Behold, the Guardian
Our patient was a 14-year-old girl who was being treated for dangerously high blood sugar. She had been evaluated in the emergency department and was being transferred to a different hospital to see a pediatric endocrinologist. I was talking with her mother when she made an off-hand remark about her daughter not doing her chores. During the next ten minutes she brought up the fact that her daughter didn’t like doing her chores two more times.
I turned to my partner and said, “Behold, the guardian personality type.”
He smiled. We’d talked about the different personality types and he understood what I meant. The patient’s mother looked at me with confusion. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“The guardian personality type,” I replied. “The only reason I say that is because I’m a guardian, too. So are my parents and so is my son.”
“You lost me. Can you explain what you’re talking about?”
“I’d be happy to,” I replied.
I explained that I’d been studying the Myers Briggs personality types as they’re described by David Kiersey and that understanding the different types of personalities and what makes people tick has helped me understand those who don’t see the world the way I do. “When most people take a personality test,” I said, “They’re looking mostly for confirmation of who they are. But the real value in learning about the personality types is that it can help us understand why others act the way they act and why they think the way they think.”
“When I met my stepson,” I continued, “He was the first introvert and rational personality type I’ve ever lived with. For the first year we lived together, I swore he hated me. He never wanted to talk with me. He’d just squirrel himself away in his bedroom for days with his electronic equipment and he’d surface when he needed food, only to submerge himself again in his chamber of silence. It was this same son who taught me about the personality types and who helped me understand that he didn’t hate me. He just didn’t need to talk with me all afternoon the way my other son and daughter did. That’s just how introverts are wired,” he explained. “You guys are extroverts so you need all that conversation, but we introverts don’t.”
“My stepson is also a rational personality type. I’m a guardian, like you. We guardians place a high value on rules, societal norms, traditions, and laws. We like it when everyone pitches in and does their part… like doing their chores. But my stepson is a rational. Rationals don’t value the same things we do. They don’t care as much about traditions. They’re free thinkers. To them, many of the things society has accepted as normal seem like arbitrary decisions that should be re-evaluated. They don’t care how something has always been done. They’d rather know the most effective way it can be done.
Our patient’s mother, chimed in, “That’s my oldest son.”
“He probably drives you crazy, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he does. A lot of people do. I’ve spent my whole life wondering why people don’t see things the way I do.”
“My stepson said the greatest problem with us is that we look at others hoping to see ourselves and what we see instead is people who aren’t like us.”
God made us to function differently and He did it for a reason. He created us with different personality types so that each of us would become a specialist in one thing or another. The world would be a pretty boring place if there were no artists or poets—no engineers or philosophers. Some of those personality types have little use for doing household chores like cleaning. They value other things more highly. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It just means they’re wired differently. I suggested that she might give her daughter a break about not doing her chores. She could see my point and asked for more information about David Kiersey and the personality types. I gave her his website address and the title for his book Please Understand Me.
I realize that personality theory is not an exact science. Kiersey is the first to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers, having revamped his own theories repeatedly. I’m also aware that many Christians are opposed to modern psychological theories. The point here is not that researchers have uncovered some indisputable truth about the nature of mankind, but that they may have developed a tool we can use to live more harmoniously with others.
The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.