Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Seeing how God uses different blends of personality temperaments in families and churches
Romans 12:4-5 "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."
Introduction and Review
The past couple of days has been devoted to understanding how God uses different personality temperaments in the overall design of His church. How different types of people that live and minister in our churches can just as easily valuable in understanding our families as well. If anything, the family is the most fundamental relational unit designed by God. Just as individuals makes up families, such families and individuals who are born-again by the Spirit of God make up our churches. In three major sections of Paul's letters (Romans 12; Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12-14) and Peter's first epistle in chapter 4, we see extended discussion on both the natural and supernatural design of God in both families and churches.
In this particular series of posts I am interested in exploring the natural, physical and personality make-up categories that God has designed into the life of each person. Such an area of study has been around for centuries and Bible teachers have found such a study valuable in helping people understand why they do and respond like they do. A few days ago I mentioned that I am convinced that over 3/4 of the conflicts we see in churches arises as a result of not understanding each other.
We have been using four fictional characters to unpack the four personality temperaments that we find in people: Carl Choleric; Sam Sanguine; Molly Melancholy and Fred Phlegmatic. If the read will recall, our four characters had come to a red-light in the center of an imaginary town that gave us opportunity to see how they respond in a given situation. We saw Carl Choleric being the guy who is task oriented and prone to telling others what needs to get done. When we met Sam Sanguine, he was the guy who wanted to wave hello at everyone and even though he too was excited about his trip, he more so was interested in meeting people. Molly Melancholy was very detailed and thoughtful and was willing to take turns if necessary. Then there was Fred Phlegmatic who thought it comical to watch everyone else but was content on waiting to get to his destination, knowing he would get there on time and knowing what he would do.
Well now all four of our characters have arrived at their destination and have met and are now returning to their individual homes. We won't have them go through a red-light again but rather we want to understand further this concept of personality temperament and understand that for every person, there are blends of all four of these temperament types, as well as certain temperaments working differently in different people. Later on we will see how this insight aids in understanding what happens in our families and churches, based upon the scriptures cited above.
Carl Choleric's home - a combination of order and creativity
Carl is married to a woman who is Melancholy - the creative, mainly introverted and thoughtful personality type. Carl and his wife love each other very much and their combined temperaments balance each other very well. Their one daughter exhibits her mother's melancholy thoughtfulness, her dad's tendency to be focused on a task. However what makes their daughter interesting is that she has a dominate sanguine personality, with a smattering of phlegmatic tendency to play practical jokes. Carl and his wife are proud of their daughter. She is very likable as a sanguine but when placed in large groups tends to be quieter, due to inheriting her mother's melancholy traits. As Carl and his wife get to know their daughter more and more, they see in each of themselves smatterings of the other personality types, all combined uniquely under their dominate personality temperaments.
Sam Sanguine's Home - Warm and Safe
When Sam arrives home, he greets his wife and son with a "hey everyone, daddy's home". His wife, a Phlegmatic, has been working steadily to make sure that their family has a nice meal and fun game after dinner. Sam's wife tends to be quieter, but when she says something, it is usually worthwhile listening to. Their son is like his mom - a Phlegmatic, but more so like his dad - a sanguine. He talks about his day with excitement but then reports how he is wanting to make sure his schedule doesn't get interrupted by surprises. The dominate sanguine and phlegmatic personality temperaments make this home a combination warm and safe place to be.
Molly's Home - Intellectual and purposeful
When Molly arrives home she waves at her husband who has been making some stir fry in the kitchen for the family. Molly instantly looks through the mail, since that was the first thing on her list of to-do's. Molly's husband is a combination choleric and phlegmatic, with the phlegmatic being the dominant personality temperament. Molly loves her husband due to the fact he is ever loyal and never leaves her side. When it comes to making decisions, her husband's choleric side tends to keep things focused. Molly, being a melancholy, reminds her husband to be sure to remember the appointments they have planned for the week. Their teenage daughter drives up as supper is about done being cooked. As Molly and her husband's daughter walks in, she strolls by calm and collective. As a sanguine she hugs her parents and begins to tell them about her day. Their daughter is a basketball player who also likes her new math class. However, her secondary phlegmatic temperament kicks in and she settles down quickly into getting the table set, just as she always does at dinner. As the family eats their meal, each relays their day and soon each will be settling into their chairs to read a book and then end the evening watching their favorite t.v show or playing a board game.
Frank's home - Steady adventure
Frank Phlegmatic arrives home and is greeted with excited wife and son holding up plane tickets. Fred is the type of guys who likes to ease into his evening, but he can tell by the Sanguine personalities of his wife and son, that the evening is going to be a discussion about adventure. Frank's birthday is coming up, and his wife and son break the news that they are wanting to take Frank on a ski-trip. As they sit down to dinner, Frank is enjoying his food while his family goes on and on. After they finish, they ask excitedly: "well, what'ya think?" Frank slowly sipped his coffee and smiled and said: "That sounds good to me." At first Frank's wife and son stared at Frank in disbelief, not understanding how he could not be excited. However, Frank suddenly bursted out laughing, as only Phlegmatic can do. Then Frank's wife and son realized they had been kidded around with by Frank, with Frank immediately saying - well, lets do it. I'm grateful you both would think of that for me.
In the fictional accounts above, how many readers found the account more interesting to read than the red-light scenario of a couple of posts back? The hope of this writer is that today's post proved more interesting. To see how God has not only created people with temperament styles, but with different blends, makes for greater expressions of creativity, excitement, adventure and building of relationships. Each of the above homes were certainly different, and yet because they all understood one another, it proved to be a harmonious home-life for Carl, Sam, Molly and Fred.
In the scriptures above, God not only has different people of different temperaments in families, but in the local church. According to Dr. Tim Lahaye's book: "Spirit-controlled Temperament", the four personality temperaments can yield up to twelve different combinations. Furthermore, each person has all four types, with one, two or sometimes three being the dominate ones in different measure. When we consider how each person is wired and has different levels of each temperament style, the blends and combinations can certainly exceed the ideal 12 blends.
In the Romans 12 passage, as well as the other scriptures that speak about the Body of Christ and the differing gifts, the emphasis is as much on the diversity of God's people as there is their unity. The Lord is so creative and innovative. If we can appreciate how each of these temperaments interact with one another, and the beauty that can result from such interaction, how can we not praise God for how such a design exists in the local church and in our families?