Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our Personalities, Our Labels

So I post on personality types. And this is dangerous because we use labels too often to reduce other people to that label. We don't easily let them grow beyond that. My son, for example, was labeled a bad student all through elementary, middle, and high school. Indeed, he's been labeled adhd, depressed, a trouble maker, a skaterboy, and a pothead. Fortunately, an art prof at a particular college far away noticed some talent in that personality and gave him a scholarship. Fortunately, my son's been able to rewrite those labels. He came home last night with more award winning studio art, and some decent essays, and grades that got him on the Dean's list for a second semester in a row. His younger sister, with interests in being a psychologist some day, is most sensitive to who he has been and is becoming. "He's an Artisan," she confirms. But not wanting to box him in, she adds, "I think he's a genius."

My spouse and I once attended a series of lectures by a psychologist who encouraged us in the audience to label people who are hard to love with terms such as "simple" and "fool" and "evil." The psychologist specializes in coping with and recovery from sexual abuse. "But," he insisted, "always use a pencil when putting anyone in any such category." Our imagination of the profound nature of a person can keep that person in a prison -- unless our imagination is able to grow as the person might.

So I post on personality, and how it tends to function in "knowing" language, and our lover, and even the Bible. The hope is we won't get stuck in the labels but can use tendencies in our personality to learn and to mature.


John Radcliffe said...

When I was at school (more years ago now than I care to remember) my teachers always noted that my English was bad and my spelling atrocious. It was usually suggested that I needed to work harder at learning things by rote. Unfortunately, that typically had little effect, as some things gained at great expense just never seemed to “stick”. Were I at school today, I’d guess my parents would be told that I suffered from some form of dyslexia, and my problems wouldn’t be put down to lack or effort or intelligence.

Fortunately, these days I do most of my writing with word processors that run a spelling checker. Unfortunately, such checkers don’t spot mistakes if the misspelling is itself another valid word. Then, of course, there’s the case where the program knows I’m wrong, but fails to guess the word I meant from what I typed. Here Microsoft’s Word is particularly unimpressive. Why is it that a program now at version 12 still lacks a spell corrector as good as the one Protext, my old DOS word processor, had? With Protext it was very rare indeed for me to need another stab at the right spelling, but with Word on occasion it still can’t guess what I mean even after I’ve had two or three attempts. (So for example, the instant pop-up didn’t suggest “was” for my phonetic “woz”, although it was offered as the last suggestion when I ran the full Spell Check. I’d guess Protext would’ve had “was” at the top of the list. And, yes; sometimes my mind goes blank and I just can’t remember how to spell “simple” words like “was”.) Here the old suggestion, “If you don’t know how to spell a word, look it up in a dictionary”, is seen in its full glory as one of the stupidest “solutions” to a problem I’ve ever heard.

One thing I really hate is having someone stand behind me and dictate something for me to type. In that scenario there just seem to be too many levels of translation for me to process them all at the same time. These days I just tend to own up to that one, rather than risk having a nervous breakdown as my brain overloads.

So is it spite of these issues that I’ve come to love language, or because of them? Perhaps I prize it as something exotic or “foreign”, even when it’s my native tongue! (The Greek of the NT definitely is a foreign country, inhabited by strange word forms floating in a barely-grasped syntactic soup. In that land, sometimes a single sentence can seem like an epic journey.) Personally, I doubt that even those most skilled at wielding their language of choice, who seem to be able to make it dance to their tune, can really claim to have tamed it; I know I certainly haven’t. But do they get any more fun out of playing with it, like a child with a new toy, than I do? That I also doubt.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours all the best for Christmas and the coming year: I hope it proves to be a good one.

Kind regards

J. K. Gayle said...

Most eloquent, John. Thank you for persisting in your struggles and in your love of language and languages. Thanks for sharing with us! We're heading into Christmas and the new year with cheers like yours, with friendships afforded us because of language, because of blogging even. Cheers to you and all the best to you and yours too, my friend! Sincerely, Kurk

Bill said...

Briggs-Meyers is wonderful. Great post.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks Bill, and now we guess your MB type.