Some Holiday Thoughts

Some Holiday Thoughts
December brings a time for reflection. Recently, I’ve turned my attention to the Big 5 personality traits, also known as the Five-Factor Model. You might be curious about why this interests me. In my church community, on occasion, someone will ask me about personality assessments like the Myers Briggs and the Enneagram. I’ve held a certain skepticism towards these tools, questioning the research backing them. However, the Big 5 model, which I first encountered in school, stands out for its wide acceptance in psychology. The evolution of the Big 5 model spans from the 1950s to the 1960s, based on the collective efforts of researchers. It gained significant prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, because of psychologists like Lewis Goldberg, Paul Costa, and Robert McCrae. They identified five key traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, summarized by the acronym OCEAN.

My intention isn’t to ignite a discussion about the Big 5 personality traits. Rather, I’m captivated by the notion that these traits tend to be quite steadfast throughout our lives. This consistency provides a comforting base for both personal development and deeper relational understanding. It’s much like the wisdom found in Proverbs 27:19, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” This idea of enduring traits doesn’t restrict our growth; it anchors it. Knowing that certain aspects of our personality are stable allows us to focus on refining and building upon them. It’s about understanding our inherent tendencies and learning how to leverage them positively in our lives and relationships. Just as a steady foundation in a house doesn’t limit its structure but rather supports it, the stability of our core traits supports our journey of personal and spiritual growth. This perspective invites us to look within and appreciate the unique way we are woven together, encouraging us to live authentically and grow continuously.

Our personalities aren’t merely the result of chance. According to personality theory, genetics influence 40% of our character, while our early environment shapes another 40%. The remaining 20%? That’s where our personal decisions and actions come in. This breakdown, especially within the Big 5 model, illuminates why we react the way we do to various situations and how we pursue our goals. Even though our basic personality traits are consistent, we have considerable control over our personal development and how we adjust to life’s challenges and relationships.

Now, think about the significance of that 20%. It’s the area where we can truly evolve and modify, especially in how we express our faith and principles. Take my experience: I have an agreeableness score of 74, reflecting my levels of compassion and politeness. With a compassion score of 94, I’m deeply empathetic and always ready to listen. On the other hand, a lower politeness score of 26 suggests I’m quite forthright and less inclined to adhere strictly to authority. Understanding these nuances can profoundly impact how we grow, adapt, and interact with others, paving the way for meaningful personal and spiritual development.

The significance of understanding our personality traits lies in how they influence our interactions and perceptions. For instance, my high score in compassion means I naturally empathize deeply and expect similar sensitivity from others. This expectation can sometimes lead to feelings of disappointment or being undervalued if it’s not met. On the other hand, my lower score in politeness might make me more direct or blunt, especially when I feel my compassionate efforts aren’t reciprocated or recognized.

Recognizing these aspects of my personality is crucial. It helps me anticipate and manage my reactions, guiding me to respond with more patience and empathy. It’s about harnessing the knowledge of these traits to improve how I engage with others, fostering growth in understanding and empathy. This self-awareness is a powerful tool in navigating the complexities of relationships and personal development. Scripture offers wisdom in this aspect of personal growth. Ephesians 4:2-3 encourages us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” This verse isn’t just a call to action; it’s a guiding principle for how understanding our personality can influence our spiritual journey and relationships. Embracing our traits with humility and patience allows us to maintain harmony and build stronger, more compassionate connections.

In essence, diving into the layers of our personality traits does more than just feed curiosity—it equips us with the insight to align our actions and growth with our values and faith. This alignment isn’t about changing who we are but understanding and using our unique characteristics to live out our faith more fully and connect with others in meaningful ways. It’s about being proactive in our personal development and nurturing relationships grounded in love and understanding.