A Personality to Call Our own
In Daniel Nettle’s 2007 book, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are, human personalities are examined and explored to better understand each other and ourselves. I took the author’s advice and after reading the introduction and before starting chapter one, I took the Newcastle Personality Assessor test in the Appendix of the back. It was helpful to do this step first before proceeding with the rest of the book. The assumption for this analysis is stated on page 53, “Five broad trait families –the big five—emerge and can be usefully studied.” Nettle breaks down human traits into five categories and he uses these categories throughout the rest of the book. “There are (at least) five broad personality dimensions along which we all differ, and which cause us to behave in certain ways rather than other ways” (p. 235). These five categories are: Extroversion, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Openness (250).
There are a lot of different personality tests and methods of analysis that have spring up the past fifty years. Nettle’s approach is simple yet effective. It is a short book and very accessible to anyone who wants to know more about their own personality. Because everyone is inherently interested in themselves, this book has generated a lot of interest in readership for many years. The conclusion of the matter is stated on page 244, “The positive message of this book is that there is no reason to wish one’s basic personality dispositions to be anything other than what they are.” It is a reassuring message and good news to all of us that recognize in ourselves shortcomings of our own personalities. This book was lighter fare compared to the previous several books that came before, such as Vincent Miller’s 2008 book, “Consuming Religion,” Peter G. Northouse’s 1997 book, “Leadership: Theory and Practice,” and Pragya Agarwal’s book, “Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias.”
I found many connections between Nettle’s book and others we have read this semester. First is Daniel Lieberman’s, The Molecule of More. Both of these books provide a scientific underpinning for the research on what drives human behavior. Lieberman’s book furthers the debate between nature versus nurture and emphasizes the nature part of the equation. Nettle’s book also emphasizes the nature part of our being but with a different approach. It is less about the molecular and chemical make-up of our brains, but still has a lot to say about evolutionary biology and genetics. There is a practical side to Nettle’s book and that is human behavior. For all his deep analysis, he remains interested in why humans behave the way we do.
There is a connection also with Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. We have to wrestle with ourselves in order to create something new and original that reflects who we are. Anyone who has this creative bent of mind will benefit from Nettle’s book as much as from Pressfield’s offering. The journey is to better understand ourselves and then live that out in our relationships and professional endeavors.
Furthermore, Kathryn Schulz’s, Being Wrong teaches us that to err is human but not to be ashamed of it. It is an inescapable part of being human and critical to our learning process. The same can be said about learning about our personality type. We should not be ashamed of our personality but embrace who we are. At the same time, we can and should strive to improve and mature. That is an important difference in our approach to growing and maturing into who God created us to be. A is often said, “God loves us too much to let us stay where we are.” Or as Paul says in Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” And what lies ahead for us? Revelation 2:17 tell us: “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”
8 responses to “A Personality to Call Our own”
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Honestly Troy, you should just add a few words and submit this as your syntopical essay… What personally stuck out to you most from Nettle’s work?
Thank you Michael. As the semester winds down I’m starting to think about our syntopical essay. Got make those connections! This book lends itself easily to such connections I thought. I especially like the evolutionary-biology aspects of Nettle’s work…so interesting to me and easily relatable after reading Lieberman’s “The Molecule of More.”
Troy: Very interesting connections to our previous readings. I’m interested to know if you took the assessment in the book and if you found it to be accurate for you?
Kayli: I did take the assessment and it turns out that I am, in fact, quirky. I’ve been wondering about this my entire life, so glad I got some confirmation. Seriously, I scored highest in the ‘openness’ category which coincides with being creative. This was interesting to me because the older I have become the more this seems to be true. But growing up I did not consider myself to fit this description. We never stop changing, growing, and hopefully, maturing into who God created us to be!
Troy, very insight post. I appreciate all the connections you made to previous readings. Near the end you talk about the need to grow and mature – what implications do you think personality has on the church’s desire to disciple people in their faith? I feel like the emphasis in the church generally has been on content and information more than directed at the individual and their unique journey to and in faith.
Good insight Roy. The churches I have attended to concentrate on content and instruction and less on each individual’s unique journey. But all of our journeys are unique, right? I know when I’m listening to a sermon I’m asking myself how this relates to me and my experience.
Thanks Troy. Good connections. So, where did you fall in the assessment?
Also, I too found this conclusion helpful: “The positive message of this book is that there is no reason to wish one’s basic personality dispositions to be anything other than what they are.” Tying into Kayli’s blog and my response to her, I would agree with what Nettle says here, but I firmly believe there is gospel restoration that happens in this realm, such that we can be the best version of ourselves, whoever it is God has made us to be.
Eric: In the assessment I scored highest in the ‘openness’ category, which relates to being creative. I never thought of myself as creative growing up, but in my advanced years, I am realizing that I am creative. I like the confirmation this book gave me. I can now officially call myself creative. Good point about becoming the best version of ourselves, no matter what type of quirkiness lies beneath!