Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An Axe (or 2) to Grind

Fair warning: I have two axes to grind this morning. One is rather inconsequential; but, still, I’m blowing off steam.

Both for professional development and out of simple curiosity, I’ve taken several personality inventories over the years. They show change. I hope the change is progress, rather than regression. In the infamous Myers-Briggs inventory (a derivative of Carl Jung’s personality types), I was “INTP” 25 years ago. INTP means introverted, rather than extroverted; intuitive rather than sensing; thinking rather than feeling; perceiving rather than judging. If you want to go deeper, just Google Myers Briggs.

In the past year my Myers Briggs type was ESTP. I think the biggest factor behind the change is that I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin, and am more open to being motivated by people and environment. I still enjoy my self-motivating quiet corner with a book, however.

All the preceding is but prelude to this: a consistent personality trait identified when I first entered seminary has been that I’m a “fixer.” That trait did not play well in my early years as a pastor; and it still intrudes into my counselling practices on occasion.

I’m guessing I inherited the trait from my mother. She never tolerated the quarrels between my sister and me.[1] So I learned to become a “fixer”. I think that’s the basis of my liberal perspective. I try to understand all sides of any issue, so I can “fix” it. One of my strong suits is conflict resolution; in fact, I have several certifications in that field.

I’m confident that that personality trait contributes to my pounding temples when I read the hateful, disrespectful Facebook exchanges that have become pervasive on virtually all social media. COME ON, PEOPLE!!! BE NICE!!!

I wonder what personality trait(s) are operative when people hide behind the anonymity of social media and ambush and snipe away at anyone whose ideas deviate from their own.

It’s one thing to differ; indeed, diversity of thought is an enriching part of a democratic republic. Remember American history? Remember the famous “melting pot” mode that in the late 19th and early 20th century affirmed the various contributions of the differing ethnic and cultural populations? Of course, it also must be remembered that those times endured prejudice and even violence against those same ethnic and cultural populations.

Diversity of thought is an enriching element in any human interaction. I went to barber college and was a licensed barber during the decade of the 60s. One barber with whom I worked said to me: “Jim, you’re about as good a barber as I’ve seen come straight out of barber school. But don’t ever think you can’t learn more. If you’ll watch, you can learn something from every barber you work with. If you don’t learn something good to do, you’ll learn something bad to avoid.” I've noted that that counsel fits most situations.

So, what personality type becomes enraged over disagreement(s)? What is the personality type by which one gives oneself permission to call other humans “stupid,” when they don’t share the same ideology? What personality type justifies gross contempt for other people who are honest, compassionate people of integrity, but who disagree with that type’s opinions? What personality type is OK with insulting others, but is infuriated when his or her own beliefs are questioned?

God, we’re broken. Will you fix us, please?

That’s the way I see it through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,


[1] And herein lies my second axe to grind (the inconsequential one). The “Grammar Nazi” part of my personality emerges, and I “need” to “fix” something. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, and is becoming acceptable in formal English grammar pedagogy. Maybe I’m “old school,” and out of touch; but, per my own English grammar studies, the use of the personal pronouns, “I” and “me” have become confused in recent years.
People who are very intelligent, well-educated and otherwise quite articulate, have fallen into the trend over the past few years of misusing these two pronouns. I seldom see or hear “me” being used incorrectly; but, the incorrect use of “I” has become rampant.
In the sentence footnoted above, “me” is correct. It is in the objective case, the object of the preposition, between. Had I wanted to use the pronoun, “I”, I would have put it in the nominative case: “My mother grew intolerant when my sister and I quarreled.” Here, “I” is part of a compound predicate nominative.
The rules of grammar can be quite boring; but, in this case, one need not memorize rules or diagram sentences. It’s really quite simple. If “me” is correct when it stands alone, it also will be correct when compounded with another pronoun, as in the sentence under examination here: “…my sister and me.” The same is true for the pronoun, “I”.
If I am calling the dog, then it also is correct to say “My sister and I are calling the dog.” If the dog comes to me when I call, then it also is correct to say, “The dog comes to my sister and me when we call.” Really simple.
It probably means nothing to most of my readers; but, the “fixer” part of my personality is now at peace—at least, for now. There are other grammar faults out there that need to be “fixed.” As soon as I get my cape cleaned, I'll be back.