Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Finding Your Personalities Better Half

Written by: on March 27, 2023

Personality, by Daniel Nettle, has been sitting in a pile of books on my shelf, ready to read, for a couple of months. I looked forward to reading this book as I typically enjoy books on psychology and any information which will aid me in helping clients in my clinical practice. Unfortunately, I found this book to be far from enjoyable, even though there were pages filled with descriptions befitting those I meet with on a daily basis. Would I recommend this book to any of them?- no. I struggled to agree with the author’s assertion that his model of personality can be viewed as a “comprehensive, reliable, and useful framework for discussing human personality” and punctuates this with: “that we have ever had.”[1] I did not find myself amenable to figuring out if my personality could be described as either a Wanderer, Worrier, Controller, Empathizer or Poet; these five chapters coincide with the “five factor model.” [2] These personality descriptors were not framed positively even though the author wanted them to be regarded neutrally. The author provides a questionnaire in the Appendix of the book where the reader can assess where they fit in the five factor model: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, or Openness. In this blog, I will compare the author’s evolutionary approach to personality with what I take to be the Bible’s approach to personality. Instead of being wholly determined by our ancestry, I believe the Bible makes it clear that personality needs to be viewed through the lens of Psalm 139, personality is a result of being fearfully and wonderfully made.”

The Other Half

I recommend that readers who wish to have a balanced perspective while reading Personality start to read the book at chapter 8. The title is “The Other Half.” [3] The author states that “geneticists estimate the size of this heritable component (of personality traits), they conclude that it is around 50 percent.”[4] The first seven chapters of the book are focused on the half of the personality traits which are dependent on heritable factors. The author takes an evolutionary framework and states his purpose: “I wish to introduce the science behind the study of personality-how we measure personality, what the measures mean, what they predict, and why personality variation exists in the first place.” [5] This study left me wondering what accounts for the other 50 percent in understanding personalities. What are the many “immeasurable” factors which define our personality?  Genesis 9:6 states that “in the image of God has God made mankind.” I believe we should not lose sight of how God has made us. Yes, in his design there are hereditary factors, but this includes the stamp of God’s image which isn’t measurable by human standards. 


Poets, in chapter seven, are described by the author as having a trait of Openness, which means being ‘‘boorish ‘at one extreme to ‘cultured’ or ‘sophisticated’ at the other.” [6] Running along this continuum, the author observes this trend- “there are strikingly high rates of mental illness amongst poets and artists, and such people are the very paradigm of high Openness.” [7] I am curious how the poets and artists think about being among those who are likely to have a mental illness? I would not want to be lumped into this lot. What would Austin Kleon (the author of Steal Like An Artist) think if he read this chapter in Nettle’s book? Are the likes of an Austin Kleon needing to seek psychiatric services? [8] I believe that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 God has a plan for those who have creative gifts, and this doesn’t always fall under psychopathy.

Controller/Low Conscientiousness

Controllers are described in chapter 5, where the author begins by describing the Iowa gambling task and continues to share about addictive personalities, including obsessive compulsive disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. How did these disorders begin? The psychology of man was affected by the fall of man. C.S. Lewis describes the fall: “The change which man had undergone was not parallel to the development of a new habit; it was a radical alteration of his constitution, a disturbance of the relation between his component parts, and an internal perversion of one of them.” [9] So where is the hope for those who are disposed to a psychological disorder? How might their lives look anything different than being burdened with the “genetic liability common to these kinds of uncontrolled behaviors?” [10] The Apostle Paul gives this solution as he states: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!“ Romans 7:24-25

Hope for the personality

Nettle does not take a spiritual or Biblical view of personality. Due to my Biblical worldview I believe sin has played a role in how our personalities are affected. But where is the hope in addressing these uncontrolled behaviors? Shawn Anchor raises this issue of research addressing negative behavior: “psychologists understandably have spent considerable effort studying how they can help people recover and get back to normal, but you can study gravity forever without learning how to fly.” [11] Psychological research has largely focused on describing how mental illness works (negative) versus how to cure it (positive). He continues, “as late as 1998, there was a 17 to 1 negative to positive ratio of research in the field of psychology.” [12] Research needs to give rise to how God has fearfully and wonderfully made us (Psalm 139) and what will bring freedom. Apostle Paul describes the internal battle of self-imprisonment in 

Romans 7:15-20-  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer myself who does it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. 

Appreciating how we are fearfully and wonderfully made might begin with finding hope in the Psalmist’s cry: “Set me free from my prison.” Psalm 142:7 This is not only finding the “better half of our personality” but journeying on a road to wholeness.


[1] Daniel Nettle, Personality, 2007, p.9

[2] Ibid. p.9

[3] Ibid. p.210

[4] Ibid. p.210

[5] Ibid. p.8

[6] Ibid. 183

[7] Ibid. p.190

[8] Ibid. p.190

[9] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 1996, p.179

[10] Daniel Nettle, Personality, 2007, p.137

[11] Shawn Anchor, The Happiness Advantage, 2010, p.11

[12] Ibid. p.11

About the Author

Kristy Newport

5 responses to “Finding Your Personalities Better Half”

  1. Kristy – I loved reading your take on Nettle, especially this quote: “Psychological research has largely focused on describing how mental illness works (negative) versus how to cure it (positive). He continues, “as late as 1998, there was a 17 to 1 negative to positive ratio of research in the field of psychology.” [12] Research needs to give rise to how God has fearfully and wonderfully made us (Psalm 139) and what will bring freedom.”

    This is exactly what I am tackling in my portfolio project – building resilience skills in early adolescent females. I agree. There is way too much focus on reactionary mental health support and not enough proactive/protective measures.

  2. Kristy Newport says:

    Thank you, Laura for reading and commenting on my post!

  3. Michael O'Neill says:

    Great post, Kristy. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt this way about the book. I’m no expert in this area and hearing your take on it really gave me hope for the feelings I had while reading it. I enjoyed some of it but mostly how it motivated me to be more self-aware – not necessarily that the book was captivating.

    Your comment about God’s image is spot on. That’s how I have always felt about any type of psychology that wants to “box me in.” If we’re images of God, we are capable of anything in Jesus’ name. You can’t put “baby in the corner!” We’re images of God! And he knew us and loved us before we even took our first breath. He is amazing and I appreciate your view on this very much. Thanks for the great post.

  4. Kristy Newport says:

    I appreciate your comments on my blog. After the chat today and reading several posts on this book, I was questioning my view on Nettle. It was good to for me to reread my post and affirm some of my thoughts due to what was proposed in Nettles book.
    Thank you for being that voice of affirmation.
    I believe I will focus on how my critical thinking skills have improved with this course, in my syntopical essay. You have helped focus my essay once again!

  5. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Great job pointing out Nettle’s short comings. I agree that what ever or who ever we are God made us wonderful.

Leave a Reply