A fun way to describe Myers–Briggs types: click to enlarge

A fun way to describe Myers–Briggs types: I’m the panda: click to enlarge

On a Myers-Briggs test, I’m INFJ:

INFJs are conscientious and value-driven. They seek meaning in relationships, ideas, and events, with an eye toward better understanding themselves and others. Using their intuitive skills, they develop a clear and confident vision, which they then set out to execute, aiming to better the lives of others…

INFJs are quiet, private individuals who prefer to exercise their influence behind the scenes. Although very independent, INFJs are intensely interested in the well-being of others. INFJs prefer one-on-one relationships to large groups…

INFJs have a rich, vivid inner life, which they may be reluctant to share with those around them… Generally well-liked by their peers, they may often be considered close friends and confidants by most other types. However, they are guarded in expressing their own feelings, especially to new people, and so tend to establish close relationships slowly. INFJs tend to be easily hurt, though they may not reveal this except to their closest companions…

INFJs tend to be sensitive, quiet leaders with a great depth of personality. They are intricately and deeply woven, mysterious, and highly complex, often puzzling even to themselves. They have an orderly view toward the world, but are internally arranged in a complex way that only they can understand. Abstract in communicating, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. With a natural affinity for art, INFJs tend to be creative and easily inspired. Yet they may also do well in the sciences, aided by their intuition.

People often and always tell me, in bits and pieces, this is me. Now, what does it have to do with this blog about being contemplative in the mud?

Well, for one, whatever the higher causes of anything in the blog, material conditions include me; and I, like everyone else, have a personality.

So, whatever you read from me, I recommend you take it with this filter in mind: an INFJ wrote this. It goes without saying that, whatever the material is, God can use it. God can use any and all material. God, in his great providence, can use any and all “personality types” on any test invented by a human being to test natural, acquired, habitual, and dormant tendencies. No problem. God is God. But if you’re going to read a blog, it doesn’t hurt to know the person who wrote it. It may crystallize some questions about my choices of phrase and my emphases. In this case, the author is an INFJ. He delves into the layers of the interior life (“Where does contemplation go when our head is busy?”; “What’s the difference between meditation and contemplation?”; “What links action and contemplation?”); he looks at others emotionally and intuitively (“See Jesus in everyone”); he looks for long, slow relationships of depth (a bit like the Holy Family at “Nazareth”?); he writes poems, he takes photographs; he gathers a limited group of authors and reads everything they’ve ever written or said; he confuses extroverts and introverts both, by being people-oriented in communication but introverted in preference. Anything and everything I say is truly, genuinely filtered through the layers of who I am. If you read this blog, please read knowing this. I’m only human. ^^

Why else would I bother telling you this?

Because I haven’t always been – or acted – INFJ. No, that’s changed. Before my conversion experiences and my growth and a greater psychological understanding of myself, I tended to act more INTP. Why would I do that? Well, it wasn’t a deliberate choice. It just happened. It really is not “OK”, culturally speaking, to be an INFJ male. Actually, I’ve travelled the globe. In no culture is it “OK” to be an INFJ male. Of course, individually, people love you if they, for whatever reason, get close; you might be the only INFJ male someone’s ever met . Fascinating! Socially, it’s not at all easy or “OK” to be an INFJ male; the pressures against introverted but feeling-communicating men are very strong. Men are “supposed” to be neither, especially the last, and especially not both. To survive, INFJs usually have to develop really strong coping mechanisms. Did I? Well, yes. Hello, I’m an engineer. Hello, I have a PhD. Hello, I can navigate you through philosophers like nobody else. Hello, my INTP-behaving past. In other words, I have a strongly developed introverted thinking function (called Ti) alongside the preferred introverted intuition and extraverted feeling functions that INFJs have. However, I didn’t used to think my Ti sat alongside a so-called INFJ personality. Who would? Men “aren’t” INFJ. (Although one certainly wonders about my friend in heaven Marcel Văn, even John of the Cross and Jacques Maritain.)

It was with lots of reliance on contemplation and intuitions and things that Saint Francis called “feelings” of the higher part (or “supreme point”) of the soul, but in an analogical sense to feelings normally so-called, that I drifted more towards acting as an INFJ type. It’s also partly an influence of Charles de Foucauld and the direction to “see Jesus in everyone we meet”. It’s also partly a confidence in the Gifts and inspirations of the Holy Spirit, leaving me much happier to judge and live with, than to perceive.

Oh, and I became a lot weaker through suffering certain things. Yup, weakness moved me, too.

In other words, the realities of the spiritual life and of contemplation developed my personality along the lines that were already there. I didn’t fight the spiritual truths. Thus, I didn’t end up fighting the psychological truths of this little subjective me. There is one God. You can’t fight him in one thing and follow him in another – at least not very well. Instead of focusing on my tertiary introverted thinking function (engineer, PhD, philosophy) and trying to not appear “feeling-y” and “unmanly”, I ended up saying, “Yes, OK; introverted thinking is actually a tertiary function for me. I’m much happier as INFJ.” Of course, now I also have a pretty impressive Ti function on top of my INFJ. Loads of fun and I can dip into a lot of things. ~_^

What am I saying?

I’m saying, quite simply, that God has a plan. And contemplation fits into it. For an illustration, look at two of the best-known examples of contemplatives – one cloistered, the other contemplative in the midst of the world’s comings and goings – Saint Teresa and Blessed Charles of Jesus. Both Teresa of Ávila and Charles de Foucauld acted as rather of extremely extroverted: the former occupying herself with “vanities”, “frivolous” things, a “reputation” on the edge; the latter, notoriously party-loving individuals in his youth. They would not have been marked as “introverted”. Yet, they developed a great interior sense and perhaps even a recognition of an “Introverted” “personality type”. Were they, in their younger days, acting as extroverts? Brother Charles of JesusWas it a show? Was it an overcompensation? Well, they certainly seemed at home in Carmel and in the Sahara – not locations famed to favour extraversion. This is where they seemed to find God’s plan for the development of their personalities. Don’t you think so? Blessed Charles seems very torn inside until he settles down with his neighbours to a quiet, mutually giving, mutually receiving life. Saint Teresa liked to go out “like any other girl” (note the social pressure), but eventually, once inside Carmel, even the presence of her family members wears her down and intrudes on her preferred introversion. Weren’t they really discovering God’s plan for themselves?

Not because God does not want “Extroverted” personalities. (In fact, if God wants things to get done in this world, he probably wants lots of “Extroverted” personalities.) But simply because he had a different plan for that person. Psychologically speaking, each person has preferred cognitive functions and has to develop others. Some of us don’t even want to admit to our preferred functions; male INFJs are a notorious example. Others of us refuse to develop our non-preferred, tertiary functions; this harms others.

But all journey towards one God.

All have contemplation, if they are in grace, in the “supreme point” of the soul (as Francis de Sales calls it), where God’s “residence” is, a “point which is above all the rest of the soul and independent of all natural disposition.” The difference is, some just look at this act more, some less, some do other things more, other things less. This does not necessarily entail loving more or loving less. But it certainly does entail describing those realities more or less.

The realities of Christian contemplation – which, perhaps, it is easier for an INFJ with strongly developed Ti to write about and help others to see – are fully true. They are not particular truths of a particular personality. They’re truths expressed by particular personalities. But they are divine truths, not merely human ones. And these realities of Christian contemplation fully apply to breaking psychological stories apart so as to piece them together, with divine stitches and bandages. The value of contemplation isn’t merely psychological. But it can and does overflow into psychology; it can help sort psychology out.

The whole of God’s plan involves many different people, knit together as and being knit together into one Body. But not one of those people can say, “I am this personality type, and I have nothing to develop. Leave me alone.” For God may move us, challenge us, stretch us, and even make us suffer to make the Body stronger. The only way to belong more fully to the Body is to do more fully God’s will. And that may pull against our nature for a time, or for a time and a half or more.

Now, why would anyone believe all that fluff about different people, all with emotional and interlinking needs, united into one Body and all part of one plan?

Well, I’m a Christian, a contemplative, and an INFJ with a good deal of Ti. If anyone would know and be able to express it in writing, you’d think it would be someone with those tendencies. ~_^


8 thoughts on “INFJ

  1. Hello, INFJ! INFP here. Which is like being stamped with ‘contemplative’ from birth. I like it. But I admire the qualities in others that I lack.

    Also, I wonder if this appreciation of different personalities and acceptance of differences would help people understand why different denominations exist and why individuals are drawn to certain types of church. I often wish people would realise that denominations are created by people, not God, and that we are all part of His holy catholic Church. So much time is wasted, so many people hurt, by arguments about who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ on those things which are not central to belief (by which I mean the Nicene Creed, or even the Apostles Creed).

    • As a Catholic I can’t quite agree with this way of formulating things. The values of contemplation and of the Catholic Church (as stated above) “are divine truths, not merely human ones. And these realities of Christian contemplation fully apply to breaking psychological stories apart so as to piece them together, with divine stitches and bandages. The value of contemplation isn’t merely psychological. But it can and does overflow into psychology; it can help sort psychology out.” =)

        • I did not say “only Catholics are good enough”. If I were given the opportunity to reply to a non-leading question, I would reply the way St. Jerome replied about Abraham: “He is holier than I, but my state is better than his.” It is more than possible that better people are outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, just as spiritually better people (e.g., Abraham) came before Christ than after. This does not change the fact that being within those visible boundaries is beneficial (just as it coming after Christ is a “better state,” more beneficial, more consciously beneficial, more helpful, than being in Abraham’s time).

          As to “other denominations [not being] the same,” surely everyone thinks this? ;)

          • Thank you for that. I don’t agree, but I can see where you’re coming from. For me, the denomination is nominal – by which I mean God comes first and anything else is secondary. I’ve never heard anyone say they thought other denominations were ‘less’, although I suspect some do think it. And I know for sure there are some who think that unless everyone is just like them they can’t be a ‘proper Christian’, which can be very hurtful. I was thinking of that when I asked. Forgive me if it was a leading question..

            I just want to be where God puts me, to do what He wants me to do, to be the best me I can be, by grace, and to grow in love for Him every day. If He drew me towards Catholicism, I’d be there. He hasn’t. Mind you, I think Pope Francis is wonderful and I’ve always had a hankering to be a nun so you never know!

  2. As a male INFJ I want to thank you for being brave and saying what you were compelled to. My experience agrees with the points you have made. I joined the army out of high school (where I continued to live as an INTP) and in 2007 had the great opportunity to live in Falluja, Iraq. In the midst of that I have never felt more myself or closer to god. I find value in many belief systems grew up in Baptist and Lutheran churches but if i had to pick only one it would be Taoism as its principles are intuitive for me and spells out what I ultimately took away from the christian churches I attended and the knowledge that we are born with but are taught to forget. The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao or in other words your god is too small. There are threads that run through all religions and somewhere in the human condition we can find what we are looking for. My major in college was applied psychology and social work and I agree with your observations where psychology is concerned. It’s very hard to find employment in those fields as a male INFJ. I must come across as a creep because it’s hard to find employment especially doing group interviews where I am the only male in the room. Thanks again for writing this and reading my disjointed reply.

    • My experience of society seems to have a lot in common with yours — that male INFJs certainly don’t have it easy. I agree with you. I’m sorry to hear about your own experiences. But at the same time, suffering provides an opportunity. This is something that I have to ask myself to be thankful for!

      I’m not sure what you took away from your experiences of Christian churches. As regular readers of this blog may know, I grew up as a Protestant, became Catholic, and have lived in North America, Europe, and Asia. I don’t think I have insignificant insight on a lot of these topics that you’ve mentioned, but perhaps our experiences differ greatly. =)

      As a Christian living in Southeast Asia, I have definite experience of the relationships between Christianity and East/Southeast Asian thought. You mention that you find yourself drawn to Taoism. I understand that. Of all the religious philosophies of the ancient world, it is the one that most appeals to me, too. I have often wondered if the first Taoist(s) (Laozi or other(s), not trying to specify) were also INFJ. The truths they grasped seem very congenial to someone with such a temperament/personality. I agree that the truths grasped are eternal truths — though not really grasped, only touched on and hinted at. I think the Way is the Way. But I also wonder how much easier it would be for an INFJ to accept this reality, or this frame of reference, than another personality type. The nuggets of Taoism certainly appeal to me, at any rate. I understand perceiving reality as in Taoism, though I am by no means a Taoist expert! =)

      In Christianity, we are also free to agree with (and I myself cannot see how a Christian could legitimately disagree with) this: “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao,” and if anyone thought he could properly and adequately name God, then “[the] god [of such a person] is too small.” After all, the Christian Scriptures regularly assert that “no one has seen God,” etc. =)

      Catholics also believe that “[t]here are threads that run through all [or many, or a large number of] religions.” This is a definite teaching of the Catholic Church reiterated at the Second Vatican Council. But we also think that what threads we can find by ourselves is not sufficient. They are not good enough. Or they are not “everything.” They are good. But not enough. God’s own self-reveal is a big difference. (God’s self-reveal comes in the person of Jesus.) And this self-reveal in the person of Jesus does not destroy all these threads that human beings can find. Rather, the person of Jesus — God’s self-reveal — is where all these threads can be found woven together, not by us, but by God himself.

      Glad to hear your thoughts!

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