As I read the book and pursued other research on the personality topic, the most influential quote that summarizes the essence of our physical and mental state and how we are wired is Psalm 139:13-16 NLT.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
I’m sure some will think there is more symbolism than science in the Psalm – and that may be. But to me, how we are wired reflects the majesty and creativity of our God. Scientists, practitioners, coaches, and consultants have spent countless hours attempting to develop methods, assessments, research, and more to document personality characteristics. And we should explore avenues that provide greater self-awareness; however, as we learned, we are so complex and layered – will we ever really know?
Our uniqueness as humans is profound. According to several articles, there are between nine to eleven unique body parts that make us unique. One piece mentioned that Yahoo is exploring the possibility of using our ears as a biometric to open our smartphones. How fearlessly and wonderfully we are made.
One last mention of our God-given uniqueness is from a small, nondescript motivational book I read years ago. The author outlines our essence from God’s perspective – here is an excerpt (I’ve updated the actual numbers – the original numbers were from the 1970s). “Never in all 117 billion humans who have walked the planet since the beginning has there ever been anyone like you. Never until the end of time, will there be another such as you…With all the possible combinations at my command…there could be 420 billion variants possible – but who did I bring forth? You! One of a kind. Rarest of the rare. A priceless treasure, possessed of qualities in mind and speech and movement and appearance and actions as no other who has ever lived, lives, or shall live.”
In his book, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are, Daniel Nettle is on a mission to justify using personality descriptors to understand how and why people behave the way they do. Nettle builds on the work of Galton, Jung, and other theorists. However, he demonstrates that prior work only partly predicts behavior. Believing that our personality is hardwired into our nervous system, he uses the science behind personality psychology to establish five dimensions of personality, extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness.
Nettle introduces us to the science behind personality studies, how they are measured, what they mean, predict, and why variations exist. His research provides structure and scientific evidence that catapults personality characteristics into a legitimate discipline. Nettle writes that the time is right for personality psychology – he categorizes it as a renaissance – for the following reasons:
- Set of personality concepts based on evidence – which psychologists can agree on
- Neuroscience progress – specifically, brain imaging techniques
- Genetics and genomics (predispositions relate to possible genetic variants)
- Wider acceptance of evolutionary thinking in psychology
According to Nettle, life experiences, genetics, and evolution impact the five broad personality dimensions. In his Ted Talk, Who Are You Really, Brian Little uses different terminology to discuss the influences on our personality. He asserts there are three natures: the biogenic nature, the neurophysiology of our lives; the sociogenic nature describes the cultural and social aspects; and the idiosyncratic nature, which is our genetic nature. Aside from slightly different terminology, Little seems to differ from Nettle in the weight that should be given to the five personality dimensions. Little asserts that rather than ask a person their personality type; one should ask what core project they are working on. He reasons that it is what we do that makes us different. Also, depending on the core project, a person can utilize other personality characteristics to meet the project’s needs. He used himself as an example. Even though he is an introvert, he can become extroverted when teaching – he can be funny and friendly. His only caution is to act out of your primary personality type for a short time, or it becomes exhausting.
I suspect there will be other personality assessments developed in the future. As leaders, we should know the latest developments to recommend to others on our team or in ministry partnerships. What resonates for me in terms of an assessment may be quite different from other team members. For example, I only recently learned about the Enneagram personality assessment, and I subsequently was able to take the assessment. After reviewing the results, I’m still not a fan – although many people love it.
What helped me to understand myself better and the environments I thrive in, how my personality is different from others, and more importantly, how to communicate with other personality types was a reasonably obscure personality assessment developed by the founder of Women’s Aglow and her husband. It was based on how God wired our personality—academically researched, not really – although they tested it on over a thousand people. Was there a web app – no – just the old-fashioned paper and pencil. To this day, the assessment still resonates with me, and the accuracy was outstanding. The assessment was such an AHA moment – it was when I realized God wired me the way I am, and I could accept certain characteristics about myself that others tried to convince me were unChristian-like. The other personality assessments on the market are excellent and extremely helpful – I only hope those assessments can lead others to accept the uniqueness of their very being.
 Og Mandino, The Greatest Miracle in the World (Hollywood: Bantam Publishing, 1977), 98.
 Daniel Nettle, Personality: What makes you the way you are (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 8.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 29.
 Brian Little, Ted2016 Who Are You Really (Vancover, BC) https://www.ted.com/talks/brian_little_who_are_you_really_the_puzzle_of_personality/transcript?language=en