Rose Sweet


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?

Personality tests are nothing new

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 a medical doctor and an astute observer of human nature. He observed 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. Hot and cold, light and dark.

Temperaments are part of God’s creative design

Hippocrates attributed each behavior pattern to an excess of some particular body fluid. Today we know 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. God is a Designer and, in nature, we see his patterns of a (1) whole unity with (2) four distinct but separate parts: the four directions, four elements, the four seasons, and more.

God himself is ONE but MULTIPLE within the one (Father, Son, and Spirit). It’s a mystery, the depth of which we will never fully grasp now but can generally see and understand. When God said, “Let US make man in OUR image”, it’s not unreasonable to see that we, too, are one but with different, distinct dimensions of self. Temperaments are reflections of something of God and we all get to share in them!

Your temperament is your unique set of preferences and responses to the world around you.

As such, it gives others a clue as to how to best understand and relate to you. Through this lens, you, too, can better understand what motivates others. 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 opposite and complementary facets into the world: some people are naturally bold, others gentle. Some are naturally deep, others lighter in their outlook. Each temperament is a beautiful share in God’s divine nature: his boldness, his gentleness, his depth, and his light. It’s only pop-psychology when you don’t understand the richness 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, and Dark Chocolate Freak, those labels in no way “put me in a box” or squelch my individuality. They quickly 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 worried they might be too quickly or simply categorized. We are each unique and complex and it’s true that no one should ever be reduced to a label.

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 that 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 some of his beauty and strengths among us so that we, too, could work in union to sustain life and love. We are all necessary. All beautiful. All powerful.

Are you still curious? 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

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