Often people try and find excuses for their behaviour, or for their children’s behaviour and one common excuse is our personality. But our personality does not excuse us from doing the right thing. The truth is – whether we are introverted or extraverted because of our self centered perspective on life every person has difficulties in doing the right thing.
- The introvert struggles to be other focused because they want to be by themselves.
- The extravert struggles to be other focused because they want to be the center of the party.
Jesus’ command to us all was to love God and love one another –with our whole heart. That is, with everything we have to give.
The problem with boxing people’s personality – or defining them – is that we start to see that definition with a boundary – this is who I am, this is as far as I go. But Jesus never leaves us where we are. Jesus takes us beyond and yet never disregards how we are made. This is something that humans struggle to do themselves, and yet we cannot afford to limit God with our own limitations.
Define your Personality but Don’t Leave it there
We have used a few defining categories in our family – in a way they can help understand ourselves, and each other.
- Personality descriptions of Myers Briggs, or Tim LaHaye (which I’m more familiar with) of Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, Phlegmatic
- Love Languages from Gary Chapman – Do we receive love (and communicate our love more easily) by gifts, touch & closeness, acts of service, time, or words of encouragement
- Introverted or Extroverted – though often seen to mean how engaging you are in social situations, the real test is how do you recharge – by being with people, or by being by yourself
How we live our life will be shaped by each of those qualifications – but there is one other description that we often forget – redeemed. As a Christian my sinful nature has been dealt with, I am no longer controlled by sin – I am controlled by the Holy Spirit.
I love an image that Josh Harris paints in his book, Dug Down Deep – that our sin nature (or flesh) is like a monster inside of us – and we can feed it or starve it. When we responded to Jesus and accepted his forgiveness then the controls were broken but the ‘flesh’ still exists. We can feed it by the thoughts and actions that we allow in our life that is inconsistent with God’s word, or we can start it by the thoughts and actions that we allow in our life that ARE consistent with God’s word. But it is still in us. (Read Josh’s words here – or watch him draw the cartoons here)
The longer we starve the flesh, the longer we put on (daily) Christ’s righteousness, the longer we respond to the prompts of the Holy Spirit then we grow – this is called maturity. Unfortunately I have seen in my life that I grow in one area of my life, but then something else happens and there is yet another area where I need to constantly choose Jesus.
This is what should define us as Christians – not our personality type, our love languages, where we were born in our family, or how we recharge. We should be defined as those who follow Christ – in every thought, word and action.
It is much easier to excuse our limitations by one of these other definitions. And fair enough – they are true – I am a first born, sanguine choleric, whose love language is quality time, and I am an introvert. And with that definition of myself I have strengths and weaknesses.
My Desire for Jesus to Change me
But I am also a Christian – so how I express my strengths should be in keeping with God’s ways. How I deal with my weaknesses should also be in keeping with God’s ways.
My desire to be like Christ, and to glorify God in all I do should override any inclination I have to use my strengths and weaknesses as an excuse for following God’s ways.
- As a first born, I need to be gracious and patient to those who don’t think like I do.
- As a sanguine, I need to be aware of those who may not be enjoying the social situation as much as I am.
- As an introvert, I need to push through and be a blessing to others when I really want to just go home.
- As someone who loves to sit with people, I need to rouse myself and go and physically help my neighbor when they are in need.
Now this relates to our children as well. Do we define them – by their strength or by their weaknesses, and let them settle for those definitions of themselves?
Or do we give them the understanding that Jesus can help them obey his command.
Regardless of who we are created – God has more for us. The key for discovering this ‘more’ is in Jesus’ command – to love God and to love others. This was not a command for the sanguine, extrovert – this was a command for us all.
But like I said, Jesus never disregards who we are – but he wants us to change our mindset – and when our objective changes in life – our actions start to look different.
Jesus wants us to be others centered – he wants us to love like he loves: unconditionally. What this looks like for a sanguine may well look different than what it looks like for a phlegmatic. What it looks like for someone who speaks the love language of touch and physical closeness may well look different than what it looks like for those who do acts of service to show their love. The outworking expression of how we follow God’s command is not the mark of success – it is that we show love, that we become other centered rather than self centered.
So regardless of your personality and all those strengths and weaknesses you have, and I have, we are called to love God and love our neighbour. Our personality does not excuse us, but it is the starting place for the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been sent to teach and guide us to be more like Jesus.
It applies to our kids’ personality too
This is a lesson that we must understand as we parent kids with different personalities. We cannot allow their personality to be an excuse for them to do the right thing. The right thing, in a certain situation may be harder for one child than another, but in another situation the roles will be reversed. Each child is to learn to do the right thing (morally) and to respond to their need for Jesus (spiritually). Don’t give them excuses, don’t lower the bar just because of their particular personality type.
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