19 Mar Dealing with the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Temperament
Our human temperaments are characteristics and tendencies we are born with.
They are by-products of the influence of the fallen nature inherited by us in the first Adam.
They were originally wholesome but the fall affected them negatively, hence our temperaments need redemption too. Not only do we need redemption for our spirits, we need redemption for our souls and even issues in our lives need redemption. The redemption of our spirit is instantaneous but all other aspects of our humanity takes process to work out our redemption with time and our conscious participation.
There are four basic temperaments our teachings often refer to – and while humans are not confined to any one temperament, we are usually identifiable by one or two of the four. We are not designed to be slaves of our temperaments rather we are to be conformed to the image of Christ as Paul, the Apostle teaches in Romans 8:29. Every temperament has a redemption value, that is, there is something in it that can be engaged in its redemptive process. This is not an exhaustive study on temperaments but an attempt to highlight how to deal with strengths and weaknesses especially in the strong dominating temperaments.
The four basic temperaments are The Choleric, The Melancholic, The Sanguine and The Phlegmatic.
Before we go into discussing the different temperaments, let us discuss emotional maturity and survival.
We should know that our nurture (the way we were brought up), our nature (what we are inherently, like our temperaments) and the environment of our up-bringing, all have a way of influencing how we turn out to be. In Christ Jesus, there is sufficient grace to turn things around if we are willing to cooperate with the grace to effect changes. Maturity is tested and can be developed when we learn to handle conflicts, contradictions and discomforting situations. A lot of people have grown chronologically but have very little emotional maturity. It is possible for a 20 year old to have the emotional maturity of a 5 year old. It depends on the nurture, nature and environment of up-bringing.
Many with typical Choleric traits can be so tough that out of their survival instincts they can bottle up their feelings and rid themselves of everyone and everything contrary to their opinions. Rather than get adjusted correctly through healthy interactions with different opinions, they remain convinced about their ‘right” opinions and never grow emotionally. Their desire to survive is demonstrated by their desire to treat their opinion as infallible so they hold unto it, no matter what anyone says or does. We all have this self-centred lifestyle that makes our opinion right and others are not quite as intelligent as we are so we even defend ourselves in the light of corrections. Part of emotional maturity is the ability to acknowledge the opinion of others and their right to such opinion and sometimes to let others be themselves without our trying to ‘straighten” them out according to our ‘standards”.
Choleric: passion filled, decisive and full of know-hows on many matters. Weaknesses include: heavy turnover in relationships (for the predominant choleric), not concerned about the feeling of others; strong opinions. Cholerics are natural leaders and can be very productive in their ideas. These good attributes can blind them to how they are perceived by others.
This is my advice to a leader who has his predominant trait to be choleric:
MANAGE YOUR STRENGTH; SEE IT FROM OTHERS” PERSPECTIVE
Learn to be a team player; others have what they can bring to the table too. Share your ideas with others; give them time to buy into it. Do not always do the thinking of others for them; you cannot always predict how they should think about any subject. Channel your passion to motivating others, not just to doing the work at hand; when they see you do it alone, they back off, thinking that is the way you want it. Allow the ideas of others to flourish too; do not seek to take credit for all the progress made. Emotional decisions can make you feel good but objective ones will give you longer lasting peace of mind. Retrain your emotions so as to regulate them with reasonable judgement. Objective decisions happen when all decisions have been aired and the best can be chosen. We are walking into our freedom when we can do what Jesus said to do if we are going to be His disciples: “Deny myself (my make-up is included here), Take up my cross (that cross of shame separates me from the world and its trappings: success, etc), and follow Him (I leave my promotion and future in His hands as I obey Him).” (Mathew 16:24-27).
Some of these apply to all temperaments – Choleric likes it ‘my way”. Melancholic likes it the ‘right way”; Sanguine likes it the ‘fun way” and phlegmatic likes it ‘any way” or the ‘easy way”.
The Melancholic and the Choleric are strong-willed, they are both persuaded about how things should be done. The difference is that the choleric is explosive and the melancholic can be implosive. Sanguines are adventurous and have a wild-wild west tendency, seeking fun and new adventures all the time; treating every venture like a new adventure. The weak side is the tendency to lose a sense of gravity over matters that need gravity and such levity can lead to all kinds of things. The phlegmatic tends to be lazy, not wanting to take on new ventures and seeing every new venture as a task that can upset their world of ease. Sanguine is an extrovert while phlegmatic is an introvert.
In subsequent articles we shall be looking closely at each of the other temperaments to study how to manage them and develop into Christ likeness in all we do and become.