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Social Issues

for the beauty of the earth

Me and basically anyone who knows me well has a running joke: if it’s the most expensive one in the store, that’s the one I want. It’s hilarious because I gravitate toward those items without knowing it. The most expensive lamp. The most expensive pair of heels. The most expensive necklace. The most expensive hat. At times, it’s uncanny. I can think of only a handful of times where the item I liked the best wasn’t the most expensive, but even then it was usually the second most expensive.

I have no idea where this “talent” came from. I grew up as a military brat so it’s not like I had the chance to develop a taste for the finer things in life. My circumstances are different now than what they were when I was a kid, but I’m not exactly Scrooge McDuck-ing it through a pile of gold coins. We have the ability to save up and make investments in decent furniture and things like that, but it does take time and it can only happen because we’re careful.

But, I look around my home– we’ve finally finished unpacking– and I’m proud of how lovely it is. Yeah it’s Walmart tables and Ikea bookcases, but on the other hand I have a beautifully framed print of John Singer-Sargent’s “Incensing the Veil,” gorgeous curtains, an eclectic collection of antique teacups, knick-knacks from all over the world (thanks to a great-grandfather who traveled), and when you put it all together I think it’s marvelous.

Handsome and I hung up our artwork last weekend– a six-hour-endeavor that involved a lot of spacial reasoning and math, neither of which are my strengths– and when we were done I stood back and almost cried because it was so beautiful. It was the last thing I needed to make this place feel like my home, and it’s not just some nesting instinct.

I’ve always been spellbound by beauty in any form. Music, nature, art, architecture, food, fashion, literature, makeup … I’m enraptured every time I play Smetna’s “Moldau,” or when I see moonlight sparkling in a woodland clearing, or when I take a of bite chicken alfredo, or when I walk around some of the grand architecture of my nation’s capital. I always want those moments to last forever. And, last week, when I felt that last bit click into place in my home, something inside of me breathed out a trembling breath of relief.

For most of my life I felt guilty about this impulse, this need for my life to be enriched by order and beauty. I thought my attraction to quality and elegance made me discontent and materialistic and selfish. The fact that I’m frequently repulsed by kitsch and spaces that don’t include any sense of proportion or artfulness made me think that I was a morally deficient person. There must be something wrong with me if I placed that much value on physical things that cost way too much money.

Growing up in the church I did, which had hideous red-and-black carpet, country-blue padded pews and orange glass in the windows, was an interesting experience. The first time I stepped inside a few-centuries-old Catholic church it took my breath away. I had no idea churches (outside of European cathedrals) could be beautiful. In graduate school, I ended up tolerating a Calvinistic-leaning church largely because the church had Gothic arches and stained glass windows (I’m a sucker for Gothic arches).

In graduate school I started realizing that appreciating beauty wasn’t a failing but something ingrained in our collective human soul, built into us by a world of symmetry and saturated color. Even then, though, I still thought of my desire for “nice things” as emblematic of my problem with covetousness. If something about me weren’t corrupted then I wouldn’t constantly be gliding through the “Home Decor” board on Pinterest. I wouldn’t exclaim and ooh! and ah! over Tiffany settings. I wouldn’t drool over Jimmy Choo or Valentino shoes. I wouldn’t constantly want things– and not just anything, but nice things.

Anytime I read a piece on the virtues of minimalism, or the value of casting off the useless and ultimately selfish drive to acquire, I felt twinges and pangs. Why couldn’t I be happy with a tiny home? Why do I always have a running list of things I want to save up for? Our couch is heading toward lumpiness and broken springs, but if I were truly capable of contentment I’d wait until we really needed to replace it instead of already picking out its replacement. When the KonMari method took the internet by storm a bit ago it was pretty frustrating because I look around my home and think all of this brings me joy. That is not a helpful standard.

Then, a few years ago, I took a few Myers-Briggs tests and they all pegged me as an ISTJ, and I read this in one of the profiles:

ISTJs usually have a great sense of space and function, and artistic appreciation. Their homes are likely to be tastefully furnished and immaculately maintained. They are acutely aware of their senses, and want to be in surroundings which fit their need for structure, order, and beauty.

Wait– what?

It had never occurred to me that so much of what I thought of as “materialism” and “covetousness” could be a feature of my personality. I’d never connected the dots between I am extremely observant and detail oriented with I want my surroundings to be in order and pleasant. I’m very much a fan of “a place for everything and everything in its place,” and it’s been extremely helpful for me to know that what something looks like doesn’t matter as much to me as whether or not it is put away. It’s not like my house is never messy, heavens no. But every few weeks when I go through it and tidy and vacuum and dust and mop and scrub I’m so much happier. It’s like a static inside my head goes away.

In fundamentalism, there are very few things, if any, that could be considered morally neutral. I think there is absolutely a line where “wanting things” could become unhealthy or destructive– I could end up in an uncontrollable amount of debt or I could start prioritizing my new sofa over helping people who need it. But it took me a long time to accept that simply looking at something, thinking it’s pretty, and evaluating whether or not it’s something I want to buy is not a moral failing.

For most of my life I felt condemned for something that is a natural consequence of my personality, for appreciating beauty when the world around meĀ could not be more dazzling. It’s amazing how an abusive religion can get inside of your head and twist ordinary things into something worth castigating you over.

Social Issues

5 reasons why everyone needs an ISTJ friend

So I’ve been working on outlining a few heavy and serious posts but I have a migraine today and don’t really feel like writing about what the emphasis on procreative marriage does to Christian theology or how purity culture affected my views of marital sex, so instead I’m doing a Myers-Briggs post!

A word on personality tests like Myers-Briggs: I’m not totally convinced of how accurate these things are, but I have found the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs personally helpful. It was nice to have some parts of myself that I’ve been critical of affirmed in a positive, healing way. Some things are actual problems, and some things are allowed to be personality quirks, and figuring out the difference is a relief.

However, in all the articles I’ve seen float about the web on how awesome ENFJs are (seriously, do ENFJs own the internet, or is that just me?), or how to love your ISFP friend, I’ve never bumped into one on ISTJs. So I’m writing one. Because we’re amazing. Even if we’re supposedly the Stannis Baretheons, Owen Larses, and Severus Snapeses of the world (upside: we’re also the Spocks of the galaxy, so).

1) We’re Extremely Dedicated

One of the more complimentary nicknames for ISTJs is The Duty Fulfiller (less flattering ones, in my opinion, include The Judge and The Inspector). This comes out in a variety of ways, including the fact that we keep our promises, are among the most responsible people you’ll ever meet, and that we are reliable and dependable. But when it comes to our friends, we plain just do not give up. Ever. Once we’ve decided you’re our friend, that’s basically it for us. You’re our friend, and we will cross hell or high water for you. It might take you a while for you to cross that line from “person I don’t totally hate” to “yes take all my kidneys,” but once you do, you’ll never experience loyalty like you will from an ISTJ friend.

2) We’re brutally, terrifyingly honest

How is this a good thing, you wonder? Why would anyone want a “terrifyingly” honest friend? Well, we’re more than just straight-shooters. We don’t do cloak-and-dagger stuff, passive-aggressiveness gives us hives, we don’t leave hints and clues and expect you to just intuit what we’re thinking (the reverse is also true: if you don’t tell us something, we’re guaranteed to have no idea what your problem is). If we have a problem, we’ll either a) know it’s a big enough deal to tell you or b) swallow it and let it go.

The best thing about all of this is that you’ll never be left wondering where you stand with us. There’s no “oh you’re just saying that.” You can trust us to mean what we say. So when we say you’re awesome, we like you, we think you’re smart and pretty and courageous– it’s the Lord’s honest truth. Also our advice is awesome and everyone should take it.

3) We play by the rules

Remember all that talk about being dependable? Well, in friendships, it also means that not only do you have a loyal friend for life, you’ve also got a friend that abides by traditional social codes and mores. We value things like civility, patience, and we definitely do not do things like stab you in the back. Betrayal of any kind is anathema to everything about who we are.

Another upside is that you know we can be trusted to do our best to embody the concept of friend. We take our commitments seriously, and when we say you’re our friend, we do our best to act like it. We defend you to others who are gossiping about you. We’ll bring you chicken soup when you’re sick. If you need to us to drop everything and come right then, we’ll be there in brightest day and blackest night.

4) We see and remember everything

This is the the “sensing” part of ISTJ coming out. And I do really mean everything. Depending on the way our individual brain works, we’ll remember all the addresses of every place you’ve ever lived, all the phone numbers you’ve had, your birthday, your pet’s birthday, your mother’s birthday, the anniversary of [Important Life Event]. We know all your preferences– your coffee order at your favorite coffee shop, your favorite song to listen to when you’re angry, that poem you once mentioned got you through a hard time in your life.

We also keep track of all the wonderful, meaningful, amazing things you’ve ever done or said, and we love you for it.

Also, we know where all the skeletons are in the closet of the person you despise, and we know where the bodies are buried.

My favorite part of remembering everything is that I am a fantastic gift giver. No, seriously. I am the Best Gift-Giver In the Entire World. You exclaim over that adorable hat? We remembered that hat come Christmas. You once mentioned years ago on a whim that you wanted peonies for your wedding centerpieces? Well, if we ever have a reason to buy you flowers, it’ll be peonies.

Obviously, right along with “remembers everything” is “incredibly observant.” We notice you, and we’ve made you important enough to where we pay attention. We have a lot of things flying at us that it can get overwhelming at times, but you– you are the priority, and everything that happens to you matters to us. You can count on us to say “hey, what’s wrong?”

Keep in mind that “observant” and “perceptive” are not the same thing. We’ll notice, we just might know what we’re noticing. We’ll ask, but you’ll have to tell us.

5) We’re the best freaking planners ever

Yes this means that spontaneity isn’t really our scene. Just don’t expect us to be thrilled with anything that involves the words “carefree,” “spur of the moment,” or “carpe diem.” However, give us the time to plan for an event and it will be baller. We are the best researchers, so we will find the cutest little bistro and brunch spot you’ve ever been to. We’ll know about that tiny little hole-in-the-wall shop that has everything you’ve ever wanted inside.

When you’re with us, everything will probably go smoothly. We’ll have obsessed over every single last detail, from making sure the conversation is sparkling to every single last dietary need is met. Everything is done as far in advance as possible, and you’ll be left with nothing but bringing the vegetable tray. We’ll know exactly how much time we’ll need from getting from point A to point B, and we’ll know how to make sure everything gets there. Ever want to take your friends on a road trip? Ask an ISTJ to come with you, and you’ll have every campsite/hotel/hostel/restaurant/gas stop accounted for with six different possible routes.

And we’re introverts– so while we are the Preparedness Royalty, you know you’ll be at the center of our attention. You’re our friend, and we did it for you when we would literally rather die before doing it for anyone else.


Anyway, those are just some of my observations based on various ISTJ profiles and what I’ve personally experienced. ISTJs need all the love we can get on our moisture farms and potions dungeons.

Photo by Bailey Weaver