I’m deployed stateside this summer to Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, Calif., where I am made increasingly aware that I don’t exactly fit the military stereotype.
First of all, as I often joke, “Because I don’t like tobacco, coffee, golf or beer, I don’t know how I made it this far as a military officer.”
Oh, uh, another thing: I don’t do guns, unless you count the fact I qualified as a BB sharpshooter at junior high church camp. Impressive, huh?
Also, I don’t have the physique you’d expect. My snow-white hair gives me the appearance of a retiree and my stomach threatens to hide the toes on my slumping 6-foot-1 frame. Not exactly a mean, green, fighting machine.
Truthfully, none of these differences prevents me from fitting in, but they sometimes make me stand out. Like you, my differences can leave me feeling awkward, like I don’t belong. When I feel this way, I remind myself that God created us to make our own unique contributions to life.
Sure, it’s a cliché, but the truism is supported by the popular Myers-Briggs psychological assessment test. This test identifies 16 distinct personality types using a combination of four pairs of letters:
•Extroverted or Introverted = E or I.
•Sensing or Intuitive = S or N.
•Thinking or Feeling = T or F.
•Judging or Perceiving = J or P.
For instance, Meyers-Briggs finds most military officers are INTJ. (Introvert, iNtuitive, Thoughtful and Judgmental.)
It’s a rare combination of traits, but they have nearly a mystical sense they’ve been appointed to lead. They are practical, realistic, matter-of-fact folks who get things done. They have a clear set of logical standards and can be forceful in implementing these standards.
Uh, not me. Unlike most career military officers, I test out as an INFP, (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling and Perceptual), which means I depend more on feelings and perceptions than logic.
Meyers-Briggs says folks of my personality type tend be idealistic and loyal. We are curious, adaptable, flexible and accepting.
But the biggest difference between most INTJs and us INFPs is we usually will care more about getting along with people than we care about whether a certain set of tasks were completed. A chaplain who cares more about people than programs? I’d say that’s a value-added fit for the military.
The point is, you can’t judge normal by what is normal for you.
Based on Myers-Briggs alone, it’s a personality zoo out there, and we would need Noah’s Ark to hold a pair of every different kind of normal creature.
So heed the Apostle Paul when he says, “Go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”
Trust in his words and be encouraged to stick to what you are made to do.
For instance he says:
“If you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.” Romans 12:4-8 (The Message)
To which I would add, I married an INTJ, so they can’t be all bad.