Pursuing Good: Complete

pursuinggood_complete

In my recent post Pursuing Good: The Backstory, I began to process what makes something good. I ran into a couple of articles that really helped propel this idea forward. I even started to address the bad press we give good as opposed to great or excellent. I’ll continue to focus on that tension.

Here are the characteristics of a good service. A service is good when it is…

  1. authentic
  2. surprising
  3. exposing vulnerability
  4. interesting (with a by product of my engagement)
  5. appropriate
  6. complete or full (delivers on the expectation)
  7. special
  8. smooth in transitions
  9. purposeful (or communicating a point)
  10. impeccably executed

In this post, let’s do a deeper dive in #6—a service is good when it is complete. As usual, let’s start with a definition to get on the same page:

complete |kəmˈplēt| adjective
having all the necessary or appropriate parts
• entire; full
• having run its full course
(often used for emphasis) to the greatest extent or degree; total
Apple Dictionary v2.2.1

Let’s go.

Achieving increased awareness

It is impossible for one person to know everything (believe me I have tried!). In fact, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Not really a surprise there. If we are going to create something complete or full, we will need to increase our awareness, expand our capacity, be able to see more than we do today.

Education

In many ways, this is the goal of education, particularly at a university level. We are all raised in prejudices passed on by our extended family (just like I passed on mine to my daughter), the goal of higher education is to separate the student from her prejudicial environment and expose her to conflicting opinions and ideas that will expand her frame of reference. In this new environment, with a roommate we wouldn’t choose, exposed to new ideas and world views, we increase our awareness. That’s the point.

For those of us in their late 40s like me, continuing education is necessary if we want to continue to shape our beliefs. To increase awareness, we expose our selves to other viewpoints in humility, with a desire to grow and learn. To accomplish this, I listen to podcasts and read books from individuals who are not in my Christian camp. It’s about purposely exposing yourself to ideas and experiences that are different. I follow people on Twitter who are working in a completely different space then me. I then seek to encourage them, not argue with them. I’m following them to listen.

Spiritual disciplines

God is complete. We are not. God is limitless we are limited. The more of Him we get into us, the more we expand beyond previous boundaries. Spiritual disciplines provide the opportunity to open our lives to God.

But we have to approach our spiritual disciplines in the right way.

  • Bible study can turn us into a big jerk.
  • Praying our prejudices will create a pharisaical heart.
  • Simplicity can foster self-righteousness.
  • Solitude can hide us from love.

The list could go on and on. To guard against pitfalls, my recommendation is to prioritize the spiritual discipline of meditation and contemplation. In my life, this practice has served as the guardrails to keep me on the track.

Contemplative prayer cannot be hurried. It is not self-fulfilling (like acts of service), cannot be shown off (like Bible knowledge), cannot be performed (like corporate disciplines). While all these other practices are good and healthy, this practice has become the seasoning in my life. YMMV.

Educating our minds and building our lives around spiritual disciplines is critical to increasing our awareness. These, in a way, are external forces. Let’s take an inward look.

Know thyself

I am a fan of tests like the Myers Briggs, the DiSC model, the Enneagram, the love languages, strength finders, and others that expose our personality and preferences. As an INTP 5w4, it is normal for me to dig into these kinds of things to understand the world around me and freely share that with others. Part of my gift I offer to others (whether they want it or not) is my research and plethora of tidbits and understandings that are helping me. If it interests me, why wouldn’t it be interesting to others?

Here’s how this works: As an INTP 5w4, we never quite feel like we fit in. We pick this up from many cues, and —although I’m not going to make this about me, I’m going somewhere here — we adjust by becoming neutral observers in our environments and indefatigable gleaners of information. And even though part of our path to health is to stop doing that and actually physically participate, this is the trait of our ego that is the most prized, acknowledged, and complimented by others.

So, as we have tried to find our place in the world and how we fit in, we gain great insight into how people interact. We are not above experimenting on others to learn more. But being armed with knowledge and having the wisdom to use it are very different things. As INTPs, we can grow restless of putting on the behavioral show that others seem to expect from us and sometimes let the ugly sides of our personalities come through in full force (Perhaps for a day. Perhaps for years). This is seldom a good thing and has been one of the major ways I have alienated people. But do you see the challenge in that? When I take my guard down and expose what I perceive to be my true self (granted, I am calling my true self that caustic, cynical, emotionally charged flash bomb), this is when I am most rejected by others. The only two options available seem to be pretense or rejection.

Ok enough of that pity party. That’s not my intention. Really. The point I am simply trying to make is this — how well do you know yourself? How much time have you invested in unravelling what makes you tick and how you relate to others? What pros and cons you bring to the table? Your areas of weakness and behavior patterns that get you into trouble?

Do you understand your natural bent and preferences?
Can you write a similar paragraph about yourself and know how that influences your approach to ministry?
If we are going to get to something that is complete, we are going to have to include the other preferences and personalities in the experience. There are 5 love languages. Myers Briggs identifies 16 types. Enneagram has 9 different types (adding the wings and you get to 18 combinations). And although there is not an even distribution of the personalities in the population, regardless of which we are, our preferences a very small percentage of the whole.

How this looks in practice

Let’s flesh this out. Below, I have used these same common tests and measuring standards to create some questions that will help show how awareness of ourselves allows us to see our preferences and then make room for others. My assumption in working through all of this is that we are all Imago Dei and He designed this tapestry. Let’s celebrate it! Here’s how.

None of this is scientifically verifiable, of course, and that is it’s weakness. Still many people have used it to great benefit.

Are we using illustrations to resonate with all 5 love languages?

Recently I completed a blog where I talked about friendship. I had listed about 5 examples of the value of true friendship.
See if you can spot a pattern in these examples:

  • Friends show up when you invite them to something
  • Friends sit with you during tragedy
  • Friends like to hang out and invite you to hang out with them, etc.

Without realizing it, all my illustrations exposed my own love language: quality time. When I think about the value we add to each other, I think in terms of how it impacts our time. My suspicion is that we all naturally do this.

The 5 love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Receiving Gifts
  3. Quality Time
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

All of us desire all of these but we have a primary language that we use to express love. Because that is our language, we want people who love us to speak that language too. That’s the point. Imagine a husband and wife team where his love language is words of affirmation and her love language is acts of service. She never tells him how much he means to her which is how he wants to receive love, but she consistently does things for him that seem to go unnoticed. On the other hand, he probably tells her how much he appreciates her, but because he would rather tell her than actually help her, she can feel unloved. Knowing the love language of the people we care about can help us communicate our love in the way that means the most to them.

To be complete, we need to broaden our illustrations to relate to all of the love languages.

Are we considering the perspectives of the differing DiSC model communication preferences and maximizing those preferences?

Do you have any problems in your life? You should square your shoulders, and charge into it! Take the bull by the horns. Having a relationship issue? Reexamine your rules and boundaries. Is anyone not living up to their end of the bargain? Confront them!

The above makes perfect sense to those of us who are D/C in the DiSC model. This is how we handle things. We aggressively confront and get our point across. We tend to walk fast, talk fast, use big gestures, make our point and move on.  We believe rules come before relationships, that is, the rules protect the relationship. No rules, no relationship. Not everyone is like that. Some people believe the relationship comes before the rules. As weird as it sounds, they are willing to lay aside their rules if it will protect the relationship. Another very strange example are people who believe you should carefully weigh your words before speaking. Odd, I know.disc-model-v3

They would never just charge in and let the chips fly where they may. Instead of Ready, Fire, Aim, Fire, Fire, Aim  they prefer a Ready, Ready, Aim, Aim, Ready, Aim, Fire approach.

The DiSC model is represented by a four quadrant chart of behavior style preference (different than personality IMO though that is how it is billed). It’s especially beneficial in the workplace.

The value in the DiSC model is being able to perceive another’s preference and adapting your conversation and behavior to their style. To be complete, value these additional perspectives. When we do, we will see them represented in scripture as well. The classic example of this is the way Jesus interacts with Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus in John 11. Mary comes to Jesus with her entourage and He weeps with her. Martha comes to Jesus alone and they engage in a theological discussion about the resurrection of the dead. Jesus adapts to what they each needed and provided the appropriate comfort.

How are we challenging the Myers Briggs types to break free from stereotypes, not fall in love with their personalities, and be willing to confront their motivations?

The more I study this stuff, the more I am convinced that we all become enamored with our personalities. Our personalities are in essence a construct we create to present an image of ourselves to the world. Myers Briggs, often simply referred to as MBTI (for Myers Briggs Type Indicator), is based on Jungian Typology. Carl Jung theorized that there were 4 principle psychological functions: thinking, intuition, sensation, and feeling (the astute will notice I placed the 4 functions in INTP order, as they should be!).

MBTI is a 4 letter combination that helps make Jung’s work more accessible.

  • Extraversion (E) vs Introversion (I) (energized by action/people or reflection/solitude)
  • Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N) (concrete sensation or abstract conception)
  • Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F) (leading with the head or the heart)
  • Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P) (conclusion oriented or possibility oriented)

I believe each of the positive traits of the 16 personalities can be found in the person of Jesus. In that regard, we can hold Jesus up as the standard that makes us good human beings. We can challenge people to examine the motivations of their personalities (and by personality, I mean the false construct we use to present ourselves to the world in a way that makes us look good and gives us the illusion of control).

Consider ESFJs, for example. ESFJs are the stereotypical moms of the world. They are naturally in tune to the needs of others and provide care in a truly special way. This is partly how they find their place in the world. That’s the silver lining. But do not be mistaken. ESFJs are motivated by their desire to be loved. Therein lies the storm. ESFJs can develop a pattern of using this strength to manipulate others in providing their emotional needs. If ESFJs are not aware of it, they will default to an unhealthy pattern of transactional relationship where they become more and more frustrated (and more and more “giving”) in an effort to gain the attention and love they seek. I am sure we are all aware of the common trope of the overly loving mother who crosses a boundary of care to smothering the person they love. Unfortunately in church, we often empower this behavior unwittingly by emphasizing the service and love of Christ. Therefore, the service and love, the self-sacrifice, of the ESFJ becomes a holy act to them, when in reality it can be damaging to them and the people they love. When this happens, their motivation is not love, though it feels like love to them. The corrective is for them to see that God’s love, God’s AGAPE love, expects nothing in return. We’re picking on ESFJs a little here. We could turn the spotlight on any of the types.

The point I am trying to make is that as we move towards complete, we should consider the varied ways we present this image of ourselves to the world. From our standpoint of creating good services, if we accidentally empower the weaknesses of each personality without challenging them to growth, we are doing a disservice to them. If we can be honest with ourselves, we often present the positives of our own personalities as strengths that God wants everyone to live up to, and that is simply not true.

For a test and a starting place for some information, try the 16 personalities website.

How are we challenging the 18 Enneagrams to move towards health and not misinterpret their ego strengths into spiritual duck and cover?

The Enneagram has been so formative in my understanding of myself and others, I am sure I am blending my understanding of MBTI with Enneagram. I’m Ok with that though because I think the Enneagram offers a unique perspective in that it is not as much about “this is who you are” as it is about “this is how a person with your motivations moves toward health” and I think that is completely different in the best possible way.

As I am writing this The Enneagram Institute website is under construction. They have, however, created links to some of their most visited content. Here is a link to an article How the System Works.

I’m wrestling with this section (I have deleted it more than once) as I keep putting too much information. Let me just encourage you to look into this. A great way to do that is through the book and the podcast, The Road Back to You.

Each type is motivated by a basic fear they are trying to avoid and each type has a unique desire they are trying to achieve. Let me use 2 contrasting types as examples: 5s and 2s.

According to the Enneagram Institute here are the 5s basic fear and desire:

  • Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
  • Basic Desire: To be capable and competent

5s, as they move towards health, compensate for their basic fear by trying to gain mastery and knowledge in a way that gives them control over their environment and others. They measure themselves against their environment through the lens of competency, doubling down on eccentric knowledge when they feel they are not measuring up. 5s struggle with the vice of avarice not wanting to share themselves or their knowledge with others as that mastery makes them feel powerful.

Here is the the 2s basic fear and desire:

  • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: To feel loved

2s, as they move towards health, compensate for their basic fear by giving love to others, serving them tirelessly in an effort to create a positive environment of reciprocated love. They measure themselves against their environment through the lens of love, doubling down on their efforts when they are not seeing the harmony they desire. 2s struggle with the vice of pride as they are tempted to see themselves as more loving and giving then anyone else they know.

Hopefully you see how an understanding of the 9 types will broaden our ability to make our services complete. How are we including these fears and incorrect motivations in our challenges to be more Christ-like? If we are not aware of it, we will only default to the one we know and miss the others.

The very characteristics of your ego that will show up in a test like Strength Finders, are the very things you need to move through to get to health. However, these are the very things about you that others value. You have a choice to take that raw material and do the work of moving towards health or unhealth. Let’s encourage that move from unhealthy to health by being aware of the hidden, fearful motivations we all have and holding those up to the standard of Jesus.

Summary ideas

How fluent are you in the language of your preferences?
Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses?
Are you able to identify your personality as personality?
Have you spent time unmasking hidden motivations?

If we are to move to something complete and full we must cast a wide net in how we design our services. And we’ll need some help. It’s almost as if every member of the body will be needed to create a holistic experience. Hmmmm.

Concluding thoughts

In our pursuit of good, we must be complete or full to deliver on expectations. My challenge to you is to invest in yourself to increase your awareness of other perspectives through ongoing education and spiritual disciplines.

How are you challenging yourself to ongoing education?
Are you practicing spiritual disciplines to open your life to more of God?

In addition, make an effort, as much as possible, to decipher your personality and preferences so you can be aware of blindspots that may work great for you but not for everyone else.

My final takeaway is to challenge you with the beauty and breadth in the parables. Christ not only confronts the political and philosophical errors of His day, He also unmasks these hidden personality motivations. All of us glean truth from the parables. The principles of the Kingdom of God are principles that challenge us to lay aside false constructs of our own personalities and preferences and live now as members of the age to come.

If we are going to pursue good, this is the completeness we are after.

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2 thoughts on “Pursuing Good: Complete

  1. Crazy informative post Mike! You’re so right on when you talk about the completeness of knowing yourself.
    I am a ESFJ, and I work very hard to not expect anything in return for my love and service to others. My desire is to serve and love like Christ, and that my actions, thoughts and motivations are out of obedience to God.
    One of my love languages are words of affirmation, and I do long to hear Jesus say,” Well done my good and faithful servant”.

    1. Good thoughts. Self-awareness is a rare commodity. In this case for sure, knowledge is power. Knowing our pitfalls helps us last the at the feet of Jesus. Sorry If I seemed a little harsh on ESFJs. I thought it was the most relatable since that “smothering mother” trope is so common.

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