We all have different personalities. Each personality type has its characteristic strengths and vulnerabilities. For example, those who have an exploring type of personality are open to learning and constantly seek greater insight into gospel principles. But in their attempt to achieve greater insight, they may be tempted to weigh truth according to whether or not they accept it. They may sometimes find excuses not to follow certain commandments.
Those with a conscientious personality type may be very good at accepting and keeping the commandments. But in their effort to be faithful, they may neglect compassion and charity towards those who are still struggling to achieve the same level of obedience. And without charity we are nothing (2 Nephi 26:30, Moroni 7:44, 46).
We could take any personality description and make a similar analysis. Each has strengths and each has dangers.
Which is the better way?
As a person who studies personality I have wondered if one personality profile is more highly favored of the Lord than another. We may admire and favor people with certain personalities. Does God?
I think that God’s answer is a surprise. As we look at those around us, our job is to have the mind of Christ. Consider Brigham Young’s words:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. Let no man judge his fellow being, unless he knows he has the mind of Christ within him. We ought to reflect seriously upon this point; how often it is said “Such a person has done wrong, and he cannot be a Saint, or he would not do so.” How do you know? We hear some swear and lie; they trample upon the rights of their neighbor, break the Sabbath by staying away from meeting, riding about the city, hunting horses and cattle, or working in the canyons.
Such behavior would certainly evoke unkind judgments from those who take the commandments seriously. Brigham warns against that reaction:
Do not judge such persons, for you do not know the design of the Lord concerning them; therefore, do not say they are not Saints. What shall we do with them? Bear with them. . . . Judge no man. A person who would say another is not a Latter day Saint, for some trifling affair in human life proves that he does not possess the Spirit of God.
Note that this cuts both ways. The conscientious might be upset by Sabbath-breaking. But the creative become upset with the conscientious “because they don’t care about people.” Satan laughs. Everyone is judging everyone. Brigham has wise counsel for anyone who looks on others judgmentally or condescendingly.
Think of this, brethren and sisters; write it down, that you may refresh your memories with it; carry it with you and look at it often. If I judge my brethren and sisters, unless I judge them by the revelations of Jesus Christ, I have not the Spirit of Christ; if I had, I should judge no man. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.277 p.278, emphasis added)
Ouch. If I have the Spirit, I would judge no man! God says that judgment and vengeance are His alone (Mormon 8:20).
In dealing with imperfect people as in all things, Jesus shows the way. He seemed to be instinctively drawn to those who met two criteria:
1. They had conspicuous needs–physical or spiritual.
2. They knew it.
Jesus was drawn to people not because they were sinners but because they were sinners who wanted to be made whole.
Do we meet the criteria? The first condition is universal for mortals. All of us are desperately needy. The second condition is highly variable. Sometimes some of us recognize our desperate need. Often we don’t.
Ironically, some of those who take spiritual things most seriously have the hardest time with the second condition. The Pharisees are a prominent example.
Our gift to God
Repeatedly God asks that we offer Him a broken heart and contrite spirit (3 Nephi 9:20, 12:19). Why does God want us to be humble? When we recognize our need we are more likely to be sympathetic to others in need. We are more likely to see others redemptively. And we can forget ourselves and turn ourselves over to Him.
G. K. Chesterton expressed this idea very eloquently: “How much larger your life would be if you could become smaller in it. . . You would begin to be interested in others. You would break out of this tiny. . . theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.”
A beloved example
Sister Marjorie Hinckley described the condition in which she hoped to arrive in heaven:
“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk’s lawn. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”
It is not a certain personality type that will be welcomed most warmly into heaven; it will be those who recognize their dependence on Jesus and learn to think as He does—who see needs and gladly act to bless. When someone irritates us, God invites us to see the need behind the offense. Jesus invites us to join Him as Saviors on Mount Zion.