Blog Archives

How Free is our Free Will?

A seriously spooky, but incredibly affirming and helpful tool for gaining a better understanding of both ourselves and others is the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI).
I came across the MBTI several decades ago. My first response to my results from taking it was, “How could anyone possibly know all those things about me?” I hadn’t even recognized some of them myself until I read the MBTI’s description. It was amazing, but almost scary, how well its description fit.
It gave me greater self-awareness and both an appreciation of my strengths and an understanding of why some aspects of life were much less appealing and even difficult for me. And gradually, as I moved past learning about just my own personality, it explained the challenges in my relationships with people having a different set of both strengths and other aspects of personality that were less natural for them.
That was thirty-two years ago and I am still being helped by this tool in my relationships, particularly with my husband, whose strengths and subsequent ways of being in the world are the exact opposite of mine. In fact, understanding about personality differences  has probably been one of the most significant reasons our marriage has lasted and grown stronger over almost fifty-eight years.
Different personality types focus on different aspects and therefore actually “see” the concrete world differently. The information we take in on any given day, even in the same environment, will vary drastically. Also how we respond to it, personally or theoretically, emotionally or logically, will differ greatly.  Even our dominant focus, whether inward most of the time and only outward on a few people or locations close to us versus mostly outwardly and on the larger world including the future of the whole planet, will also be extremely different. An example: My husband will fight to save a beautiful old tree on a specific site, but isn’t particularly concerned about the rain forests in distant countries.
Personality differences have implications for every aspect of life, not just relationships. I became a consultant on the MBTI and gave workshops on its significance for Marriage Relationships, for Teaching/Learning Style Differences, for the Variety of Approaches to Spirituality, and even for Corporate Management Styles and Employee Responses.
At seventy-nine, I haven’t been professionally active in this for some years, but the MBTI seems to have stood the test of time in both the educational and professional worlds. And I am still discovering areas where it sheds light on our personal human journeys. I am not going to attempt to teach about type. The Association for Personality Type is the professional site for learning about type. However, there are many people writing about type on the internet without sufficient expertise in the subject, so take care in what you accept that isn’t backed up with some credentials.
One of the issues that the reality of inborn personality differences raises questions about, but also sheds some light on, is what degree of free will we have. I’ll begin to explore that in my next post.

An Approach to Decision Making

I’ve taken a lot of classes that included processes for decision making. Several things have stuck with me in spite of my unreliable memory.
Perhaps the most important one is that we each have natural tools/gifts, but they are only part of what is needed for an effective problem solving process. Effective problem solving not only needs a team approach, it requires recognition of the equal importance of diverse gifts.

First, it needs a vision of the long term goal, not just the quick fix.

Second, it needs brainstorming that includes all possibilities, even seemingly “pie in the sky” ones.

Third, each possibility will have a down side. So, list and evaluate the down sides. Eliminate the ones with downsides that you feel you cannot live with.

Fourth, look at the practical problems needing solving for each possibility and generate reasonable solutions.

Fifth, Now re-evaluate, in terms of (a) personal values, (b) downsides, (c) actual resources, those possibilities that ended up having reasonable solutions for problems. Then make your choice, or if a group decision is needed, come to consensus.

Note: For believers in Jesus Christ as the perfect human expression of God’s love for all, this process would involve both communal and personal prayer for guidance at the beginning, at any conflict points or questionable areas, and at the final decision making point, and would include evaluations throughout in the light of the values fleshed out in the life and death of Jesus.