The Idealist Personality

Less than seven percent of all men and women are idealist personalities. They follow hunches, heed feelings, strive for consensus, follow laws for community’s sake, avoid or prevent fighting, generalize from particulars, view people and things metaphorically, and put themselves in others shoes.

They are concerned for morale, give of themselves selflessly, search for life’s meaning, seek and develop the potential in those around them, desire inner unity and absolute truth, and are prone to wishful thinking.

Idealists are enthusiastic, intuitive, and romantic. They feel misunderstood and aspire to wisdom. They are soulmates as spouses, harmonizers as parents, and catalysts as leaders. Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther possessed idealist personalities.

You may know a few who that fit this description. The teacher with a gift for drawing out good performances from seemingly incorrigible students, the pastor who seeks out and shepherds the destitute and hurting, the activist championing a noble (or ignoble) cause, or the wise mediator who reconciles differences between conflicting factions.

This is one of the personalities that is important for writers to recognize and portray. David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me is a useful reference for writers who want to fully flesh out their characters.

Keirsey says Hippocrates and Galen observed that there are four personality types. Later scientists refined their observations by identifying four distinctions within each type.

Keirsey defines the idealist personality as abstract in their word use and cooperative in their tool use. Their thought and speech are rich in exaggeration, move from parts to wholes, and spontaneously transform one thing into another, erasing distinctions, and joining opposites.

Idealists fall into four subcategories, each containing only a few percent of the population. Two are characterized as directive: the expressive teacher and the reserved counselor. The teacher takes control of even difficult students with confidence and creativity, broadening or refining their attitudes and actions. The counselor advises, appeals, prescribes, or urges in order to help others toward greater well-being.

The two other subtypes are informative: expressive champions and reserved healers. The champion eagerly explores issues and events in order to passionately champion a cause or ideal that will motivate others to settle conflicts and/or act justly and wisely. The healer helps others to accept, accommodate, or reconcile to mend relationships or make whole a divided self.

Idealists seek professions involving the unfolding of mind and heart toward greater self-understanding and inner peace. They need and want to be in communication with people. They can learn to write and speak fluently with a poetic flair. They form personal relationships which communicate caring and willingness to become involved. However, these relationships can drain them, so either they disconnect professionally or risk becoming emotionally overwhelmed.

Their greatest happiness comes from selflessly giving of themselves to help others grow and develop. They believe things easily and without reserve, join causes, and are loyal to leaders more than principles. They can become fixated about beliefs, unmovable by appeals to reason or experience. Some bravely accept accidents as mystifying and inexplicable; others attribute causes of unhappy events to a higher [or lower] power. They focus on what might be, not what is and are drawn to discerning the true nature and significance of things.

Idealists base self-esteem on the empathy they feel with those closest to them. They maintain a benevolent attitude toward others and their powerful conscience suppresses feelings of animosity. Vague self-doubt nags most of them. They laboriously walk the line between authenticity and moral approval of others.

They exhibit delightful and contagious positive emotions when discussing ideas and insights. When frustrated in idealism, or treated unjustly, they become irritated quickly and respond furiously. They trust first impressions. Unconsciously, but sometimes erroneously, they adopt their perceptions of another’s desires and emotions. They want relationships to be deep, meaningful, and full of beauty and sensitivity. They try to get in touch with the person they were meant to be. Some stop struggling to become a perfected ideal and accept themselves as they are. Recognition as a special person by someone they care about is very gratifying. They want to see behind and through to the world as it really is.

They desire a spouse who knows their feelings without being told, who spontaneously expresses words of endearment that acknowledge their unique identity. They closely bond with their children, even into adulthood, if possible, to encourage their positive self-esteem, self-respect, and self-confidence. At work, idealists facilitate, motivate, or energize cooperative action and high morale in their subordinates.

As we wrote in “Why Are There Four Gospel Accounts?,” an earlier blog posting, these traits describe some peoples’ predispositions. Their experiences can mold them, as far as they are willing and able, so that they acquire attributes of the other personality types. These attributes in sum could be said to be their overall dispositions.

If you are a writer, I heartily recommend reading Keirsey’s book for yourself. I created detailed outlines for my personal use. You may profit from the same effort. We’ll review Keirsey’s take on the Rational personality type in two or three weeks.

It’s A Wonderful Life from PNN Media Group on Vimeo.

Everyone Divided

There’s no sidestepping it, scripture divides us. This principle applies to everyone we know and everyone we may never know. The Apostle John, in his first letter to the Church, describes what is true of everyone.

Writing about the Christ, John says:

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:29 English Standard version (ESV)

To this, Calvin says:

If you know that he is righteous [John] again passes on to exhortations, so that he mingles these continually with doctrine throughout the Epistle; but he proves by many arguments that faith is necessarily connected with a holy and pure life. The first argument is, that we are spiritually begotten after the likeness of Christ; it hence follows, that no one is born of Christ but he who lives righteously…

Next, speaking of our response to Christ, John says:

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:3 ESV

And Calvin says:

And every man that has this hope …The meaning then is, that though we have not Christ now present before our eyes, yet if we hope in him, it cannot be but that this hope will excite and stimulate us to follow purity, for it leads us straight to Christ, whom we know to be a perfect pattern of purity.

Then, speaking of those apart from Christ, John says:

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 ESV

Calvin explains the distinction:

Whosoever commits, or does, sin. …The import of the passage is, that the perverse life of those who indulge themselves in the liberty of sinning, is hateful to God, and cannot be borne with by him, because it is contrary to his Law.

It does not hence follow, nor can it be hence inferred, that the faithful are iniquitous; because they desire to obey God, and abhor their own vices, and that in every instance; and they also form their own life, as much as in them lies, according to the law.

But when there is a deliberate purpose to sin, or a continued course in sin, then the law is transgressed.

John presses this point further:

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15 ESV

And Calvin responds:

Is a murderer. …The Apostle declares that all who hate their brethren are murderers. He could have said nothing more atrocious; nor is what is said hyperbolic, for we wish him to perish whom we hate. It does not matter if a man keeps his hands from mischief; for the very desire to do harm, as well as the attempt, is condemned before God: nay, when we do not ourselves seek to do an injury, yet if we wish an evil to happen to our brother from someone else, we are murderers.

Returning to those in Christ, John says:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 1 John 5:1 ESV

Calvin responds with:

Whosoever believes …The first truth is, that all born of God, believe that Jesus is the Christ [i.e., Messiah, Savior]; where, again, you see that Christ alone is set forth as the object of faith, as in him it finds righteousness, life, and every blessing that can be desired, and God in all that he is…

Loves him also that is begotten of him …The context plainly shows that his purpose was no other than to trace up brotherly love to faith as its fountain. It is, indeed, an argument drawn from the common course of nature; but what is seen among men is transferred to God.

John elaborates on the condition of those in Christ:

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:4 ESV

About the victory, Calvin says:

This is the victory. …This passage is remarkable, for though Satan continually repeats his dreadful and horrible onsets, yet the Spirit of God, declaring that we are beyond the reach of danger, removes fear, and animates us to fight with courage. …But as this promise secures to us perpetually the invincible power of God, so, on the other hand, it annihilates all the strength of men…he makes victory to depend on faith alone; and faith receives from another that by which it overcomes. They then take away from God what is his own, who sing triumph to their own power.

And, as if to draw a final distinction, John says:

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:18 ESV

To which, Calvin’s explanation is:

We know that whosoever is born of God If you suppose that God’s children are wholly pure and free from all sin, as the fanatics contend, then the Apostle is inconsistent with himself; for he would thus take away the duty of mutual prayer among brethren. …Hence spiritual life is never extinguished in them… Though the faithful indeed fall through the infirmity of the flesh, yet they groan under the burden of sin, loathe themselves, and cease not to fear God.

Keeps himself. What properly belongs to God he transfers to us; for were any one of us the keeper of his own salvation, it would be a miserable protection. Therefore Christ asks the Father to keep us, intimating that it is not done by our own strength. …And we know that we fight with no other weapons but those of God. Hence the faithful keep themselves from sin, as far as they are kept by God. (John 17:11).

There are many ‘everyones’ that we come across every day. All are divided in the ways we’ve just seen. Which are you? Which, then, is your neighbor? Our duty is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

I don’t know your situation; but I find I need to pray for and serve my neighbors to keep myself from mischief.

Everyone at Yankee Stadium

Yankees Stadium Crowd, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons 26 February 2013, Donald Riesbeck Jr., in the Public Domain