How To Pastor Or Befriend Those With The Artistic Temperament

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications,Music Business,Worship Leading

Moody Sky photo, a metaphor for the artistic temperamentAt my church Sojourn, we use a tool called an Enneagram to help staff members and pastors understand ourselves and our peers. Church planters within Sojourn Network also undergo Enneagram assessment through CrossPoint Ministry. An Enneagram is a tool (like Meyers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder) which gives insight into an individuals personality.

The Enneagram discovers both the strengths and weaknesses of your personality, and identifies nine basic personality types. When staff members first took the assessment test in 2010, we quickly discovered that staffers in the arts (predominantly Sojourn Music and Visual Arts) generally scored highest in  “The Originalists,” or “Romantics” area … the artistic personality.

This came as no surprise to any of us, just as it came as no surprise to find our Executive Pastor fit the “Effective/Achiever” temperament.

So what did we learn about each other, and what can you learn about how to befriend, pastor, mentor or live as a spouse with a Romantic/Originalist/Artist?

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: General Characteristics:

We’re creative and sensitive, with a strong sense of beauty and an intuitive grasp of moods and feelings.

We’re expressive, not just in our chosen field of art but often in our choice of clothing, hairstyle, home decor and other corners of life. Most of us are intensely aware of our weaknesses, even if we don’t admit them. We want to do things our way, and we deeply desire to be treated as one of a kind, special. We may try to hold our “suffering” as a badge of honor, because if we can’t feel special for our accomplishments, then we can feel special in our suffering, in feeling misunderstood, in melancholia.

We have intense longings. We can overreact to present conditions, even as we have trouble “living in the moment” rather than an idealized past or a preferred future. We may be melancholy or high strung, but we’re dramatic either way. At our worst, we hold long grudges, and nurse old wounds, because our “deadly sin” is envy. We don’t like it when another artist is doing better than we are, which is unfortunate because there is always someone else doing better. Even artists who become “legends” feel inadequate or mistreated in the presence of a new “chart topping sensation.”

The underlying harmful emotion for this artistic temperament is a feeling of shame. It goes beyond “My work isn’t good enough” to “I’m not good enough.” This is exacerbated by the pervasive attitude among even Christian artists that “I am my art.” When we wrap our whole sense of being in something we create (our art) rather than something God created (us), then we set ourselves up for failure and grief.

The Cure For A Sense Of Shame: The Doctrine of Adoption

In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines adoption as “an act of God whereby he makes us members of his family” (p. 736). We who believe in Christ are now children of God, joint-heirs with Christ of God’s Kingdom. This goes much deeper than what we do; this is who we are. When another artist feels shame (“I am worthless”) we must say “No, you’re a child of God.” Whatever the merits of an artist’s work, this work is just what they do, not who they are.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:14-17

This is a foundational truth that the artist must understand. Once this understanding is in place, we can look at other concepts and strategies that artists can use to help themselves, as well as strategies that pastors, spouses and all fellow believers can use to help artists overcome sinful tendencies and their underlying struggles with envy and feelings of inferiority:

The Artistic Temperament Needs:

  • To continuously meditate on doctrine of adoption, to counter our underlying sense of shame and worthlessness.
  • To realize we don’t have to “be unique” because we are unique in Christ.
  • To know that Christ has planned what is truly good for us (Romans 8:28). We are not missing out on anything, regardless of what is happening in the lives of others.
  • To embrace the presence of God in the “here and now,” and to cultivate wonder for simple things — even a cup of coffee that is not “the best.”
  • To stay grounded by engaging in ordinary disciplines such as fellowship with “non-artists,” service to the poor and picking up litter.
  • To understand that on top of the soul-killing, destructive nature of envy, being envious of other artists will ironically hurt your artistry, stifle your creativity and cripple your productivity.

How Others Can Be A Blessing To Artists

  • Express appreciation for their creativity and their passions, and encourage their creative self-expression.
  • At the same time, express appreciation for the person, apart from his or her art.
  • Acknowledge obvious feelings and mood swings, even to the point of verbalizing how your friend’s mood affects you.
  • Criticize carefully and constructively, knowing that careless criticism will activate the artist’s feelings of shame.
  • Provide whatever level of independence you can realistically provide, in your situation.
  • Stand your ground rather than being steamrolled by the artist’s moods. Help the artist see other perspectives.
  • Don’t offer platitudes or “quick fixes” for their pain — they will feel that you’re being dismissive.

Moody Sky photo from Flickr, used via Creative Commons license


Peter July 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Bobby, this was a good read. Have you guys at sojourn gotten into tritypes at all? It’s where you take the highest scores from each center and put them in descending order:
Head Center – intellectual (5,6,7)
Heart Center – emotional (2,3,4)
Gut Center – instinctual (8,9,1)
If your dominant one is 4, then your heart dominant. Take your highest score then from the Head & then Gut center. Arrange them in order of dominant to least dominant.
Ex. My dominant is 7 (enthusiast), then 8 (challenger), then 4 (individualist/originalist), so my tritype would be 784 (as opposed to 748, 487, 478, etc…). Some have recently written about these archetypes (just the combination of numbers, not necessarily the order)… here’s a wiki page about it

Bobby Gilles July 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Yeah, we studied the tritypes too (our workbook called the triads). It’s fascinating!

Sarah Danaher July 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Spot-on. I’m a full-time wedding photographer, and deeply resonate with all of this.

Bobby Gilles July 31, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I’m glad it was helpful, Sarah!

fmckinnon July 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Great stuff as always, Bobby. We did StrengthFinders recently, and it’s so funny, and amuses me still because I’m an artist (musically/composition, etc), yet, are very heavy in the achiever/activator type execution strengths. Go figure.

Bobby Gilles July 31, 2012 at 6:35 pm

We did StrengthsFinder too, back in 2009. It was another good way to learn about ourselves as well as our fellow staff members.

fmckinnon July 31, 2012 at 11:15 pm

What were your strengths? Mine were:
Communication, Woo, Achiever, Activator, Maximizer

Bobby Gilles August 1, 2012 at 11:40 am

Mine were Maximizor, Relator, Individualization, Belief and Discipline.

Peter August 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm

StrengthsFinder is helpful too… I think especially in understanding how passions can pull us in different directions. I did a free one online before it was taken down, but it gave me six instead of five haha.
The results are: Developer, Restorative, Futuristic, Ideation, Communication, and Woo
Which is funny… I see how these line up pretty well with my Enneagram results, as well as Myers Briggs: ENTP

Have you guys done Myers Briggs as well? If so, what have you found most helpful for your team? Enneagram, StengthsFinder, or MBTI?

Kat French July 31, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Another Original/Romantic/Artist here. 🙂 I wanted to add to your excellent post that the virtue that this type most needs to cultivate as a prescriptive for envy is equanimity, which is what Paul is talking about when he says he has “learned the secret of being satisfied in all circumstances.” Gospel contentment might be a little more accessible term.

Hadn’t ever thought about the doctrine of adoption as a good way to address shame; but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for that, brother.

Also, prayers of thanksgiving are nicely prescriptive for the type, although it’s hard for us to do without feeling like a fake. Prayers of lament come a lot more naturally. Cain’t nobody lament like a “tortured artist.” 😉

Bobby Gilles August 1, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thanks for your suggestions, Kat! Contentment is hard but necessary — and the only way to likely achieve it is to experience the shift of paradigms that faith in the gospel brings.

Bobby Gilles August 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm

We found the Enneagram most helpful but StrengthsFinder was definitely worthwhile as well.

We haven’t done Myers Briggs as a staff, but somewhere around 2005-2006 several members of the worship team worked through the Myers Briggs stuff together. I found that fascinating as well. I’ve taken it twice, once scoring INFJ and once ENFJ. I’m pretty close to 50/50 on the introvert/extrovert divide.

I think I’m a true introvert who often operates as a functioning extrovert.

Peter August 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm

The US is predominantly values extraversion (though interestingly enough introverts outnumber extraverts), so if you’re close to the 50/50 line, you’re most likely an introvert who adapts haha. I’ve read up a ton on these tests and have found Myers Briggs as the most helpful paradigm… that’s really all they are. I dislike the notion that they put people in a box – I think if anything, they provide a language in understanding others and helping others understand how we perceive the world & why we do what we do. It’s not gospel, though I have at times seen my tendency to treat it as such. I recently wrote a blogpost about this…

P.S. the most helpful question I’ve found in determining Introvert vs. Extravert is this: do you generally recharge through time alone or time with others? Another way to say it is this: do you need time alone so you can be with others, or do you need time with others so you can be alone?

Bobby Gilles August 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Yeah, that’s a good question. I definitely recharge through time alone, which is why I say I’m an introvert even though I straddle the line.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: