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.

The Upper Hand – Bernhardt Writer

Some people always have to have the upper hand. My father was one of those people. He would do whatever it took to gain an advantage over those he met. He would be proper, humble, a terror, or a fool if it would give him power and control over others. Fundamentally, he both disrespected and feared them at the same time. He was an expert at what he did and I was a rebellious teen who rejected his ways (by God’s grace).

Such recollections remind me of the scripture:

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40 English Standard Version (ESV)

These prominent men displayed unwarranted pride and feigned humility as a cover for their real motive: greed. Further, we have:

But understand this: that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

My father was such a one. He said he took communion because he was merely hungry:

But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all… 2 Timothy 3:9 (ESV)

It saddens me, even today, that he did not repent while he had the chance. But such things should not characterize our behavior:

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 1 Peter 4:15 (ESV)

In a note to this verse, the New American Standard translation renders meddler literally as: one who oversees others’ affairs. NAS adds troublesome to modify the noun in case we would misinterpret it. It’s the attitude, so prevalent today, of: “I know better than you,” put into action.

This should not be our way. Instead:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

Even further:

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:12-17 (ESV) [emphasis added]

I’ve always heard the Lord Jesus’s statement in John 13:8:

“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,”

as a rebuke to Peter’s:

“You shall never wash my feet.”

But what if it were a plea?

Listening to good doctrine (as important as we think that is) is not enough to soften our hard hearts toward others. Or as one of our poets wrote: “I need love…to melt the frozen sea inside me.”

‘I Need Love’ by Sam Phillips – performed by Sixpence None the Richer (with lyrics)

But, exhibiting genuine humility in all circumstances that proceeds from a changed, crushed, and submissive heart may just be our duty.