Charity is one of those subjects that people often have a visceral reaction to, whether arguing that those who will not donate to a person, an organization, or a cause are heartless skinflints, or conversely, that those who do donate are indulging in a futile – or even harmful – exercise that serves only to make the giver feel better about him or herself. Either way, our attitudes on charity may point to more than just an incidental disagreement on a social issue; in fact, our differing philosophies may indicate a fundamental split in the way we perceive the world.
We asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “You rarely give to charity,” and while there was negligible difference when it came to certain personality traits (Intuitive and Observant personalities alike being almost equally unlikely to agree, for example), a rather disparity was revealed in others. Namely, Introverts were less “charitable” than Extraverts, with 44.12% of the former rarely giving vs. 34.33% of the latter. But the biggest gap, as one might expect, was between Thinking and Feeling personality types (51.62% agreeing with the statement as opposed to 33.12%).
Because Thinking and Feeling as well as Introversion and Extraversion traits influence both personality roles and personality strategies, let’s take a better look at each group and discuss how they approach the act of giving.
Of the four roles, Analysts were the only group with a majority of respondents who rarely give to charity (53.37% agreeing). Ruled by logic, Analysts may be seen by more Feeling-oriented types as being hard-hearted, but it is not a simple matter of miserliness that necessarily prevents them from giving. Rather, these personality types may have decided that, although they would like to help others, charity is not the best, most efficient method of doing so – teaching someone to fish instead of giving someone a fish, to use one classic example.
Diplomats and Sentinels were virtually tied in their responses (with only 34.55% and 34.98% of each group, respectively, agreeing with the statement). However, while the charitable nature of Diplomats may be explained by their warm, open, empathetic personality type, Sentinels are equally giving, but perhaps for very different reasons. Where Diplomats may be the type that is most likely to give simply because “their heart goes out” to another, Sentinels may be more likely to set aside a pre-determined portion of their finances for charitable causes, seeing them as a vital part of the social fabric that they believe in above all else.
Explorers share the Analysts’ reliance on utilitarian pragmatism, and though the majority do not feel that they “rarely” give to charity, a significant minority of 42.71% agreed with the statement. This places Explorers right between the Analysts on one side of the spectrum and Diplomats / Sentinels on the other. These personality types may not formally set aside a percentage of income for charitable purposes, but they are not unwilling to drop a few coins or bills when the mood strikes.
It is also important to note that the presence of both Thinking and Feeling types within Sentinel and Explorer groups leads to a certain tug-of-war within these roles, perhaps between those who see charity from an individualist viewpoint (everyone for him or herself) and those who see charity on a case-by-case basis. While it is convenient to look at the averages, scores for individual personality types reveal that Sentinels and Explorers are far from being united in their attitudes.
For instance, while Turbulent Logisticians (ISTJ-T) and Assertive Consuls (ESFJ-A) have many things in common, charitable nature is not one of them. 52.48% of respondents belonging to the former personality type agreed with the statement, surpassing half of Analyst types – compare that to 21.77% of Assertive Consuls sharing the same view. Similar >20% gaps are visible in the Explorer group as well. It is then entirely possible that, for example, an otherwise fairly united Sentinel family may have some feisty disagreements around the dinner table when discussing charity.
Of the four strategies, both personality types identifying with Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement were equally unlikely to give (44.29% and 44.04% agreeing with the statement “You rarely give to charity”). In the case of Confident Individualists, it may be the case that the strong belief in personal responsibility and self-reliance makes charity a disagreeable proposition. Constant Improvement types, driven perfectionists, may share this antipathy to an act that could be perceived as robbing another of agency and self-determination.
Personality types falling under the Social Engagement strategy, on the other hand, despite their own hardworking, perfectionist tendencies, are more likely to give than the previously mentioned groups (only 36.87% agreeing). This increased giving may be due to a more sensitive nature, although a (perhaps more cynical) take might be that charity is undertaken as much for status reasons as for personal ones: personalities that embrace this strategy are more likely to be attracted to visible shows of charity, such as a high profile fundraiser, than to unheralded private donations.
Finally, we have the People Mastery types, a minority (31.96%) of whom agreed that they rarely give to charity. Again, the greater incidence of giving among these personalities may be due to their willingness to take part in social functions and interactions that are charity-based. The possibility also exists that types falling under the People Mastery strategy are simply more “charitable” because they have more opportunities to be so, as well as to see the effects of charity on other people first-hand.
Some final words
Although it can be easy to boil charity down to being simply a matter of “bleeding hearts” vs. “hearts of stone” (and there does appear to be some correlation between the third, Nature trait and charity), the truth is that charity is a complex, deeply nuanced subject, much like personality itself. We give for countless reasons, not all of which are entirely altruistic (to help others, to feel better about ourselves, to increase our social standing), and we have a number of valid reasons for not giving, as well. Charity in itself may not be as revealing as we imagine; context, as with all things, is critical.