The Dangers of Personality Typing

blog-myers-briggs.jpgFor years, I’ve been an avid “personality typer”. I enjoy typing myself, friends, family members… even fictional characters. Not only is it fun, it can also be a really helpful tool to better understand myself and other people. There have been so many times where I’ve been reading an article on ENFPs (my Myers-Briggs type), and I’ve been so excited because THAT IS EXACTLY ME. It gives me a sense of validation in a way, to see that I’m *supposed* to be like that, because *all* people of my personality type are that way. However, this also presents some serious problems – and I think that while there are many benefits of personality typing, there are also some very real dangers associated with it.

We Are All Different

When I get too caught up in personality typing, I start grouping people together – putting all of the INFJs, and ENFPs, and ESTJs, and INTPs… etc. into their own separate boxes. This is dangerous, because none of us really fit into those boxes. Every single person on Earth was created by God with his own, wholly unique personality – and so while Myers-Briggs and other personality typing systems can be very helpful in understand our personalities, it’s important to remember that these systems are not comprehensive and were created by humans.

None of us really fits into *any* personality type. I am not really an ENFP – that is just the “Myers-Briggs type” that I relate to most out of the sixteen types that people made up. So, when people use personality types to compare each other (i.e. “This INFJ acts this way and thinks like this, so *this* INFJ must be the same!”) it leads to false assumptions and a lack of understanding people. Each of those people being compared and put into boxes is an actual, unique, person – Fred is Fred, not an ENFP like other ENFPs. He is like no other person on Earth, and thus can only be wholly understood by being seen as such. Empathy doesn’t work if you are trying to empathize with a personality type instead of an actual person.

Again, I’m not saying there is no benefit to personality typing – there certainly is, and I believe God *wants* us to use the reason and creativity He gave us to develop systems in order to better understand ourselves and the world He created. However, it’s important to recognize that these systems are our own, and thus flawed. We are all different, and so personality types can only go so far in helping us understand each other.

My Personality Type Should Not Be My Role Model

Maybe this sounds obvious, but I think many of us do treat our personality types as our role models, even if unconsciously (I know I myself have). It’s great to read articles about various aspects of our types – strengths, weaknesses, stressors, preferences, traits, etc. However, it becomes a problem when we start trying to become *more* like our personality type descriptions, instead of using those descriptions to help us grow out of our weaknesses and become better people.

Example: I know that one of my weaknesses is that I don’t do well when I’m alone for too long – I need enough quality social interaction, or I can get depressed. This is a true fact about myself, and it is also a true fact about most ENFPs (that’s where the E for extrovert comes in). It’s tempting to read about this weakness, and then to say, “well, obviously this means I *have* to get enough time with people, otherwise I’m just going to be depressed”. I tell myself this, and then when I am alone for too long, I do get depressed. However, what I should be doing is learning how to *not* get depressed in these situations. Knowing this about myself, I should try to improve. This is something I am learning currently, living away from most of the people I know – and it’s been so incredibly valuable. I’m learning to recognize God’s continual presence so much more – He is always right with me, so I am never truly alone. Understanding this is helping me learn to be joyful and energized even in solitary times. With my personality type as my role model, I would have never started growing and learning to overcome this weakness.

It’s important to recognize weaknesses as weaknesses and try to grow out of them, rather than embrace them because they are a part of our personalities. Our personalities should not be our role models – Christ should be our role model – and we should constantly be trying to change ourselves to become more like Him.

My Identity is Not Found in My Personality Type

I know from experience that it is so easy for one’s personality type to become one’s identity. When this happens, it makes us feel a sense of entitlement for acting the way we act, regardless of how it hurts others, because it’s just “who we are”. It’s certainly true that we all have our own, unique personalities – but it’s also true that we can (and often should) choose to behave contrary to our personalities in order to love other people. This is essential in order to die to ourselves – which we must do daily as followers of Christ.

Example: For me, one thing that being an ENFP means, is that I love spontaneity. It’s true that I am happiest and most comfortable when I have the freedom to go on spontaneous adventures, and do whatever is most exciting to me in the moment. It’s good to know this about myself, so that I can make decisions in my life accordingly – one reason I chose to be a librarian, is because it’s a profession that is always new and changing, and I have the freedom to use my time as I see most valuable and explore whatever is exciting and interesting to me while I work.

However,  even though this ENFP trait is a part of my personality, it is not who I am. It is not my identity. Because we are all different, with different personalities and different preferences, we also all have different stressors. If I just accept each and every one of my personality traits as who I am, and thus refuse to change those parts of myself, I will stress and hurt so many people in my life.  True, living according to my personality type is ideal for *me* – but our lives are not about us. Our lives are about becoming more like Christ, and loving other people before ourselves. Our identities are not found in ourselves and our own personalities, but in Christ.

In Conclusion…

Of course God made each and every one of us how we are for a reason, and so it’s important to recognize and celebrate our differences and unique personalities. However, He did not make us different so that we can rigidly adhere to our natures and refuse to grow. When our personality types become our role models instead of Christ, and our identities are found in ourselves instead of Christ, we will grow farther and farther away from Him. Christ sacrificed everything for us – and in turn, to become more like Him, we must be willing to sacrifice everything (even aspects of our personalities) for His sake, and for the sake of others. When we do, it will not mean a life of bondage – rather, it is the only way to have a life of true freedom. When we give up every part of ourselves for Christ’s sake, when we choose to love others instead of loving ourselves, we will become the person we were always meant to be. That is the only way we will be able to cast off our masks, and have our true faces be revealed, to reference C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces.

I will continue to enjoy exploring personality types, and learn more about myself and others while doing so – but, I do not ever want to put people in boxes, or for my personality type to become my role model and my identity. I’d much rather throw myself away for Christ’s sake, and allow Him to create something completely new, unique, and beautiful within me. Becoming embodiments of our personality types is not the way to true freedom and joy – it’s only by dying to ourselves, that we will truly live.

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Artist Introduction: “Vocal Few”

So, there’s this band:

Or rather, a duo – consisting of husband and wife, Matt and Kristie MacDonald – which was created primarily as a means to support their family (a new EP has been released with the birth of each of their three children).

And I like them.

A lot.

So much so that I own two of their EPs on vinyl (forever my favorite way to listen to music, but I only *buy* my favorites).

This summer, they are going on a Living Room Tour across the country (more about that in the hilarious video above) – which inspired me to write a post about them, so that YOU TOO can discover this wonderful music and perhaps attend one of their concerts. I am definitely going to attend one myself this July – which is incredibly exciting, because it will be my very first time hearing them play in person (though I have seen Matt play twice with his also-fantastic band, The Classic Crime). Perhaps I’ll write about TCC another time… but for now, here’s some more information about Vocal Few:

So far, Vocal Few have released FOUR EPs – one for each of their three kids, and a Christmas EP that was released this past December. They’re planning to write yet another sure-to-be-awesome EP soon, when they spend a year as a family in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Vocal Few’s music isn’t only great musically – it’s also been extremely inspiring and encouraging to me lyrically through the years. Their songs are all incredibly hopeful, but not in a way that is at all naive or dishonest – their music also dives into some very complex topics, and the lyrics often describe sorrow and struggles in relationships. But really, it’s because their songs are so honest, including sorrow as well as joy, that they end up being so hopeful and encouraging. Matt and Kristie are both Christians, and their faith is fully evident in their music, even though they don’t mention God in every song. Nevertheless, their songs are full of Truth – and to me, they are more impactful and encouraging than most CCM music, because they are also so personal and honest.

I also really admire them as people (at least, based on their music and online posts), and how they prioritize relationships and family, while also viewing all of life, including hardships and unexpected turns, as beautiful and an adventure.

Anyways – you can listen to ALL of their music for yourself from their Youtube channel, but here’s one video from each EP (plus pretty album art) to get you started:

1. She’ll Be Right

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“Every
second
lived
is
worth
each
second
of
the
pain.”

2. Tall Trees

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“When all you have is what’s inside your pocket
And all your dreams seem stuck up on the shelf
Well you’d best prepare the way for change is comin’
‘Cause the road will always take you somewhere else.”

3. The Dream Alive

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“Why don’t we just live today?
Tomorrow’s too far away
We want a reason to say,
one day,
That we did our best to keep the dream alive.”

 

4. Snowdrift

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“As Christmas comes
I’m not the same as I once was
There are more questions
Than the answers that I’ve got
So once again I’m forced
To strip it down to love
The quiet snow
Nowhere to go
I’m not giving up
You are my only hope.”

If after watching those videos and reading this post you want to learn even MORE about this amazing duo… just follow these 3 steps:

  1. Visit their website.
  2. If you want to support Matt, Kristie, and their family, buy ALL of their music… or alternatively, listen to all of it free on Youtube.
  3. Consider attending one of Vocal Few’s Living Room Tour shows this summer and meeting them in person! I am sure they will be amazing.

*BONUS*: Live recording of “Blue” from The Dream Alive

On Contradictory Natures – and God

I’ve taken to using this blog as a place to write down my random thoughts on various subjects, and thus better develop those thoughts through the process of writing them – so, please take into account that the following discussion is going to be neither sophisticated nor well-researched (tisk-tisk, librarian self).

I’ve been thinking lately about how many of my all-time favorite characters in fiction, and even favorite people, are those who have multiple very different sides to them. Of course, all people are multi-dimensional – it’s impossible even in a lifetime to fully understand a single person, because we’re all created just that complex and unique. Learning about another person and truly getting to know them better is so fascinating for that reason. However, there are certain characters that display in an obvious way a dichotomy of opposite traits – in a way that is seemingly contradictory.

For instance, characters such as the Doctor from Doctor Who, Iroh from Avatar: the Last Airbender, and Dumbledore from Harry Potter all are whimsical and sometimes totally silly – but at the same time, they are also incredibly intelligent, powerful, and competent. Each of these characters can be fierce and commanding – but also gentle and warmly loving. I love characters like this – but not just because they are complex and likable. After thinking more about why I love these characters and others like them, I realized that the reason I admire them so much is because their conflicting natures and contrasting dichotomies remind me, in a way, of God.

All of this brings me to G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday – a story which brilliantly displays God’s own dichotomies. I won’t get into the specifics of this, because it’s a book that is best read unspoiled (as are most books). But reading The Man Who Was Thursday taught me so much about God, because it helped me realize that these seeming contradictions in His nature are not actually contradictions at all – it is possible to be both whimsical and serious, to be both childlike and wise, to be both chaotic and orderly. If we, who God created, can be as complex as we are – with funny sides, and serious sides, and gentle sides, and confident sides, and so many other sides –  how much more complex must be the One who created us all? And if it is impossible to even understand each other within a full lifetime here on earth, how much more impossible must it be to fully understand God even in an infinity?

I am wonderstruck by how little I know about God, and how vastly much there is to Him. It’s a humbling thought to realize that even with all of our knowledge and credentials and connections here on earth, our knowledge of the One who truly matters is less than infinitesimal. We spend so much of our lives here learning things of this world, without pointing them back towards trying to understand God better, and being more like Him – which is what really matters in the first place. Even if we *did* dedicate every waking moment of our lives to learning about Him, we wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

He is so much more than any of us could ever imagine:

He is whimsy, and He is order.

He is childlike, and He is wise.

He is merciful, and He is just.

He is a gentle lamb, and He is a roaring lion.

He is a servant, and He is a king.

And yet, even despite all of these seeming contradictions in God’s nature, He is not undefinable, and He is not a contradiction – because there is one word that defines all of these sides of Him, that sums up every aspect of who He is. There is one word, one very simple yet infinitely complex word, that describes Him perfectly in only one syllable and four letters:

God is Love.

 

Another Post About Learning

As a librarian and lifelong learner, I am fascinated by the very concept of learning. Eight months ago, I wrote a post, “On Learning” – specifically, about the purpose and beauty of learning. Of course I love learning new things, but I also love thinking about the concept of learning in general, and *how* I learn. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and how really, everything I’ve done and experienced in my life has taught me something and thus impacted who I am as a person. This got me to thinking about some of those specific methods by which I’ve learned.  In this post, I’m not going to discuss nearly every method of learning (’cause that’d take forever, and I only have a very finite lunch break in which to write this post) – but I’m going to look into a few that I’ve been specifically thinking about lately.

Learning through books

This is probably typically what people think of when they think “learning”. Books are wonderful and incredibly useful tools for learning a wide spectrum of topics. A great thing about them, is that they don’t just teach you about the subject areas in which they’re written – they also by their very nature teach 21st Century skills such as vocabulary, literacy, and critical thinking – and even empathy. You all know this, so I’m not going to get into the value and importance of reading and studying books any further. Whether fiction or non-fiction, books are exceptional learning tools, and the world knows it.

I’m a librarian, so you probably expect me to push up my glasses (which I don’t have), make a stern expression (I’m not sure I know how), and praise books as the ultimate and only true method by which to learn. However, because I enjoy smashing your expectations, I’m actually going to tell you that I do NOT believe books to be the best form of learning (I can hear your *gasp*s through the computer screen). Before you declare sacrilege and excommunicate me from the world of book-lovers, let me again assure you that I am indeed a book-lover myself, and that I fully recognize the power of books. What I meant by my above comment, is that while books do have the power to teach certain skills exceptionally, their static nature also renders them unsuitable to teach other skills. While there is a lot to be learned through it, book-reading alone is not enough – and I believe that when it is perpetuated as being all there is to learning, and the only “best” method by which to learn, there is a big problem. This problem is what really prompted me to write this post in the first place.

Learning through games

I have quite a lot I could say on this subject, stemming from the fact that I worked at MidAmerica Nazarene University’s Center for Games and Learning for nearly two years and read numerous articles/books on games & learning to help write an annotated bibliography on the subject. If that sounds like a fascinating read to you, by all means request it through their site.

There are thousands of excellent games that not only teach various content areas, but also teach many of the same 21st Century skills that books teach – literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. However, there are certain skills that games can teach that books simply cannot. As I mentioned previously, books are static – games, however, are dynamic. Also, while reading/studying books tends to be a solitary activity (unless reading aloud), games are often very social activities. These differences allow for a greater range of skills to be taught – including skills such as collaboration, leadership, and communication. Playing games with people teaches you a lot about them – games allow people to function in a variety of situations that you otherwise might never see them in. Playing games with people also allows you to practice communication skills such as bluffing, persuasion, and public speaking in a safe, fun, no-pressure environment. While my list of game recommendations would be nearly endless, here is a great list of games to explore, sorted by the 21st Century skills they teach: http://www.mnu.edu/resources/center-for-games-and-learning/games-list.html.

Now, thus far, I’ve only discussed board/card games, or “analog” games – so, I want to briefly talk about digital ones. Within some circles, digital and video games are seen as wholly noneducational and not valuable to learning. Based on my own experience, as well as the experiences of countless other players and scholars of games, I have to argue the contrary. Video games can also be collaborative, but even independent digital games can teach a wide variety of similar skills to books and analog games, with the addition of computer literacy – a very important skill in this day and age. This isn’t to say I don’t recognize that there can be dangers to video games, especially when they are consumed in excess – but really, I think that’s true of just about anything. Just because something has the potential to be dangerous does not mean it doesn’t also have the potential to be beneficial – it just requires discernment.

Learning through digital media

There are many arguments against consuming digital media, and I definitely agree with some of them. Digital media can be harmful in early years, when every second spent learning basic skills matters – it is necessary for children to spend their time learning those skills that are crucial to their development. I am very thankful that I restricted my own consumption of digital media for much of my youth, because it allowed me to use that time for fostering other skills, such as music, writing, reading, and critical thinking.

However, there came a point in my life (around 17) where digital media was actually highly beneficial to me. This is because, just as there are skills best taught through books and games, there are skills best taught through television and films. Watching quality television stories (such as Doctor Who, in my case) helped me gain a confidence, charisma, and interpersonal competence that I was sorely lacking previously. There is something quite different about actually viewing other people within a story – their mannerisms, expressions, and personalities – as opposed to just reading about them. Both are important, but both have different benefits. I am very grateful that I engaged in limited digital media when I was young, but I am equally grateful that I started engaging in more digital media when I got older. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it.

Learning through conversation

If I had to choose one method of learning that I consider to be the most important, it would definitely be this one. While any method of learning can be social to an extent, reading a book aloud or playing a game is different from having an actual conversation.  Just as we can learn specific skills through books, through games, and through digital media, there are some that we can only learn through conversations with other people.

When I read a book, I *am* learning from material written by another person – but at that point, it is still a one-way discourse. By engaging in actual conversations with others about what we learn, we are able to learn the value of different perspectives and ways of thought besides our own. My own opinion on a book, or a philosophy, or a political issue will always differ from those of others. Engaging in meaningful, open, friendly dialogue with other people (both those who agree AND those who disagree with us) opens up the door to significant mutual learning. Everyone comes from a different background, and everyone has different learning experiences – so it only makes sense that we will learn much more when we share our unique perspectives with each other through conversation.

Learning through thought

Sometimes, the best way to learn is simply through solitary thought. Our entire life is a collection of learning moments – what we read, what we watch, what we listen to, what we experience, and the interactions we have with people. It’s important to give ourselves time to reflect on all of that, and to think about what we are learning. Learning is to some extent involuntary – and so it’s important to critically process it and recognize how every aspect of our life is impacting who we are as people. 

I could now get really into a conversation about cognition and metacognition, but my lunch break is now over, so I’ll save that for another time (breath your sighs of relief here).

In brief summation:

Learning is a part of everything that we do, and it’s essential to who we are as human beings. But learning is not limited to books, or to anything else. In order for us to be well-rounded human beings, it’s important to engage in a variety of learning methods, even the ones that don’t fit into our preferred learning styles. It’s also important to engage in conversations with others about what we learn, and to at least periodically think about the process of learning itself, so that we are aware of how we are learning and what we can do to learn better.

 

On Learning

Last month, I wrote a post for the One Year Adventure Novel blog entitled The Hidden Connection Between Fiction and Academic Writing. The post was specifically geared towards that community, so it discussed how writers can use the OYAN curriculum to improve their academic writing – but it also briefly discussed the idea of creativity in academia as a whole. In this blog post, I’m not going to get into everything I discussed there, but I do want to use it as a way of introducing some of what I want to say here. If you want to read the whole thing, go for it!

(Before proceeding, be warned: this is not going to be a polished, well-edited article. This is a stream of consciousness blog post, without editing – basically just my raw thoughts)

So in that OYAN blog post, I mentioned how most academic writers have a lot to learn from creative writers. Many skills learned in creative writing are directly transferable to scholarly writing and vice-versa, despite the widely held belief that they are two entirely different activities. (On that point, I’d make the argument that literally every skill and experience you have is transferable to everything else you do in some way, but that’s another blog post for another time)

While some ideas expressed in that previous post are related to what I want to discuss here, I now want to talk more broadly – about something I see as a problem in today’s education system as a whole: which is that it seems we have forgotten the whole point of learning. What do I mean by this? Let me begin with a quick scenario, using writing as an example:

A current undergraduate student is taking a general education “English 101” course – and so he has to write several academic essays on various topics that he cares nothing about and will never research again in his life. As a result, this student learns to hate research, to hate academic writing, and maybe even to hate education itself. Obviously, the professor’s goal for assigning these papers was for her students to become better writers and more adept researchers – but by structuring her assignments in the way she did, she completely missed the potential to allow her students to also learn more about personally interesting topics – and thus to enjoy learning.

Writing and finding quality information are both core 21st Century skills which are directly relevant to everyday life – so learning these skills is obviously important (I teach college-level information literacy myself, so I’m a big proponent of that) – but if students are being taught to write about subjects they care nothing about and to find information they will never use beyond their classes, then the entire purpose of learning has been forgotten. I believe much of this problem stems from the fact that today’s culture has tried to separate learning from enjoyment and make them into their own separate categories. This distinction informs how we separate knowledge from art, work from hobbies, and yes – scholarly writing from creative.

Looking at writing specifically: I do enjoy writing academic papers, but I enjoy writing them because I see them as an incredible opportunity to share things I am actually excited about with other people who are also excited about them. I enjoy academic writing because it presents the challenge of creatively crafting my ideas into the “academic structure” – which is really just the best format for those people to be able to access, read, and fully understand what I’m trying to say. I write academic papers for the same reason I post in ALL CAPS on Facebook after I find out who’s going to be the next Doctor on Doctor Who  – because I just learned something new, and I am really excited to share it with other people.  The academic structure does not exist just so that students and scholars have to adhere to it – it exists because it is one of the best ways for those people to easily process that information and those ideas. The entire academic system of articles, and journals, and databases is built to facilitate the sharing of knowledge between real people who are excited about what they are learning – but students and teachers alike seem to forget that.

Curiosity is a part of being human – we are all designed to want to learn things. We are also designed to communicate, and to create. Writing is a means by which to do both of those things – and different avenues of writing (fiction, scholarly articles, blog posts, etc.) are all just different ways to create for and communicate to different audiences. You may not ever need to write scholarly articles, if you are not writing for researchers and academics – but for me, academic writing is a wonderful way to creatively express my thoughts, ideas, and research with other people who will learn from and appreciate them. And then I can also read what those people are excited about and what they are learning. By writing for each other, we are not just learning in isolation – we are learning collaboratively – and I believe that is how we are meant to learn, because knowledge is meant to be shared.

So… why do we learn? What is the real point? We of course learn so that we know how to do things – like learning to drive a car, studying to get a degree, or memorizing a song so that we can sing it. In these situations, it’s often not the learning itself that drives us – it’s the goal that we really want, and learning is just how we get there. This is a good, healthy way to learn, because it teaches us the value of learning. But we also learn things simply because they are exciting to us. I don’t read a million articles about the musical Hamilton because I’m going to write a paper about its Broadway success (though that’d be fun), I read them simply because learning more about the musical excites and interests me. I don’t learn about Irish fairy-tales, or Disney movies, or penguins for any reason other than because I sincerely enjoy it.

We were made with the ability to learn. Learning is a beautiful gift that God gave us when He created us – and in the same way that we enjoy the sounds He created for us to listen to, and the color He created for us to see, and the food He created for us to taste, we are meant to sincerely enjoy the ability He gave us to learn.

By fully appreciating God’s gift of learning, and by using that gift to give back to others in our own creation, communication, and collaboration, we are also glorifying Him.

TL;DR: Learning is an awesome, wonderful gift from God – and we are meant to enjoy it!

 

 

 

A Penguin Post

I’m going to resume my library posts soon (probably this weekend), but before I do, I want to write a special post about something very dear to me…

As the title has already spoiled, that something is PENGUINS.

Before I continue, I will note that contrary to popular belief, penguins are NOT my favorite thing in the world (le gasp!). I actually prefer a vast number of things to penguins – such as C. S. Lewis, musicals, England, music, libraries… the list goes on. Penguins *are*, however, my favorite ANIMAL. And thus, they do deserve at least one blog post dedicated to their objective awesomeness.

If you are a neophyte penguin enthusiast, you may think of a certain species of penguins when you think “penguin”. The most popular, undoubtedly, is the majestic Emperor Penguin, pictured below:


As you can see here, penguins can be both majestic (adult Emperors) and adorable (baby Emperor).

However, in addition to the popular Emperor, there are also Rockhoppers, Macaronis, Chinstraps, Gentoos, Galapogos, Kings, Royals, Little Blues, my personal favorite the Adelie, and more – adding up to a grand total of 18 different species of penguins, as depicted below:

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Each type is beautiful in its own unique ways.

You probably know at least the basics about penguins from documentaries, zoos, and the like – and so in this post, I am going to share with you some specific penguin facts that I find interesting – and also a few important penguin GIFs.

Penguin Fun Facts:

  1. The first published account of penguins originates with Antonio Pigafetta. Pigafetta was aboard Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the earth in 1520 when he saw and wrote about penguins – though he originally thought them to be geese.
  2. The fastest species of penguin is the Gentoo Penguin – it can reach swimming speeds of up to 22 mph.
  3. The Linux mascot, Tux, is a penguin. Penguins are cool. Thus: Linux is cool.
  4. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species of penguin, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest species of penguin is the Little Blue, which is only about 16 inches.
  5. Pittsburgh’s hockey team name is “the Penguins” – and thus, I support them and collect Pittsburgh Penguins merchandise.
  6. While most people associate penguins with Antarctica, they are actually much more widespread. In addition to Antarctica, Penguin populations can be found in South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and many small islands in the southern Pacific Ocean.
  7. The name “penguin” comes from Welsh terms –  ‘pen’, meaning head, and ‘gwyn’, meaning white.

Quality Resources to Learn More About Penguins

Here are some excellent books to read if you want to learn more about penguins. I own several of these, and I have read all of them (except the coloring book… but I included that here just for fun. I do want one).

  1. Penguins: The Ultimate Guide
  2. Penguinpedia
  3. The Penguin Lessons
  4. Penguin Coloring Book For Adults
  5. Penguins of the World

Notable Penguins in Fiction

Clearly, penguins need more representation in literature, film, and other mediums. Maybe I’ll write my own penguin story someday. But for now, here are three of my very favorite penguins in fiction:

  1. Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel, and Kevin, 3-2-1 Penguins
  2. Captain Cook and Greta, Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  3. Frobisher, Doctor Who Big Finish audio dramas

My Top 5 Favorite Penguin GIFs:

And finally, here are five essential penguin GIFs. Enjoy.

  1. Penguin GIF 1
  2. Penguin GIF 2
  3. Penguin GIF 3
  4. Penguin GIF 4
  5. Penguin GIF 5

In summary: Penguins are fascinating animals, for many reasons. While I have numerous interests that far surpass that of penguins, they are still easily my favorite animal.

Penguins are decidedly cool – and not just because many of them live in Antarctica.

Response to “Why We Need Flawed Characters”

I read this article posted by Relevant Magazine early today entitled “Why We Need Flawed Characters”… and it triggered some thoughts of my own. This post is not meant to demean the writer of this article, and it is not meant as an argument against anyone who agrees with this article. These are just my personal thoughts on the subject, which I realized deserved a blog post as I tried unsuccessfully to limit my words for an acceptably long Facebook response.

To start, I will state that I do think there are some excellent points in this article. It’s important to have characters we can relate to. Often, characters who come across as overly perfect and self righteous are unbearably annoying to me – especially when they are poorly written and seem to have no flaws.  However, I overall disagree with the primary arguments of this article – because while I do believe that relatable characters are important, I also believe that heroes should be virtuous.

When I read and watch fiction, the characters that truly inspire me are the ones who are good, noble, selfless, and just. Of course these characters still make mistakes, but their virtuous natures inspire me and make me want to be like them. Honestly, I care a lot more about Captain America and Superman than I do about Deadpool, Wolverine, Star Lord, Arrow, or Batman. Superman’s optimism and selflessness inspire me, because I value those traits and strive after those traits in my own life. While the others may have noble intentions, and while it’s true that I can relate to them at times, I never want to be like them. Yes, they are interesting characters – but they are not true heroes to me.

From what I have seen of Marvel’s Daredevil, I do very much like the protagonist, and I do view him as a hero. But it’s not his flaws that make him admirable or inspiring to me. I love his pursuit of justice, his selflessness, his love for people – and I love him for his resilience. Yes, he stumbles and he makes mistakes, but every time he gets back up again and strives to do better. If Daredevil did what this article suggests we do – simply embrace our messed up natures – I would not admire him in the same way.

“The heroes adored by modern society are not beacons of moral self-righteousness who stand on unattainable peaks of principles and practices.”

I think the article is on point here. But I think that this says more about modern society than it says about the types of characters we should see as heroes. I do not believe that the values and principles of characters like Superman should be seen as unattainable. I believe that we should be striving to emulate an even higher standard of righteousness – that of Jesus. It’s true that we will never achieve that perfection on our own – and yet, He does instruct us to be like Him.
“Superman was a beacon of light. He represented a world in which right and wrong were simple, straightforward concepts. There were no gray areas.”

As Christians, isn’t this exactly what we believe? That right and wrong are simple, straightforward concepts and that there are no gray areas? God has told us in his Word what is right and what is wrong. It’s clearcut. This does not mean it is easy to choose right over wrong, but it does mean that “gray areas” have nothing to do with our failure to follow Him. When we sin, it is because we have made the choice to do so. When we choose to reject Christ, it is because we have decided that it is, as C. S. Lewis puts it, “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” (The Great Divorce). We know the difference between right and wrong, and we know the consequences of rejecting Christ.

“We continue to focus on keeping the rules, despite the fact that Jesus stood against ritualistic rule-keeping. We see the same trends throughout the history. Priests set themselves apart through rituals and practices too complex and time-consuming to be kept by anyone else. We make up similar rules today.”

I understand what the author is trying to say here, and I agree to an extent. Jesus focused on relationship, not on rules. And yet, He has given us rules and commandments, which He expects us to follow. He has every right and authority to give us those rules – and we have every reason to obey the One who is wholly good and sacrificed everything for us. Jesus emphasized the importance of relationships over rules, but he also says that we are supposed to be in the world and not of the world. We are meant to be holy (set apart) as He is holy – and while I do agree with the author that this primarily means loving people (the first commandment), it does also mean following God’s other commandments. Which means that we do have to acknowledge that “worldly behavior” is not okay – even if this alienates us from the world and makes us unpopular. Jesus had no trouble proclaiming good as good and evil as evil – no matter how unpopular that made Him – and neither should we.

“We don’t want leaders to order us around. We want leaders we can relate to.”

Again, this is true to an extant. A good leader does not merely give orders and expect people to follow him. A good leader serves, sacrifices for, and loves those he leads. But a good leader also has the responsibility to be an example to his followers – and this does mean living according to higher standards. I don’t look to flawed leaders who are like me to be my guides. I look to leaders I admire, respect, and want to be like – even if I am not yet.

The ending of the article is my favorite part:

“We don’t have to put on the mask anymore. We don’t have to pretend to be perfect, like we don’t have problems, like things don’t hurt us, like we always know the right answer. We aren’t Superman. We aren’t bulletproof or sin-proof.”

This is all true. We are not Superman. We are not perfect, but Jesus is – and when I choose my heroes, I do so by recognizing Jesus in them. I am sinful, I am flawed, and I have problems – but I desperately want to be more like Christ. And so it is His ideals – goodness, truth, and righteousness – that make me see someone as a leader and a hero.

We should constantly be striving to be pure, noble, honest, selfless, and good. We cannot be any of those things on our own – but we can through Jesus Christ. Jesus is all of those things, and perfectly so. He is my ultimate role-model, my ultimate leader, and my ultimate hero. And while other people and fictional characters I look up to are of course nowhere near Him in terms of perfection, it is ultimately because I see His goodness, love, and purity in them that I admire them and want to be like them in the first place.

We are all flawed. But it’s not a hero’s flaws that make me admire and respect him and want to be like him – rather, it’s the reflection of Christ’s goodness in him. As Christians, we have Christ living within us – and it is only because of this that we can be servant leaders and ordinary heroes in Him. Perhaps our modern society only embraces heroes who are flawed, broken, troubled, and tortured – but in all honesty, I still see purity, truth, selflessness, and righteousness as the qualities of a true hero. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned.