27 August 2014

Personality and prayer - some beginning thoughts

I was catching up with a couple of friends' posts on Facebook and spotted that an old friend posted a link to a Myers-Briggs personality test. I first did this nearly 20 years ago and came out as an ENFJ - but the E (extrovert) was very marginal, and was strongly modified by the NF, which turned me introverted. I got curious and tonight did the test again, and came out an INFJ (which I think is a better reflection of me anyway - and last time the E was only just barely an E).

The information on the INFJ personality type is scarily accurate for me and the kinds of work and prayer I like. I get a kick out of helping people - it's why I work in health and safety - but the bit I like is making sure that they don't need me any more. My aim as a consultant is to do myself out of a job with every one of my clients. I love order, I am an inveterate planner (and hate it when things mess up my plans) and I like being organised. I have a couple of things I am passionate about and I am known as a "terrier" when there's something to dig my teeth into. I have always been a perfectionist, striving to be better at what I do.

So how does this translate into prayer? I can't be a perfectionist at prayer. I am learning over the years just to show up, to pray as I am and where I am, and just to keep doing it, circling back over the psalms like a moth over a candleflame. One of the bits of information I read suggested that INFJs don't like formal prayer. That's completely the opposite of me. Praying the Office provides the solid scaffolding of my heart, and using set forms of eucharist and so on feeds me.

But, thinking about it, maybe it's the poetry of it that gives me a framework for my own inner silence. Certainly when I go to pray myself, it's in words and images that come from deep inside - but some of those have been internalised from years of praying and lectio divina. There is a drive to experience and to be, to learn and to love. It's what drew me to the Community in the first place. And maybe that's why COS is a better fit for me than the Franciscans too - Benedictines are about work and prayer, Camaldolese are about the Three Goods: solitude, community, and service/mission. That about sums me up really.

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