“I would not be the person I am today, if it hadn’t been for marrying my opposite”, a friend shared. “And if two people are exactly the same, then one is not needed,” she added. The benefit of opposites sharing years is incalculable whether in families, marriage, friendships, at work on as business partners.
“What attracts us to someone in the first place, will likely drive us up the wall later”, is how Jim and I coached couples contemplating marriage. Jim and I didn’t have the early-on advantage of Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI) but blended our differences by trial and error. I just realized without forethought, that this blog is actually evolving into an offspring of the two last topics--Joy of Remembering and Comprehending Character. Fasten your seat belts because this is a subject that my brothers and I, who also counsel using MBTI, discussed at length this summer and I’ve been patiently waiting until the perfect blog-time arrived to share the concept.
A comment triggered by last week’s Comprehending Character expresses the importance of discovering one’s total identity. I’ve found it interesting—most revealing—to contrast a person’s (even my own) character under daily/normal with that of their (my) character under fire/stressed, and even under dire circumstances. ‘Big believer that pressure/stress etc. can/does develop one’s character and also ‘reveals’ one’s true character. Today’s blog post now has me doing a bit of digging into the Old Testament brief book of Esther--Character under pressure.
Remembering how Jim made decisions and handled practical issues during our 65 years of marriage is helpful now as I function as a primary decision-maker. Jim’s major preferences of Sensing (Hands on) and Head Logic Thinking, the opposite of my Intuitive (Creative) and Heart Logic Feeling, that empowered and equipped him, are now occupying major availability for my use. In all those years in reality, I was auditing the courses for which one day I would need to be prepared for pop quizzes.
Jim’s Head-Logic, Sensing/Thinker’s position of “Don’t ask questions, just do what I say”, was opposite my Heart-Logic Feeler craving for harmony and approval for decisions. I encountered a financial decision that he made without discussion or input from me, when a big water tanker truck showed up in our driveway in Verhalen, Texas. “It’s for hauling our own water to fill the main water tank”, he explained. A good decision, but I felt left out. Then an old pickup appeared that he purchased for hauling big stuff but doubled for rabbit hunting or chasing coyotes--desert family-time. Again, my opinion was not sought. It’s difficult for thinkers to ask for input and approval for what they think is right, just as it’s a struggle for Feelers to make decisions without someone’s approval.
Thinkers—male and female--assume that silence is agreement. If no one objects to a decision, that serves as agreement. I had to learn how to tactfully insert my inclusion into decisions by suggesting discussions before making investments. Blending had begun before we understood our oppositeness.
Feelers regard silence as disagreement, and they depend on an audible “okay” giving approval. When these two differences were understood clearly, and especially as we learned the wisdom of using magic, non-offensive ‘I’ statements during discussions, arguments disappeared. Parental and offensive ‘you’ statements followed by should, ought, must and need were voted ‘out-of-bounds’ at our house. Good communication skills are the keys to respect and harmony.
Jim’s Sensing-hands-on—major Preference: repairing cars, appliances, carpentry anything done with his hands was his hobby which also included electrical receptacles installed inside and outside for convenient power sources and a water system with buried water soak hoses and several handy spigots. I’ve decided that the water system design will have to be included with the deed of this house.
My contrasting Intuitive major preference includes dreaming, thinking outside the box, solving people problems, communication, writing, planning, gardening, learning, etc. When an appliance doesn’t sound right, I want to replace it before I am without. Jim preferred to wait until something broke before replacement. Thankfully, he controlled my yearnings to replace, but many times my unnecessary purchases came in handy. Repairing even a simple stapler throws me for a loop, but I’ve been learning how to make simple repairs. Many Intuitives have learned to be excellent technicians. The minority Intuitive group becomes bored very quickly with repetitive chores like dusting. Boredom is what they fear the most. Improvement involving a bit of perfection and challenge are musts. Jim admired my major preferences of looking ahead and understanding, appreciation, counseling and assisting him in every phase of our ministry. He learned the value of my Major Intuitive and Heart-Logic preferences.
When encountering a flat tire or broken water line, etc., Jim would quietly chuckle and mutter “How ‘bout that?” That’s not what I said aloud to myself when the water stains in the ceiling caused by the last storm needed some sort of treatment. More like “Oh, brother, now what?” After the roofer repaired the roof and painted the stains with a cover coat to see if it would blend in, and it didn’t, advised that the entire room should be painted. “Okay, Jim, what would you do?” I pondered aloud to myself. I know your attitude was ‘don’t fix it if it isn’t broken’, but I don’t know how to break a ceiling.” I considered the pros and cons, and that after 20 years, a new paint job was due.
A Sensing person wants the Intuitive to trust their facts and figures. And the Intuitive says “No thanks”. An Intuitive yearns for the Sensing person to respect their dreams and consider their possibility thinking of what might—and they’re pretty sure—will happen, and the Sensing person says “No thanks”. The Thinking Head-Logic person expects the softhearted Feeling-Heart Logic person to accept what he/she has already decided. The Feeling-Heart Logic person says “No Thanks”. The Soft-hearted pleads with the Thinker to agree with her/him to embrace harmony, and the Thinker says “No thanks”.
What I’m in the midst of achieving without Jim is strengthening the practical side of life—hands-on-Sensing along with steady Thinking head-logic. Again, what Jim said and did years ago is now what I gratefully am putting into practice. The primary preferences each has is what we try to share/force on our opposite. It’s what they need but they’ll only receive it if they see the importance of that preference.
We desperately need what our opposite wants to give. In refusing to accept the ‘gifting of preferences’ from our opposite, we actually blackmail ourselves. By valuing and blending each other’s God designed major preferences, we are able to make good use of our minor preferences. We may even learn from an opposite grandchild a quality we need in order to complete our identity.
Jesus knows our personality and preferences, and promises wisdom and understanding as we confidently and humbly adjust to opposites.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Gal. 5:22-23, 25 (NIV).
My desire to help people understand and appreciate others and improve communication is expressed very well by this paraphrased paragraph from Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite authors: Write about what you really care about, what truly matters to you—not just things to catch the eye of the world but things to touch the quick of the world the way they have touched you to the quick, which is why you are writing about them. Write not just with wit, eloquence, style and relevance but with passion. Then the things that make the readers a little more passionate themselves for their pains, by which I mean a little more alive, wiser, more beautiful, more open and understanding--a little more human.