Not long ago, I asked a friend for a favor. It was a bit unusual and I knew it would require some thought, but not so unusual that it could upend a friendship. But it did, at least for a while, quite emphatically. The way my friend and I interpreted what happened was a study in contrasts. It was as if we lived in two separate realities, spoke different languages, and transacted business with different currencies, hers as worthless to me as mine was to her.
It was one of those things, a train wreck in a relationship we’re all familiar with. And yet it turned out to be very interesting. It revealed that my friend and I, who have been close over the years, are exact opposite personality types. I’m an INTJ and she’s an ESFP: INTJ for Introvert-Intuition-Thinking-Judgment, ESFP for Extravert-Sensing-Feeling-Perception. These are from Isabel Briggs Myers’ Gifts Differing, not as “scientific” as other theories some might prefer, but my Intuition trusts her Intuition.
The holidays are all about one universal value: everything that makes us family. Forgiveness is one of those things, and let me be the first to admit: If you’re reading this it probably means you’re a big nuisance but you’ve been forgiven – many times. “I love you in spite of your many faults” my dad liked to joke, usually to a good laugh. But it’s no laughing matter, because real forgiveness is beyond reach. At least it is for me. Especially if the big nuisance happens to be my exact opposite personality type.
My instinct in this case was to bail for good. I was on my way out the door. Then I read Gifts Differing and discovered that Isabel’s theory doesn’t stop at showing us how opposites wreak havoc with relationships. It shows remarkably how opposites can be used to bring us closer together and, in the process, promote personal growth and self-awareness. What philosophy, what faith, couldn’t use an analytical tool like this to bring about peace and forgiveness!
It’s done by accessing the opposites of your weak personality traits – mind-Intuition, for example, if you’re a body-Sensing type, -- preferably in consultation with someone who’s your opposite. You “pool your resources,” and at the end you’re both more fully developed, better balanced personalities, more sympathetic, more adaptable to change, and better equipped to forgive. That's the theory and, so far, it's working for me.
Isabel’s theory is inspired, not least because the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles calls for its practical application to individual circumstances, and students of the Course intent on practicing forgiveness will find that it’s a big help. If my friend is reading this she might be incensed that I’m talking about us, but not if her Feeling has accessed Thinking, and Perception has accessed Judgment. You see, what this is all about is making everyone more like me. Proof that what I've learned from her is the joy of spontaneity and laughter. Pity the poor INTJ Scrooge who never learns it!
Wishing you the Joy of Life and laughter for the holidays and all through the New Year.