The study of temperaments, personality, gifts, abilities, love languages, and the sort might appear merely as psychology rather than theology. However, understanding our unique wiring is at the heart of our relationship with God and others. God desires us to love Him holistically and others with a Christ kind of love. As Matthew records in his Gospel:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt: 22:37-39).
Therefore, discovering our temperament, personality, gifts, and abilities is not only a wise idea but is a valuable part of loving God and doing life well with others. An exploration of our unique wiring and how God can and will redemptively use it will allow us to flourish in our relationship with Him and others. In light of God’s calling us to love others and bear with one another, I would pose that such an understanding of temperaments goes beyond mere psychology and is actually deep theology.
The psalmist expressed clearly why the study of men and women is a most fascinating experience because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14-16). Not one of us is the same. We are all unique. Several contributing factors make us unique. One such contributing factor is our temperament.
Temperament is the combination of inborn traits that subconsciously affect our behavior. In other words, our temperaments are determined from birth. Understanding our temperament provides insight into our strengths and weaknesses. In fact, every temperament has its strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that the Holy Spirit has been given to believers enabling us to improve our natural strengths and overcome our weaknesses – as we cooperate with Him. No temperament is better than another, and all are necessary to be a complete body, as God’s church. Knowing our temperament and that of others helps us more completely fulfill God’s call to love one another.
There are many ways that our temperaments have been defined and explained. I believe the simplest is found in the oldest understanding. This is the four temperaments. The teaching of the four temperaments has been around for centuries. Nearly 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates (460-370 BC), known as the father of modern medicine, was the first known to have written an explanation of the four temperaments. Well, that is unless you note Agur’s writing that is found in Proverbs 30:11-14, written some 500 years earlier.
Paul writes to the church in Rome:
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function” (Rom 12:3-4).
We are to evaluate ourselves honestly and prayerfully. We also to understand that God equips us differently to do our part as His church.
The four temperaments are: First, we have cholerics who are characterized by dominance. Only 3% of our population is choleric. Some point to the ApostlePaul as having this temperament. Their emphasis is on shaping the environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results. The greatest fear is having someone take advantage of them. Then we have sanguines who are characterized by influence. They make up 11% of the population. Some point to the Apostle Peter as a sanguine. Their emphasis is on shaping the environment by influencing or persuading others. The greatest fear is being rejected. Thirdly we have melancholies who are characterized by conscientiousness. They make up 17% of our population. Some point to the Old Testament prophet and leader Moses as a melancholy. Their emphasis is on working conscientiously within existing circumstances to ensure quality and accuracy. The greatest fear is being told they did something wrong. Lastly, we have phlegmatics who are characterized by steadiness. They make up 69% of our population. Some point to Father Abraham, from the Old Testament, as a phlegmatic. Their emphasis is on cooperating with others to carry out the task. Their greatest fear is the loss of a relationship. Most people’s temperaments are made up of one of two of these temperaments. For instance, I am equally choleric and sanguine.
Here are some take-away points: First, every one of us is born with a temperament makeup. Second, all of our temperaments have both strengths and weaknesses. And thirdly, through salvation in Christ, we are all offered the Spirit, who, when we surrender to His work in our lives, gives us the power to overcome our weaknesses and live under our strengths (Rom 12:1-2; Gal 2:20; Gal 5:22-23). Knowing our temperaments assists us in loving God and others. It impacts every aspect of our life. Again, in this sense, to study temperaments is actually deep theology. Soli Doe Gloria (Glory to God Alone).