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What Is Temperament And Personality?

What is Temperament and Personality?

Post Series: Understanding People

The understanding most people have about personality and temperament is in black and white, in other words, a person is either an extrovert (i.e. very expressive with their emotions) or an introvert (more reserved and clandestine with their emotions). This isn’t the whole truth.

Personality and temperament affect our day-to-day life more than we know or like to agree. “That’s the way he is, it’s his temperament”, “he cannot control it, that’s his personality”, etc. You’ve probably seen or heard this more often than you’ve seen the rain fall and the sun shine simultaneously. These statements are half-truths and that is the reason many people use them as excuses to get away with bad behavior.

How does temperament and personality apply to the believer?

What comes to your mind when you see or hear the word temperament?

I’m guessing anger or self-control, right?

What about personality? Outgoing, reserved, bossy?

Let’s understand these two terminologies in the following paragraphs.

Definition of Temperament and Personality

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines temperament as a pattern of innate characteristics associated with one’s specific physical and nervous organization. Temperament is an old word (it dates back to the 15th century) and traces back to the Latin word “temperare” which means “to mix or blend” or “mixture of substances in proper proportion”.

While personality is defined as the quality or state of being a person; personal existence or the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group especially : the totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristics.

With these few points of mine, you can deduce that both personality and temperament are trying to describe or explain one thing; the human behavior. Now, is it okay to use the word temperament instead of personality? Sometimes, yes.

I would say temperament is the narrow explanation of human behavior, because it categorized the human behavior into four divisions. 350 years before the birth of Christ, Hippocrates, known as the “father of medical knowledge,” first proposed the four temperaments. The fairly unattractive names—choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic—came from Hippocrates’ use of them to explain personality distinctions based on the prevailing body fluid. Since the year 300 BC, these four thermometers have been repeatedly proposed and researched.

Contrarily, personality is the broadway (see what I did there?) to appreciating people for who they are as unique individuals. there are so many theories, models and school of thoughts on personality ranging from the popular “Big 5” personality traits to Raymond Cattell’s 16 personality factors to Hans Eysenck’s three-factor theory and so many more.

Temperaments and Personality for the Believer

It is important that you understand your temperaments and personalities as a believer. This understanding is key to self-awareness and self-discovery. It’s similar to taking a personal inventory of your behavior, the good, bad, sad and happy parts of it. These are some of the importance and benefits of understanding your temperament and personality as a believer:

  1. You know yourself better: instead of beating yourself up or drowning in guilt and self-pity for doing or not doing something, you understand that it is not entirely your fault. However, you do not take it as an excuse but as a leverage to do better in those areas without any hard feelings.
  2. You know God for yourself: throughout the bible, the great men of God interacted with him based on their temperaments and personalities. Father Abraham was a phlegmatic, maybe that’s one of the reasons he learned to trust God completely (Hebrews 11:8-10). Peter was a sanguine, we see him do a lot of talking in the scriptures (Matthew 16:16-19, Acts of Apostles 2:14-41)
  3. You understand others: one of the two greatest commandments is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) but how can you do that if you do not agree (Amos 3:3)? And how can you agree if you do not understand them?

Jesus was a master of all! He admonishes the believer to “be perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Also remember that your personality is more complex than just temperament. There is also our character, which is shaped by our upbringing, education, and free will, as well as the grace of God.

A very good book that helped me and can help you understand your temperaments better as a believer is the “Why You Act the Way You Do by Tim Lahaye”.

I do hope you take that step to understanding yourself and others as Christ does.

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