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? Was 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. ~_^