal with. I got my share of niche assignments and dutifully made myself fit. I'm tired of it. My lack of patience with churches is an outgrowth of my anger coming from wasted years of acquiescence. I don't trust anyone to help me find my name so I just do it myself, as I've done with everything else important to me.

How important is reality? I think it's critically important, and I also dare to believe that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, reality can be known even as it moves around. The ocean appears chaotic and yet surfers regularly catch and ride its waves. I'll bet surfers are intuitive.

I wonder if intuitive skills can be learned. I see people taking surfing lessons, and I wonder how well the students' training in verbal learning works in learning something that changes so fast that it can't be known in detail but only in passing feeling. I see following Jesus as similar. He changes me, which changes my place in the world, and that leads to more changes in me.

Lu wrote "I think this is what Jesus meant when He said, 'those who have ears to hear, let them hear.' " I'd always wondered about that. Hearing has always been important to me; I seek out quiet places where I can hear the real world's voice. Birds, water, wind, each of them true. There is no lie on the tongue of the wind in a pine tree. It is what it is. I can listen in trust.

Sooner or later listening will lead to action, just as the gentle fall of rain will eventually cause a whole hillside to slide. My hill is very, very dry.

Resist the naming others would apply. Especially resist the million names of judgment that you apply to yourself, having learned how the world works. God doesn't work that way. He calls your true name and, while it's flaming and alive and frightening it is also fragrant beyond compare and oh, so attractive. Perhaps that's why we keep ourselves so busy. Just like the wolves in "Wolf's Rain," senses deadened by living in the cities. The Flower Child comes, and suddenly they wake up and smell the Call of the True Name.

From a logical point of view, Jesus got killed because he refused to let the Jews, the Romans or anyone else define him. The view from the heart shows the reality of Jesus giving up his live by his own choice. Walking your own way, hearing God's call, won't make any points for you in the logical world at large. If it does make you points, look out. You're being set up by someone else. It's a heart process, folks, learning as we go, tired footsteps taken on the path Jesus knows and feels.

Last paragraph rewritten because Lu pointed out a problem.

You can't fit a square peg in a round hole, this we know. As the peg the world would wear us down and shape us until we fit the niche that they want us in, that they set aside for us. Why then can we not carve out our own niche in the world, one that fits us?

Simply put, it's far easier to give into the pressure to conform, than it is to make a place for ourselves.

There are plenty of tests and questions. Ask a handful of questions and you'll get a handful of answers, not the whole story.

You talk of deeds accompanying emotion. The bible says faith without works is dead does it not? Does not a deed have to follow an intent for it to mean anything?

Listen to the wind, for on it travels the voice of the Earth.
Layla is right. There is value in such things as the Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, et al. But they are NOT our name. They are just a small piece of the puzzle that is us.

I am an INFP. That's not my name, that just helps people, well, me really, understand part of me, and helps me be okay with me -- some of us need help with that :). And it helps others understand me a little better too, I hope.

Yes, there is always the risk of being pigeon-holed. But no matter what, some people will do that. If they don't know about Myers-Briggs (MBTI) it's the DiSC thing, or... perhaps I'm the fat white girl. Or the idiot on the other end of the phone or a jerk in the red Honda so I must drive too fast, or racist because I live in the South. It doesn't matter what the tool, some will pigeon hole me.

But so what. Its their problem. It doesn't change me. Why should I not get the benefit of better understanding myself (no, the MBTI isn't comprehensive, it's just a starting point) because some people are too stupid to see ALL of me?

Personally, I love the MBTI (and StrengthsFinders). I like the complexity of the REAL model of MBTI -- that every person has varying degrees of each of the four aspects, in a descending order with strongest preference first - not the flat either-or version pigeon-holers end up prattling on about.

You, my friend, are both sensing and intuitive, perceptive and judging, and you extrovert some of these and introvert the others... how's that for pigeon-hole-ing? :)

Jesus got killed because he refused to let the Jews, the Romans or anyone else define him.

Whoa there. I understand your desire to make your point that Jesus didn't allow others to define Him, but your statement here just isn't true. His refusal to be defined didn't have anything to do with His death.

Jesus gave His life (and that is a significant difference in and of itself from "got killed") He freely gave His life to redeem the souls of all mankind and wipe out their sin so that they could walk intimately with Him, if they choose. His death had nothing to do with Himself (or His refusal to be defined) and everything to do with us.
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