Personality Over Beliefs

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I just picked up on a strange bias of mine. When it comes to social media personalities, I tend to gravitate toward to INFJs and ENFJs — in other words, my personality. (I’m an I/ENFJ, split 50/50 down the introversion/extroversion scale.)

This might not be shocking — birds of feather flock together, etc. — but I’ve found that personality trumps even even deeply held beliefs. For instance, I’m a big skeptic and critic of any form of pentecostalism or charismaticism, but I love fellow Christian feminist Amber Picota and her hilarious honesty.

Or Jasmine Holmes (née Baucham). I recently discovered her new blog and Twitter account, and obsessively like almost everything she has to say — despite the fact that she writes for Christian sites I cannot muster the resolve to read anymore and operates from a far more complementarian, Reformed mindset than I do.

Or Anne Lamott, who’s politically a liberal Democrat. I love her.

And it’s not because I’m just a wonderful, affirming, open-minded woman who thinks it prudent to listen to people from all corners of the world. It’s just because I like them. We share a similar personality, a similar way of looking at the world and holding and communicating our beliefs, even if we’re diametrically opposed on specific issues.

It’s true in reverse too: there are some people who I agree with on specific issues but cannot stand. I follow them because sometimes they say interesting things, or because they’re prominent voices in the Christian egalitarian movement, or what have you, but I feel uncomfortable associating myself with them.

I often get more worked up by like-minded allies than I do by people who disagree with me. (Ask my husband. In-your-face feminists and Trump supporters alike bring out all the rage.)

So I’ve been trying to figure this out — my gravitation towards certain warm, authentic, loving, gracious, intelligent personalities over deeply held specific issues. Is it merely personality, in that I/ENFJs feel most at home with people like them? Perhaps other personalities gravitate toward people who aren’t like them, who are more complementary?

Or does it actually come down to beliefs, in the end — at least, a way of holding and communicating beliefs that reveals a deeper belief in what’s most important?

Help me out. Is this true of you? Do you gravitate more toward like-minded people or “like-personalitied” people?

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16 thoughts on “Personality Over Beliefs

  1. Gov. Pappy

    Yep! All of this. I want to know I’m safe to be myself with anyone I’m close to or follow. That doesn’t mean they have no right to speak into my life, or that I don’t want to change my beliefs (they’ve done almost nothing but change over the past few years!), but it means I know they have or would accept me where I am before pointing me forwards. I want to know that I (and anyone else they come in contact with) will not be a statistic in their cause, but an individual human being. I want to know that they know they’re a human being, not a CauseBot 2000™.

    I’ve also noticed looking back that I’ve gravitated often without knowing it towards folks who’ve been through hell. I hadn’t even processed enough of my own experiences to form any attachments based on mutual experience, but I found them anyway – subconsciously, or perhaps that’s just God leading. Maybe it does have to do with how certain personality types have to deal with pain, which gives them a level of understanding, compassion, and open-mindedness that others have to work for. I don’t know. Just thinking out loud. My best friends are two ENFP’s, two extreme introverts (one with asperger’s), and my wife, an ISFP, to go along with my closest sibling, a very much introverted sister. All of them were abused, spiritually and/or physically. I’m most definitely an introvert, myself.

    So much of what you say is putting a voice to feelings I don’t have words for yet. Carry on!

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  2. Gov. Pappy

    And forgot to add, I suppose that’s why my beliefs have changed so much over the years – moving towards people who seem genuine, transparent, thoughtful, and compassionate has meant working backwards to figure out how they got to be that way. They are usually willing to “show their steps”, and tend to be at least thought-provoking, if not always convincing me to change. On my egalitarian journey, it was @Xianjaneway who had me basically convinced, before I had ever decided to read a book on the subject. When I did start reading, I wasn’t surprised to find she was on point. Nobody convinced me to read a book to change my views, I read because my views has been upset already. She’s one of those best friends.

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  3. villemezbrown

    Personality definitely matters more than views to me – both in real life and online. I think I commented on here before that my husband identified as pro-life when I met him and I was adamantly pro-choice. Or – maybe more than personality it is a style of communication or even a style of thinking that draws me in or pushes me away. I do know that in my work I have encountered some people that I can problem-solve really well with working as a team, and others – equally skillful, knowledgeable programmers sometimes – that I just don’t click with and we would be better off and solve problems quicker working on our own. It is something in the approach or the paths their minds tend to take that either meshes well with my own or doesn’t. I see that same thing in discussions with people outside of work, and there too, how close our views are doesn’t really correlate with how similar our communication styles and thought processes seem to be.
    For statistical purposes ;-) – I am strongly INT and pretty balanced P/J. My husband is ISTJ.

    Adele

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  4. asplashofcreamblog

    Ooh, this is interesting. As you might have guessed, I definitely am drawn toward the personality (or maybe way-of-thinking) of a writer more than his/her values. I can think of a blogger who writes about everything I love and am interested in (traditional cooking & nutrition, raising and processing animals, fermenting) and I even used her bread recipe for a while, but I simply am turned off by something about her personality. Meanwhile, I follow Ezer avidly. :)

    Even more strikingly, every single close friend I’ve had in life so far has been an ENFP. No joke. I’m sure it helps that my mom and two of my sisters are ENFPs or something very similar… but then I went and married one, too. I am an ISFP, which at least for me is a reserved personality that struggles to reach out/open up in relationships, so I’m strongly attracted to a ridiculously open, excited, warm personality like the ENFP.

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    • Bailey Steger

      Really?? That is fascinating! My real life friends are a broad range of personality types (mostly introverts), and my husband is the exact opposite of me! It sounds comforting to have all your loved ones so similar, though!!

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  5. Justine

    I think for me personality has a lot to do with who I follow. I don’t know if it lines up with the Myers Briggs personality types or not. I think it does come down to a deeper belief – a belief that everyone should be treated with compassion, that everyone deserves to be listened to before you dismiss their opinion, that when people do need to be called out for their actions or ideas, it should be done with respect, not with name-calling, straw-man arguments, or dismissal of their value as a person. I think it also comes down to a belief that God can handle our questions, so it’s ok to not have all the answers. If there is absolute truth, asking questions and listening to others should lead us closer to the truth not away from it. New ideas are not dangerous.
    That’s why I follow you. I don’t agree with everything you say, and I didn’t agree with everything you said when you were blogging at Big House in the Little Woods. I follow you because I appreciate your compelling voice and thoughtfully held opinions. Keep it up!

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    • Bailey Steger

      That’s an excellent way of putting it. I don’t know if/how personality fits into that at all, but those core beliefs must certainly be there if I’m to truly respect and enjoy engaging with anyone, regardless of their beliefs.

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  6. Bethany

    I can see this train of thought probably kept you up through the night. :)
    Interesting!! I would definitely agree! I’m very easy-going and avoid conflict altogether, so it’s refreshing when I find someone else who is just as easy-going and we can broach our differences on a level ground of emotions.

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  7. Jasmine Ruigrok

    This is fascinating, and something I’ve experienced too. I think it has a lot to do with what Justine said, about the deeper belief in compassion and kindness, and a similar way of perceiving the world. I have a very dear friend who holds quite different theology to me, yet we are both artists, musicians, and lovers of beauty; the Gospel story, and we love to see glimpse of the love of God woven through life’s tapestry. Which is a lengthy way of saying we have similar personalities. I’m an E/INFP with Pentecostal leanings and a great love for authenticity, so that makes me love the things you share. I may not agree with everything you adhere to, but I love the honesty of it. :)

    Also, I think sometimes that gravitating towards like-personalitied people instead of like-minded people are two sides to the same coin. For example, it might not be that I disagree with an ENFP’s beliefs per se, but the common representation of said belief. I find that when I’ve discussed a topic at length with a like personality, the core expression of their beliefs I agree with wholeheartedly. It may manifest itself differently in each other’s lives, but our reasons behind it are the same. Does that make sense? I feel like my tune sounds a bit like truth is subjective, but that’s not really what I’m driving at…

    Either way, to summarize my point: more that we often have more in common with each other than we realize, especially with those who share our personalities. And regardless of who we are and what we believe, there are always going to be different personalities who are the kooks and whackos that erode the credibility of what we believe. I’m Pentecostal, trust me, I know. :P

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    • Bailey Steger

      I figured you were I/ENF something! Yes, I think I know precisely what you mean, without making the truth relative. You can be driven by the same core ideas and principles but disagree on how they apply to particular situations. And I’ve wondered too if certain personality types make it difficult or impossible to believe certain things — for example, all my NF acquaintances (regardless of political or theological persuasions) are at least sympathetic toward “liberal” social issues, moreso than my friends with other personalities. I wonder if that’s a coincidence just within my social circle, or if that tends to hold true in general.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jaye

    I must say, as an ENFJ myself I very much understand where you are coming from! I just found your blog today, and it’s taking a lot out of me not to share everything I read on Facebook (I think if shared 4 so far..oops!) I’m loving what I’ve been reading so far. To find a Christian feminist such as yourself is like a breath of fresh air into my very soul. Keep it up!

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  9. Mike Stearns

    I kind of agree since rule number one of politics is, “Different people believe in the same belief for different motives, and different people believe in different beliefs for the same motive.” Companionship is defined by your motives, not by your beliefs. This especially applies when understanding how particular people live in different situations, so the motives you share with others can lead to particular beliefs in different situations.

    On the other hand, I kind of disagree since this depends on having a particularist personality. If you have a universalist personality instead, then it’s much easier to interact with others who are different from you… although it leads to much more volatility in your relationships. Sometimes, you end up surprised from discovering unexpected compatibility. Other times, you end up disappointed from approaching others who find you repulsive.

    For example, I’m a pianist in real life, and I’m an INTP/INTJ. I kind of have to be since on one hand, I solo a lot of gigs, but on the other, when I play in a group, I have to handle a lot of different play styles and audiences. Both of these situations involve abstractly imagining things in advance of experience without pushing my own feelings onto others and acknowledging how different people feel differently even when they’re in the same room.

    Sometimes, people find me very enchanting and mysterious in a sublime way despite our differences because they’re interested in how melody, harmony, and rhythm come together in a way that defies expectations. Other times, people find me awkward, creepy, and strange even if I seem gentle and normal to them because the way I do things seems to imitate their inner-self and makes them feel displaced. Then, there are times where I use a bit more energy, and people find me enthusiastic, intense, and creative. On the other hand, people can find me terrifying, crazy, and out of control.

    One thing I will say though is NFJs are definitely particularist people. They feel a certain way, judge according to what they feel, and intuit what it will take to satisfy their feelings. When dealing with NFJs in a group (like having an NFJ vocalist and bassist), I usually try to make sure they’re half-way compatible with each other. If they’re totally incompatible, they conflict with each other. If they’re totally compatible, they form a clique and conflict with others. If an audience I’m playing in front of is full of NFJs, I try to make my repertoire half-way compatible as well. If it’s totally incompatible, then they won’t like the style. If it’s totally compatible, they’ll feel I’m playing it out of style.

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