Lessons in lockdown 3: Actually people don’t change that much

In my old job, one of the psychometric tests we had to do assessed how we would act in normal day to day life against how stressful situations were likely to modify our behaviours. I definitely agree that there is something in this. Normally, we are alert to how society expects us to behave and modify our behaviour appropriately. In the heat of a crisis our adrenalin kicks in and we revert to type.

However, I don’t think we change as much as we might expect. This is not least because you don’t have two different personality types, one under stress and one under normal conditions. Your personality is the same, it is just when the pressure is off, you know how best to present it.

This means we are actually quite predictable. I reckon I could have predicted how different people would react to the lockdown at different stages. I could have written a fairly accurate script, not by having special predictive powers but by observing how they generally respond to situations.

For example, I could have predicted that some Anglicans would have responded to lockdown by attempting to continue the tradition of running a service from their church building for as long as possible. I also could have predicted that certain groupings would be quick to announce that sharing communion was not possible and claiming that you could, would amount to Gnosticism.  Similarly, I could tell who would be tweeting #BlackLivesMatter and who would be condemning the BLM movement as Marxist.

Of course, a lot of that relates back to their already declared theology and philosophical outlook. However, it is not just about positions taken. We had a good idea about who would quickly adapt to different technologies and enjoy it. We knew which people would be sitting back, thinking and last to talk. We knew that some people would be suddenly hyper active, getting things done and producing new ideas at nineteen to the dozen. We knew who would hate the isolation and who would love the solitude.  We probably had a fair idea about exactly when it would get too much for each of us.

In that each of those things doesn’t actually touch on sin but is a reflection of our personality, we don’t need to expect people to change either. We should welcome the wonderful diversity we see in our churches.  Where we need to change is in those areas where we find ourselves drawn to respond in ungodly, unhealthy ways.

The way that we change is by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. We keep that sense of diversity, we don’t become clones of each other.  My personality is being sanctified, not removed.

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