Arf! Arf!  Meow-w-w . . . People of different personalities may as well be speaking different languages! Do you know or live with someone whose “personal dialect” is very different than yours?

There are lots of “personality” tests out there and you may have taken one in school or for work.  The Myers-Briggs model is popular (ESTJ, INFP, and so on) but with over sixty-four different possible combinations, it can get overwhelming and leave room for lots of error. Others rely on numbers, colors, or animal names but the one thing they have in common is that most are rooted in the clearest and simplest of all: the timeless teaching of the FOUR TEMPERAMENTS. We first received them from Hippocrates around 350 B.C..

Hippocrates was not only a medical doctor but an astute observer of human nature.  He watched his patients when they were stripped of pretense and social constructs, without their “makeup” as it were, and saw the true temperaments emerge. Four of them. Each set of two being opposites of each other. The deep, worried one and the light, silly one. The loud, explosive one and the slow, steady one.

All complementary and each with unique strengths that come easiest to the person. He attributed each to an excess of a particular body fluid, and we know today that his guess at their origin was primitive, but he was on to something: people are born with their temperament and it is as natural to them as their blue eyes or brown hair. It could be masked, but it is ever-present and unchanging.

Your temperament is your unique set of preferences and responses to the world around you. As such, it gives us a clue how to best understand and relate to you. Why do they do that? How can I get them to understand? How can I speak their “language?” (And why can’t they understand mine?)

Your temperament is one of the ways you’re made in God’s image. We bring strength, gentleness, depth, and lightness into the world as he does, and each type is a beautiful share in something of his divine nature. It’s only pop-psychology when you don’t understand the depth it can bring to relationships, or when it is misunderstood and wrongly applied. For over forty years I’ve successfully tested and relied on it for:

Seeing how we are truly “made in God’s image”
Understanding the deepest emotional needs of each four types
Knowing how to speak another’s “heart language”
Learning how to best parent each of your children
Falling more deeply in love with your spouse
Maximizing your work team and company production
Knowing we don’t have to take others’ actions so personally
Appreciating and focusing on the gifts that God gave YOU
…and so much more

I’m in good company: St Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, and many more saints and mystics relied on the study of temperaments as a spiritual aid for centuries. Like any truth, it has initial layers and those that are deeper. If you’re interested in more, here are a few quick tips for now:

The temperaments are not just a label
If I tell you I am a Catholic, Author, Baby Boomer, Dark Chocolate Freak, those labels in no way “put me in a box” and squelch my individuality. They help you see and understand something more about me that you may not know. With food, cleaning supplies, or blood types, labels can be life-or- death necessary! People who object to labels are usually hesitant to be exposed or fear not being seen and valued for who they really are. It can happen, but it doesn’t have to. Labels are not the problem; people are!

The motive is the clue
If you’re trying to identify yourself or someone else, be careful. Everyone can be bossy, sad, happy, have fun, or be creative, but  in different ways, at different times, and for different reasons. Cherry-picking one or two words out of the list of personality strengths or weaknesses is myopic. This age-old knowledge will be harmful rather than helpful if you too-quickly slap a label on yourself or others.

No temperament is superior
Like the four chambers of the human heart (two in, two out) that work together to sustain life, God divided strengths and purposes among us so that we, too, could work in union to sustain life and love. We are all necessary. All beautiful. All powerful.

Watch for more short blogs to describe the four individual types.  Enjoy!

Want to book a Day of Retreat or Parish Mission on this topic? Go HERE