Oil & Water

Oil & Water

Are you acquainted with the Myers-Briggs Test?  It was developed a few years ago by someone who was a follower of Carl Jung, based on his notion that human beings- for all their complexity and individual uniqueness- can be grouped together according to basic personality traits.  In a nutshell, one answers a fairly extensive questionnaire which reveals how your personality lines up along four central matters:  Extroversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. INtuitive, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving. . .  and there are a total of sixteen possible combinations:  ISTJ, ISFJ, INFJ, INTJ, ISTP, ISFP, INFP, INTP, ESTP, ESFP, ENFP, ENTP, ESTJ, ESFJ, ENFJ, and ENTJ.

What’s especially cool about Myers-Briggs is that there is absolutely no pre-conceived notion that one personality array is preferable to another. . . and you can clearly see that when you read the descriptions of each, which are couched in only the most positive terms.   So for example, someone that I might describe as “uptight, excessively concerned with details that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, generally a drag to be around” will instead be described by Myers-Briggs as:  “loves to think about the details and derives great satisfaction and pleasure in making sure the details are taken care of,  even if that attention is at odds with those around them.”   Someone else who might be described by the world as “a hopeless slob, incapable of taking care of themselves or of making a positive impression on others”  would be described by Myers-Briggs as “not worried about matters such as personal appearance or giving undue attention to impressing others because they are entirely caught up in the joy of the moment.”   See how it works?  All sixteen personality portraits are given an entirely positive spin. . . which in and of itself is such a valuable lesson for those of us who have rather firm ideas about how people should live their lives or who tend to gravitate to a particular kind of person and personality.

My initial exposure to Myers-Briggs (or as I used to call it by mistake,  Briggs and Stratton – which became sort of a running gag) came when Pastor Sandy used it during our pre-marital counseling.  And our results?  Kathy and I had two of the letters in common and two were different. . . which struck me as a perfect scenario for a happy and interesting marriage.  To have identical personality profiles would be boring – and to have entirely different (opposite) personality profiles would probably be a bit scary.   But our half-and-half scenario seemed to be just right.

In this most recent Grace Institute for which I provided music,  the Myers-Briggs test was given to the retreat participants,  and apparently it really touched off some spirited conversation and debate because some people were really taken aback by what their personality profile turned out to be.   As I was getting ready for Sunday morning’s communion service,  I bumped into Pastor Myron Herzberg from Nevada, Iowa- who leads most of the worship services at Grace, who was chatting with another staff member about the fact that both of them has a Myers-Briggs profile of INTJ.  .   . exactly opposite of my profile,  ESFP.   I nearly fainted because Myron is one of my favorite human beings. . .  and I can’t think of anyone with whom I have worked more smoothly or pleasurably than he.  And yet this test would suggest that we are oil and water.   And in some ways, we are.  An INTJ is someone who loves to plan ahead, to think about the details,  to make certain that everything is lined up and ready to go.  An ESFP is happier living a bit more spontaneously, responding to concerns and challenges as they arise, and more in tune with the big picture.   Can this marriage be saved?  Absolutely.   Actually,  Myron and I could not be a more ideal team because we each care about different facets of each experience,  and between the two of us we have everything covered.    But beyond that,  we deeply appreciate the gifts that the other brings to the table – recognizing that the diversity of our gifts is an enormous blessing.

And then I suddenly realized that my best friend,  Marshall Anderson,  is probably an INTJ . . . complete opposite or an almost complete opposite to me . . .  and yet we fit each other so beautifully and no one outside of Kathy is more important to me.   And the coordinator of voice at Carthage,  Corinne Ness,  is probably an INTJ as well – and the each of us values the other so much despite all the ways in which we are profoundly different from each other.  Trevor  Parker, my former voice student and now a treasured friend,  is probably INTJ as well – and yet all of those opposites in our respective personalities if anything have brought us closer together.   And on and on the list could go of people in my life who in many respects are the opposite of me, and yet we are able to appreciate each other even across the divide of our differences.  And yet I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated what a strong theme that has been and continues to be in my life until this dramatic moment in Dubuque when I realized that Myron and me are INTJ and ESFP –  Oil and Water – Felix and Oscar . . . yet brothers in Christ who genuinely love each other and cherish each other,  differences and all.

pictured above:  GB and Myron Herzberg.

The Grace Institute was created a few years ago by a retired religion professor from Luther named Brad Hansen (a former prof of mine and someone I also fondly remember from when we lived in Decorah)  who had the idea of organizing a retreat situation that would be more than just a single weekend’s worth of mountaintop inspiration.   Instead, he came up with the idea of gathering a group of people together (a mix of both clergy and laity) for a series of eight three-day retreats which would occur over the course of two years – allowing the members of each group to grow increasingly close to each other.    It’s a fantastic idea and I am so honored to be a part of it by being the music/worship leader for the first and fourth retreats of each cycle.   It means putting together the words and music for six worship services per retreat, and by the time each retreat ends I feel like I have received far more than I have given. . . which is a tremendous feeling.