Happiness in our relationships are greatly dependent on how well each of us understands each others temperament and how willing we are to meet each others temperament needs. By understanding why you are the way you are, and why most everyone is so different, you can fully grow to be the person God created you to be.
Temperament is a noun and is defined as:
- the combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person; natural predisposition.
- unusual personal attitude or nature as manifested by peculiarities of feeling, temper, action, etc., often with a disinclination to submit to conventional rules or restraints.
- (old physiology) the combination of the four cardinal humors, the relative proportions of which were supposed to determine physical and mental constitution.
The way a man perceives himself, his world and God will determine how he will behave. These perceptions are founded in the temperament. Therefore, on the basis of this premises, the temperament is the determining factor of what we are, but our environment and our relationship with God determine what we will become.
“For you have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book, they are all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16
There are three building blocks of human behavior:
1. God-created (Inborn)
2. Man/Environment Affected (Character-Learned Behavior)
3. Self-selected (Personality – Mask)
The “Inborn God-created Building Block” is called Temperament. When we are conceived, our unique temperament is placed within us by the order of God just the same way as our genetic code. Our temperament determines how much love, affection, control and ‘people’ we need.
The second building block for understanding human behavior is that we are man/environment affected. This is called our character. In the womb, then after birth, we begin interacting with our environment and our environment interacts with us. The environment is everything that is tangible; what we see, hear, smell, feel, and learn. These perceptions are forever locked into our brain and they slowly but steadily mold and alter our temperament (externally only as the built-in temperament remains the same), thereby forming our Character. In a mathematical formula we can state: Temperament X Environment = Character.
The third building block is “Self-selection”. This is called our Personality, and is expressed in the way we perceive how we must behave to survive in the world in which we live. This may or may not be part of our Temperament or Character depending on how we chose to meet our temperament needs. The one major problem with personality is that it is a mask that a person wears for the world. Hence, as it is with any mask, it cannot be worn for too long. Eventually, a person’s actions and reactions revert back to temperament and character. This explains why a person acts differently at home than they do in public.
In Mathew 11:29, Christ states, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me”. Yokes are used to steer the beast in the right direction, help the animal to work longer, more efficiently by tiring less under heavy burdens. They are measured and padded appropriately and made well-fitting. When Christ states “my yoke is easy”, He means that His yoke is ‘perfectly fitting’. Christ calls a person to the right position ordained by God and takes into account the person’s physical capabilities, spiritual maturity, and emotional makeup. Temperament is the missing link in this balance. The importance of studying the temperament is hence extremely crucial in helping the individual function better in life. Temperament deals mainly with three aspects of a person’s life, namely Inclusion – the intellect, Control – the will power and Affection – the emotions. Inclusion is the need to establish and maintain a satisfactory surface relationship with people through association and socialization whereas control is achieving the same through power, and affection is establishing a deep relationship of love. Inclusion determines who is in our relationship and whether we relate better to tasks or to people. Control determines who maintains the power and how well we make decisions. Affection determines the closeness of the relationship and how many emotions we share. The expressed and responsive needs in these three areas determine the inborn temperament of a person.
The Five Temperaments
There is no “right” or “wrong” temperament. There is simply the one God gave you, inherently good, but marred by original sin. Identifying the temperament helps one to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. One’s temperament is a gift from God, an important aspect of our human nature that brings with it certain strengths as well as weaknesses. It is important to know oneself so that one does not go through life reacting instinctively, but rather acting with wisdom and fortitude. When we begin to understand our temperament, we can identify our natural tendencies and use this as a springboard for growth. As Christ pointed out in Luke 14:28-33, who would build a tower without first calculating the cost? What king would go into battle without first taking an inventory of his troops? Understanding our temperament is like taking a personal inventory of our natural strengths and weaknesses, so that we can “calculate the cost”: what virtues do I need to grow in and what skills do I need to develop to become a more happy and holy Christ-centered person?
There are four temperaments which were originally proposed by Hippocrates (the “father of medical science”), 350 years before the birth of Christ, to explain differences in personalities, based on the predominant bodily fluid—hence the rather unappealing names: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Melancholic. Even today these same terms are used to describe temperament, by which we mean an individual’s tendency to react in a certain way throughout their life, forming an identifiable pattern. For example, the choleric tends to react quickly and intensely, and to take action immediately and decisively. The sanguine is your classic “people person,” known for their warmth, enthusiasm, and cheerful optimism. The melancholic is deeply thoughtful and analytic, slow to respond, skeptical, sensitive, and idealistic. The phlegmatic is usually a “peace-maker” — slow to react, calm, cooperative, and reserved. Also, the “sanguine” temperament was thought to be eager and optimistic; the “melancholic” reticent and somewhat doleful; the “choleric” passionate; and the “phlegmatic” calm.
The National Christian Counseling Association has developed a fifth temperament called ‘Supine’. The supine is labeled as a ‘bowing temperament’. They see everyone else as valuable and themselves as worthless. They look at themselves as being placed on earth to serve others. They have a great capacity for service, liking people and have a gentle spirit. However, they also have a high fear of rejection, expect others to read their mind and have a lot of ‘hurt feelings’
Hippocrates used the following body fluids to describe the four original temperaments:
Choleric: Yellow bile from the liver
Sanguine: Blood from the heart
Melancholic: Black bile from the kidneys
Phlegmatic: Phlegm from the lungs
Although the concept of the four types had been around since the early Greeks, the use of the word “temperament” (from the Latin temperamentum, or “mixture”) first came into use in the seventeenth century. In the history of the Church, the concept of temperament was long used as a means to aid spiritual development through growth in self-knowledge. Understanding one’s self required understanding the whole person — his emotions and passions, natural tendencies and reactions — as well as his virtues and spiritual gifts. Spiritual directors have long understood that one would be better able to identify not only one’s natural virtues, but also those virtues which may be more difficult to attain and the areas in which one would be tempted to vice, depending upon one’s God-given temperament.
In the 1920’s Swiss psychologist Carl Jung advanced the theory that different personality types approached the outside world in distinct manners, and could be clearly categorized accordingly. Isabel Briggs Myers (1897-1979) spent forty years refining the Jungian typology into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, with its sixteen different types of personality. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is considered to be one of the most widely used personality inventories available, and has achieved great popular success. Curiously enough, from Hippocrates to Isabel Briggs Myers, and even up until today, the concept of four basic temperaments underlying more complex personality theories has remained virtually unchanged! David Keirsey, Ph.D. author of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter avows that 2,000 years of consistency in terms of temperament distinctions is no accident. These distinctions “reflect a fundamental pattern in the warp and woof of the fabric of human nature”.
Each one of us is uniquely and predominantly one of the temperaments or a blending of them — choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, sanguine, and supine. After more than 2,000 years of intervening medical and psychological advancement, the concept of temperament itself — and in particular the classic four divisions — is still referenced by contemporary psychologists, educators, and spiritual writers. Today, Christians all over the world are re-discovering the value and wisdom of this most ancient tool for understanding ourselves and others.
Temperaments and the Gospels
Many of us have a favorite Gospel writer, wouldn’t it be interesting if that Gospel is the one that relates most closely to our own temperament? In fact, many Christian writers have speculated about the temperaments of the Gospel writers, as each seem to reflect a unique, and slightly different, perspective. To the extent that each of the Gospels offers a slightly different perspective on the Paschal mystery, it may be possible to characterize each one’s “temperament”.
Matthew demonstrates definitively that Christ is the Messiah, the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament and emphasizes the Kingdom of God. Luke highlights Jesus’ relationship with the Father, especially through prayer, as well as the poor, women, the lowly and the suppressed. Mark is the least “scholarly” and tells a straightforward fast-paced story; he shows Christ’s urgency and his conquering action. John is the most mystical, poetic, and theoretical of all the four. To hazard a guess, we would propose that Matthew is choleric, Luke the relationship-oriented sanguine, Mark the straight story, simple and unadorned (phlegmatic), and John (the truth will set you free; the only Gospel where Christ carries the cross alone, the most poetic and mystical of all four gospels) –idealistic, melancholic.
Temperaments Characteristics and Some Examples
Choleric – Ignatius of Loyola, John Bosco, Rush Limbaugh, George Patton, Margaret Thatcher, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates
If you are a choleric, you are a dynamic, self-motivated leader who can set your sights on a target and relentlessly pursue it until success is achieved. You are a strong-willed individual who makes decisions quickly and decisively, and who readily and easily grasps difficult concepts and strategies. Learning comes quickly to you, and you like to take action immediately. You think logically and pragmatically, and are sometimes accused of “rolling over” people once you have set a plan in motion. You do not readily reveal deep emotions — except anger. Choleric’s are often accused of being stubborn, domineering, and dictatorial. You demand loyalty from your friends, and thrive when you are in control. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a choleric president: “There is nothing I love as much as a good fight,” he famously said.
Strengths and natural virtues: Active, assertive, bold, brave, capable, compelling, confident, competitive, determined, decisive, driving, dynamic, effective, energetic, enterprising, focused, forceful, goal-oriented, independent, opinionated, passionate, persevering, positive, pragmatic, productive, purposeful, quick, resolute, self-motivated, sharp, strong-willed, vigorous, zealous
Weaknesses and natural vices: Aggressive, ambitious, angry, antagonistic, argumentative, bossy, combative, defiant, dismissive, domineering, harsh, impatient, intolerant, oppositional, prideful, pushy, relentless, shrewd, stubborn, unempathic, unsympathetic
Sanguine – Peter (Sanguine-Choleric), Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Magic Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, Tiger woods.
If you are a sanguine, then you are most likely the life of the party. You are funny and relish the limelight. You are affectionate, enjoy social activities, and make friends easily. You are imaginative and creative, and are often the one who enthusiastically promotes new ideas on the job. People call you vivacious, generous, and light-hearted. You wear your emotions on your sleeve, but you are always quick to “forgive and forget.” You probably struggle with follow-through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful. As quickly as you discover a new hobby or pursuit, you can also lose interest,
hen it ceases to be engaging or fun.
Strengths and natural virtues: Active, affectionate, affable, animated, ardent, carefree, compassionate, cheerful, creative, docile, eager, enthusiastic, entertainer, expressive, generous, fashionable, flexible, forgiving, funny, fun-loving, high-spirited, imaginative, joyful, light-hearted, lively, open, optimistic, outgoing, popular, responsive, resilient, sensitivity, sparkling, spontaneous, story-teller, vivacious, warm-hearted
Weaknesses and natural vices: Attention-seeking, changeable, chatty, distractible, disorganized, emotional, tendency to exaggerate, faddish, fickle, flighty, frivolous, forgetful, gossipy, inconstancy, insincere, lacking depth, scattered, sensuality, smart-alecky, superficial, prone to vanity, undisciplined
Phlegmatic – St. Thomas Aquinas, Calvin Coolidge, Tim Duncan, Sandy Koufax, Ian Crocker, Keanu Reeves
If you are a phlegmatic, you most likely possess a dry wit and a steady, amicable demeanor. You are dependable, polite, and even-tempered. You feel more comfortable in a small group of friends or even spending a quiet evening relaxing at home. You are never flashy, belligerent, or self-aggrandizing. You would rather take the blame (even unjustly) than stir up controversy or pick a fight. On the job, you seek neither power nor the limelight, but work steadily, patiently, and methodically. You are reliable, patient, and methodical on the job, and can work alone, or with the most difficult of personalities. You will prefer job security, working within a structured organization, but can also be a leader of great character and service. Former U.S. president Calvin Coolidge, for example, was known for being a man of few words, conservatism in maintaining the status-quo, and a propensity for “effectively doing nothing.” Once at a dinner party, a young woman bet him that she could make him say three words. Coolidge dryly replied, “You lose”.
Strengths and natural virtues: Amiable, calm, collected, composed, conservative, cool-headed, cooperative, courteous, constant, content, deliberate, dependable, diplomatic, dry, easy-going, efficient, even-tempered, fair, friendly, gentle, good-humored, kind, level-headed, meek, mellow, mild, modest, neutral, peaceful, philosophical, polite, quiet, relaxed, reliable, self-controlled, self-possessed, serene, sincere, sober, stable, steady, sympathetic, tactful, traditional, understanding, undisturbed, unflappable, untroubled, without hostility
Weaknesses and natural vices: Apathetic, boring, distant, indecisive, indifferent, impassive, inattentive, lackadaisical, listless, lukewarm, obtuse, passionless, procrastinating, sluggish, slow, simple, spiritless, unconcerned, unenthusiastic, un-opinionated, unmotivated, unresponsive, languid, content with status-quo, lack of aspirations
Melancholic – St. John (the beloved), John Henry Newman.
Time alone is vital for this reflective, introspective temperament. A perfectionist at home and on the job, the melancholic is likely the one with the perfectly organized closet and kitchen, the tidy desk-top, and the painstaking attention to religious observances, sometimes to the point of scrupulosity. Melancholic longs for a deep soul mate, yet when he is around people, he often finds himself mistrustful and disappointed. Sensing this criticism, others will keep their distance, thus further entrenching the melancholic in his solitary life. In relationships, the melancholic tends to be slow to initiate, cautious, hyper-critical, and pessimistic–yet, once committed, they are unwaveringly loyal and self-sacrificing.
Strengths and natural virtues: Analytical, artistic, careful, cautious, choosy, conscientious, deliberate, delicate, discreet, detailed, elegant, exacting, guarded, idealistic, introspective, judicious, lover of truth and beauty, meticulous noble, orderly, painstaking, particular, quietly passionate, persevering planned, pondering precise, prudent reasoned, reflective, religious, reserved, restrained, romantic, shy, serious, sensitive, studious, thorough, thoughtful
Weaknesses: Aloof, apprehensive, brooding, cool, critical, demanding, distrusting, envious, fearful, grudge-bearing, haughty, hypochondria, highbrow, jealous, judgmental, nitpicking, perfectionist, pessimistic, reluctant, scrupulous, self-righteous, skeptical, snooty, standoffish, strict, superior, suspicious, timid, uncommunicative, unsocial, undemonstrative, wary.
Supine – Martha of Bethany
The supine wants the same as a sanguine but does not express the needs. They in turn look and act as a melancholy. The supine becomes his or her own worst enemy because of this indirect behavior. They carry an unspoken sign declaring “I do not want’ when in fact they want and need very much.
Strengths and Virtues: Servitude, people friendly, gentle spirit, hard working, taking on numerous tasks at one time, obedient, enforcing, dependable, loyal, committed.
Weaknesses: Fearful, easily offended, indecisive, hypersensitive, born victim attitude, fearful of rejection, harbors anger, inability initiate love and affection, weak willpower, openly dependent.
Temperament and the Kingdom of God
God has placed unique gifts and talents in every individual who is a member of the body of Christ. Every church is expected to operate the five fold ministries of an Evangelist, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher and Apostles. The different temperaments that each member of the body of Christ has can be utilized effectively for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. The world’s best evangelist and preachers are Sanguine. The charming, inspiring, personable individuals are able to instill the gospel of love in the hearts of people very effectively. The optimism, upbeat nature, and fiery and emotional words can bring thousands of people to the saving grace of Christ. The sanguine is already on the go to focus on other people. However, the baby Christians need a patient mentor to bring them to maturity. The self-sacrificing Melancholy takes the scene as a patient, intellectual is there to answer questions and to teach. As these Christians grow in the Lord, the needs increase. Building a church, raising funds for the same and establishing up a ministry are some of them. Who else but a Choleric will be able to do it in such a methodical way! Who else can place the new ‘mature Christian’ in a position that is a perfect fit for them? Now the question arises as to who will keep the financial records, process the data, handle the mails and other jobs that require precision and accuracy. Of course it is the Phlegmatic. The Kingdom of God needs some people with a limitless service capacity. The Supine’s position cannot be filled by anyone else.
Completion of the Building Blocks
The Temperament of a person is in them at birth. It can never be changed or transformed. Hence, we must realize that it is not up to us to change it, but to help find ways to live within the temperament and fulfill our God given life.
All temperaments come from God but each has strengths and weaknesses. The key is to find out what temperament you were born with, and keep it in balance by meeting your temperament needs. When you do this, many conflicts that you may be having with your spouse, your children, or others can be resolved.
It is important that you find out the temperament of those that you interact with. When you do, you can compromise and meet each other half way.
Many of your problems, or the problems of others that you are interacting with or know, are probably being caused by trying to meet a temperament need in an ungodly way. Unmet needs become weaknesses.
When you find out what your temperament is and you understand your temperament, you will have the correct knowledge to find balance in your life and in the lives of your significant others. You are given the ability to find balance between body, soul and spirit, which allows you to become the best that you can be, and thereby find peace in your circumstances.
An oak is an oak tree, and an apple is an apple tree. We do not criticize the oak because it is not an apple, or the apple because it is not an oak. We only see the beauty of the two different creations of God and accept their individual places in the scheme of creation. So it should be with people.
We must not criticize them for what they are and try to make them into something different. We must love them the way that they are, and walk with them, through God’s Word, to find the unique place God has created for us. We must know our strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of those we love, and only then can you find balance in our relationships.
A Spirit Controlled Temperament
Jesus Christ spoke of us being “born again.” Natural birth determines our nature. Being born again determines our new nature.
In Studying Romans 7:18-20 we can find important insight, thus increased wisdom.
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
The “I” in the text is the person’s soul, will, and mind.
The “sin” that dwells in us is our natural weaknesses that we, like every member of the fallen race, inherit from our parents. We all inherit such a basic temperament.
This inherent nature contains both strengths and weaknesses. It is called several things in the Bible: “the natural man,” “the flesh,” “the old man,” and “corruptible flesh”.
It is a basic impulse that seeks to satisfy our basic desires.
Temperament is the combination of traits with which we are born with.
Character is our “civilized” temperament.
Personality is the “face” we show others.
Here is some good news. Regardless of the temperament you were born with you can have a Spirit controlled temperament.
Dr. Henry Brandt, a leading Christian psychologists, once said, “You can use your background as an excuse for present behavior only until you receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. After that you have a new power within you that is able to change your conduct.” That is some good news.
Many Christians never mature in Christ and benefit from, or develop, this Spirit transformed temperament. It is what the Bible speaks of when it speaks of “being transformed by the renewing of your mind”.
The reason is they do not remain in an “abiding” relationship with Christ.
When a person receives Jesus as Savior they are given a “new nature”. The Holy Spirit, when allowed, can enable this transformed new nature to become a persons true character.
Every weakness in each of us can be overcome by a transformed temperament. The negative traits can be overcome by a Spirit controlled temperament. The fruit of such a temperament is identified in Galatians 5:22-23, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its [human] passions and desires.”
The Holy Spirit controlled temperament does not have weaknesses.
All these traits are traits of a Spirit controlled temperament, character, and personality.
People can fast, pray, and even give 10% of everything they earn to the poor, but if they don’t have the traits of the fruit of the Spirit there is not a Spirit controlled temperament.
Upon committing our life to Christ as Savior we are spoken of in the Bible in several ways.
We are born again. Old things are passed away. We are new creatures in Christ. We are transformed.
It is easier to reach a goal if it is well defined and kept in mind. Make your goal as the manifesting of the above nine facets known as the fruit of the Spirit. Note, “fruit” is single and the object plural. In 1610 when the King James was translated from Greek to English the time of harvest was called the time of fruiting. Thus, the text might better be read “the harvest of the Spirit”. We are not to cherry pick which of the nine we want to cultivate. All nine are to be manifest in our lives. Fix them in your mind by any means necessary.
The mother of Coach Derick Dooley, Barbara, has one written individually on nine tiles lining her kitchen counter. Do something to keep them before you. Memorize them. Repeat them to yourself when you awake during the night and in the morning.
Though we are to manifest all nine to start with, start with the first one, “love” and concentrate on consciously showing it all day in your life.
The next day, and so on, concentrate on including another as your conscious effort of the day.
Consider Romans 12:1-2. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
“Beseech” PARAKALO (pa-ra-ka-layo) primarily means to come along the side of. It is a positive offer of encouragement. It means to speak tenderly.
This appeal is made on the basis of the highest motivation, “the mercy of God”.
“Be not conformed”, means “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold”. It is present passive imperative plus a negative meaning, “Stop being molded to the realm of worldliness”.
If you are a Christian and you fellowship with the world and act like the world you are wearing camouflage to deceive the world.
A few brief short ventures into enemy territory, that is the world, and soon you are acting like the world.
To avoid conforming to the world it is essential to exercise one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is “self-control”.
The process is described in I Corinthians 9:27: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (a castaway)”.
To do this make your body a “living sacrifice”. There were basically two types of sacrifices. One led to reconciliation. That is the one Jesus made. The other sacrifice was one of celebration for reconciliation.
Christ made the first sacrifice. Out of gratitude we make one to Him.
This is a process of transformation. Romans 12:2 instructs us to “be transformed”. A transformer changes things such as electric current. It makes electricity useful.
The Greek word for “transformed” is METAMORPHOSIS (MET-MA-FAH-O), meaning changed.
When you commit your life to Christ you are born again and become a new creature with a new nature.
Commit yourself to this simple philosophy;
I am IN HIS KEEPING,
UNDER HIS TRAINING,
FOR HIS TIME.
The objective of the Christian life is to find and do the “perfect will of God”. There are many reasons why. Two are noted here; It is “good” and “acceptable.” Start by understanding yourself, your God-given temperament, and your desire to know God through His Son and our Saviour and be truly transformed by the taking on of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
God bless you.