Last week I wrote on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator–the MBI–and how they classify different personalities. I’m an ENTJ, and I told you all why that sometimes makes blogging difficult. If you want to know more about what the letters mean, I’ve got a quick description of MBTI types here.
It seems most of you really liked the post, and many asked me to write more on personality and marriage. So today I thought I’d tackle a different type–the ESFP. And why choose the ESFP? Well, let me describe her:
E- She’s extroverted. She likes to process things by talking about them. She rejuvenates by being with people.
S- She’s a detail person. She likes doing things step-by-step.
F- She focuses on relationships. She’s interested in people. When making decisions, she asks: “How will this affect other people?” She values emotion over logic.
P- She’s a go-with-the-flow person. She’s easy going. She doesn’t like planning too much. She’d rather be “moved by the Spirit”.
Do you notice anything about that? Let’s summarize it a little more:
She’s humble. She respects authority. She not brassy. She loves people. She’s caring, often in the background. People flock to her. They tell her everything. She tears up easily. She genuinely cares.
See it yet?
Let me summarize it a little more:
The ESFP is the perfect Christian woman.
And that, my friends, can be a real curse.
I know a lot about ESFPs, because this is my family:
My oldest daughter and I are both ENTJs, which is the exact opposite of the perfect Christian woman. We challenge authority. We’re the first to run around shouting, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!” We’re interested in doing what is right, even if it occasionally means stepping on toes. It’s a matter of justice, you see.
But to an ESFP, the important things are relationships. Here’s a graphic depiction of the difference between the two types:
Isn’t that cute? But here’s the problem, and why I want to talk about it today:
The ESFP doesn’t like change, and doesn’t like conflict. And at the same time, the church is telling the ESFP female, you’re fine just the way you are! Because of that, it’s very easy for the ESFP to sit back and keep doing what they’ve always done, without having to grow or stretch themselves. But when they do that, it’s very likely that they will get walked all over, and will find that the things they want most aren’t coming to them. They often end up very dissatisfied.
The benefit of being an ENTJ is that we clash with the Christian culture, and so we’re terribly aware that we have areas of growth–we need humility, we need more grace, we need to learn to play well with others.
ESFPs don’t tend to get that same feedback. And so it’s easy to sit back and be comfortable–ESPECIALLY because it’s also your nature to sit back and be comfortable. So you have two forces telling you not to change and not to grow–your own personality and the church culture.
The thing about personality, though, is that one is not right while another is wrong.
Just because there is a cultural “perfect Christian woman” type doesn’t mean that this actually IS the perfect Christian woman.
I think Jesus was perfectly balanced. He wasn’t a type; He was Himself. He was the only one who could deftly manage the balance between the four preference dichotomies (extrovert/introvert; sensing/intuiting; feeling/thinking; judging/perceiving). When we find our type, we figure ourselves out, which is fun. We know our strengths and our bent, but we also know our weaknesses. And knowing your weaknesses is extremely important, because it’s in our weak areas that we need to grow.
Our church culture may value a certain type for females, but Jesus values ALL the types. Just as the body is made up of many members, so the church is made up of different types, with all having things to contribute. We’re all necessary.
So just because the ESFP is the cultural ideal for a Christian female, it does not mean that all females should be ESFPs. Nor does it mean that female ESFPs have got it made.
I see a lot of evidence of the ESFP/ISFP type in the comments section of the blog. They’re often the first to say, “just pray and leave it to God,” or “Sure, that may be bugging you, but why make a big deal about it? Let it go!” Now, both of those things may be EXACTLY the right thing to do in certain circumstances. But quite often they’re not. And the challenge for the ESFP/ISFP type is to stretch themselves to stand up for what is right, or they have a tendency to get walked all over.
Here, then, are three areas in which ESFP/ISFP types need to be very careful, and need to grow if you’re going to have happy marriages, happy families, and a happy church life:
1. Dear ESFP: Not all Problems Are Your Fault
The ESFP is very focused on people, so when people start treating them badly, they often internalize the problem and turn themselves inside out to try to fix it. My daughter Katie has had several friends treat her very poorly, and her response has always been to love them more and try to fix the relationship.
Because Katie is surrounded by ENTJs, Rebecca and I have often challenged her, saying, “why would you WANT to fix that relationship?” If someone is treating you that badly, why do you want to keep investing in them when there are others who treat you better and need you more? And Katie has learned to call people on things when they behave inappropriately.
What does this mean for marriage? In marriage, ESFPs will tend to own the problem, too. If a husband is using porn, they’ll look to themselves and say, “how did I cause this?” If a husband isn’t engaged with the kids, they’ll say, “what am I doing to drive him away?” It’s good to ask these questions, but it’s wrong to STOP at those questions.
Growth rarely takes place unless we are willing to name the issue and state what is wrong. It’s easy to say “I’ll give it to God in prayer, and completely surrender it,” but beware of taking this approach too often. For an ESFP it’s an easy way out of having to do anything. And perhaps what God is asking you to do is to calmly confront your husband on something that he is doing wrong.
I just read a great book about this called The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero which talks about how to confront and say no when you have to. It’s easy to read and has brilliant insight for all types (I learned a lot, too!). But ESFPs and ISFPs really need to read this.
2. Dear ESFP: Sometimes You Have to Say No and Stand Up for What’s Right
A few years ago my girls belonged to an unhealthy youth group. When Rebecca and I noticed some of the negative things occurring, we talked to the leadership (Rebecca even took the initiative to do this as a 14-year-old kid). Katie, on the other hand, kept wanting to give them “one more chance”. Becca and I were yelling, “CHARGE!”, bayonets drawn. Katie was hemming and hawing in the background.
But after giving them a second chance, Katie drew a line in the sand, and said “enough is enough”. We have to do what is right. And because she’s an ESFP, she won’t change her mind now. She doesn’t like change, so once she’s changed once, she won’t go back.
It’s hard to say no as an ESFP because you want people to like you. You’re a people pleaser. When you see something you disagree with, your tendency is to assume that you’re misinterpreting it, or you’ve got the story wrong, or perhaps you’re just wrong and they’re right. Katie is often fond of saying, “I don’t really have opinions, the way Becca and you do, Mommy.”
Yet Katie does have opinions (just not as strongly as Becca and me), and for the ESFP, it’s vitally important to trust your gut. That gut is often the Holy Spirit talking to you. When you start to feel that something isn’t right, listen to that feeling. Don’t reason it away, even if it’s scary and goes against what you would naturally do.
How does this apply to marriage? If your husband feels that something is wrong in the extended family, at church, or at the workplace, listen to him. Your tendency will be to smooth things over, but he could very well be right that something needs to be done. And if you feel like your husband is wrong about something–say he’s doing something bad, like using porn, or ignoring the kids, or being verbally abusive, stand up for yourself and your children and get help.
3. Dear ESFP: Take Initiative!
Katie hates change. She’s a home body. She doesn’t like trying anything new. All her life I’ve had to push her and prod her and shove her to do new things. She’s currently ranked eighth in international Bible quizzing (which means she has like nine whole books of the Bible memorized), and she absolutely loves the competition. But I had to force her to do that, too, because it was new!
It’s hard for ESFPs to take intiative to get out of their comfort zone.
In my extended family is another ESFP. She had a rather unhappy marriage to an INTJ. He basically walked all over her. But before she left him, she complained to me, “He never does anything with the kids! He never takes them to the park. He never plays with them. He just does his own thing!” The problem was that she never took her kids to the park, either. She was sitting back, waiting for her husband to take the lead. And when he didn’t, the family withered.
What this means for marriage: If things aren’t going well in your marriage, don’t wait for him to change. You do something! If you’re not connecting, find a new hobby you can do together. If you aren’t dating, you plan the date. If he isn’t what you want in a spiritual leader, you start figuring out how to pray together. If your sex life is blah, you take the initiative to do something new. Don’t sit back and wait for him to do it. If you want a different life, you have to start doing things differently, too.
The church tells women that we should all be ESFPs.
The church does a poor job of telling us how to confront sin and injustice; how to draw healthy boundaries; and how to take on leadership and initiative when we have to.
ESFPs are great at loving others; they need to give themselves permission to love themselves.
Incidentally, I think Katie is becoming the perfect Christian woman–in the right sense, not the cultural sense. She does love people, and she automatically puts people at ease. But because she’s surrounded by ENTJs and ESTJs, she has been pushed, and she’s grown, and she’s become a natural leader. She doesn’t stand for injustice. She’s starting to try new things.
Maybe we all need friends and family of opposite types who can help us grow in our weak areas, too!
I hope that in some way this blog can serve that role for you.
Now, let me know: Do you see ESFP tendencies in yourself? Do you have a hard time drawing boundaries? Let’s talk about in the comments! And my older daughter, my ENTJ, has written about what it’s like being a Christian ENTJ girl. It’s not easy!