This post is one of a four-part series on the spirituality of different MBTI preferences. See the first post here.
Judging and Perceiving Spirituality
The final MBTI preference pair relates to the level of structure the person prefers in life. Judgers (Js) are methodical, and like to get things prepared well in advance. Perceivers (Ps) are more spontaneous and flexible, and like to leave things open until the last minute (in case something better should arise). Js arrive on time or slightly early for appointments or events, while Ps are more likely to be late. Js prefer things to have their own dedicated time and place, and look on in horror at the chaos Ps are perfectly comfortable in – not recognizing the dynamic organizational system at work. Js recognize that institutions, hierarchies and regulations enable things to be accomplished efficiently, but Ps often chafe under set procedures and formalized structures and would rather operate in an informal and autonomous environment. Like I and E, J and P “provide a framework within which the other processes operate”: S and N are the means by which one perceives the world, while T and F are the way one judges what is observed.
In spirituality, Js shy away from exploration, preferring to stick with what they know and only embrace change “brought about in an orderly and agreed manner.” On the other hand, Ps “are often open to many different paths, that they try many different routes and can live with a considerable amount of ambiguity.” Js prefer discipline, organization and schedule in their spiritual growth. They recognize the truth that, in the long run, frequency and regularity reap the greatest rewards. Ps prefer flexibility, with lots of options and resources, and the ability to adapt schedules to the needs of people or circumstances. They recognize the truth that we often encounter God in unexpected interruptions. In most cases, Ps need to ‘tighten up’ with their spiritual discipline, while Js need to ‘loosen up.’ Js need to learn the old military adage that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy,’ and let go of the illusion of security that having a plan gives them. They can suffer with control issues and are vulnerable to self-righteousness/judging others and scrupulosity. Ps need to move from impulsivity (acting without really thinking) to spontaneity (being gracefully natural and unrestrained), learning how planning enhances that spontaneity. They can resist taking responsibility and are tempted to rebelliousness and carelessness. When it comes to cross-cultural missions work, Js tend to suffer more acutely from culture shock. This is because they often have a more defined set of expectations than Ps, and most foreign cultures are less time-oriented than Western culture.
Spiritual disciplines that emphasize a methodical approach are the best fit for Js. When reading, studying or meditating on Scripture, they benefit from following a carefully laid out course of Biblical intake, such as the M’Cheyne reading plan. Scripture memorization also connects well with Js, like Andrew Davis’s technique for committing large portions of the Word to memory. The order and predictability of fixed hours of prayer, such as the Divine Office or a pre-scheduled quiet time each day, appeals to Js. Johnson notes that J students benefit from periodic progress reviews, so praying through a self-evaluation tool such as the Quaker Advices and Queries over the year might be suitable. When it comes to worship, the J will benefit from a fixed liturgy or an order of service so they can appreciate the overall flow of the service and see what is coming next. Js are also “sensitive to beginning and ending on time” and they “appreciate systematic and structured sermons that have been carefully crafted.” Js like their fellowship to be order and predictable, so they will prefer planned events of a familiar format. Disorderly activities in an unfamiliar environment or pattern will make them feel uneasy and resistant to being vulnerable.
When Ps read Scripture, they should plan to be surprised and to allow their reflection to go in whatever depth or direction the feel like at the moment. One helpful tool for this are digital Bibles with daily passage. The P can read just that passage, or expand the whole chapter to read the context, or follow hyperlinks to related passages and themes. Subscriptions to daily Bible emails or Bible-focused blogs can also harness the power of serendipity for the P. Promise boxes – a box with shuffled cards of favorite Scripture passages that a person can discover like a surprise – are also beloved of some Ps. For prayer, Ps can experiment with different kinds of prayer, trying a different one each day. Some also enjoy contemplative forms of prayer that eschew formal patterns. Ps can enjoy the freedom of worship services that have lots of unprogrammed time for the Holy Spirit to lead, such as Quaker or Plymouth Brethren services (for Is) or charismatic services (for Es). They also like eclectic services that incorporate different kinds of worship practices and appreciate extemporaneous prayer and sermons. The most important characteristics for P fellowship is informality. Instead of pre-booked meetings at a fixed frequency, they prefer unscheduled pop-ins and taking advantage of ‘running into’ someone to enjoy time together.
The ancient Greek philosophers upheld the goal of the golden mean, avoid extremes of excess and privation. The first extreme is to dwell exclusively in the disciplines that match one’s preferences, using the MBTI as an excuse to ward off more challenging disciplines because ‘that’s not my style.’ Maturity does mean becoming self-aware of one’s preferences, but also to develop the capability to operate in the other preference when life calls for it. Well-developed disciples have learned to operate ‘off-handed’ so well that their true preference is hard to determine. The second extreme is to buy into the myth that ‘if it hurts you’re doing it right’, and avoid their preferred disciplines entirely in the name of rigour.
A devotional life that avoids these two extremes places its primary emphasis and effort in the disciplines that reflect one’s preferences. This provides a solid base from which to explore the disciplines of one’s “shadow side” – which should form a small but significant minority of one’s spiritual practices. Leveraging the strengths of one’s preference can help with this exploration. Es can explore silence and solitude in short doses with the help of supportive I friends. Ns can read Jean Pierre de Caussade’s The Sacrament of the Present Moment and experiment with it. Ts can likewise take up Johnathan Edward’s Religious Affections, specifically part 1 where he expounds the importance of true religious affections to genuine Christianity. Js can even book time in which to be spontaneous! Such an approach results in a balanced spiritual rhythm that realizes Jesus’ promise that His yoke is easy and His burden light.