Like gender, temperament is a component of our “earthly identity.” It’s part of every person’s life. Each of us tends to respond to certain situations in similar ways. We also tend to relate to certain kinds of people in similar ways. These tendencies are at the core of temperament. While temperament is hard to define and assess, it’s still valuable to explore because it’s shaped by God’s sovereign design of our lives.
Read Session 4: Temperament.
Complete the Life Inventory: Temperament exercise beginning on page 98.
One way we can get to know God better is to gain a greater appreciation for how He has sovereignly designed us and equipped us to function in His world. The self-assessment you’ll do in “Life Inventory” will help you gain greater self-awareness and understand the impact of temperament on your life.
Standardized personal assessments (profiles, tests, and inventories) of temperament are all based on observations found to be generally true about people who have similar attributes. Their strength is that they can provide quick access to helpful (if general) self-knowledge. Their weakness is that while people with similar personality traits have much in common, every person is unique by God’s design.
One of the most popular personal assessment tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The most helpful way to profit from standardized assessments is to confirm their results with what you know about yourself and with feedback from those who know you well. Thus, while the tests may be useful tools, they don’t supersede the Holy Spirit’s illumination through God’s Word, prayer, and people.
Temperament describes tendencies (patterns in your behavior) that are similar to patterns in the behavior of others. For instance, some people prefer to think out loud when trying to solve a problem. They expect that the solution will become evident through discussion. Other people consider solutions in their own minds, and when they speak, they voice their conclusions. If both kinds of people are working on a project and they are unaware of their different approaches, they often experience conflict. For example, Susan, who thinks out loud, becomes annoyed when Jason criticizes her ideas prematurely. While she’s simply trying to work out a solution, he assumes that her comments represent a final proposal for the solution. In contrast, he needs time to work out a solution in his head. Susan becomes frustrated because Jason isn’t participating with her in working out a solution.
Consider another example. One company’s employees all receive gift certificates at the end of the year. They receive their gifts without any notification or acknowledgment by the administration. In another company, no gift is given, but the president personally goes around to each employee and gives specific examples of why he appreciates his or her work. One person may feel fully appreciated by receiving a gift certificate but wouldn’t feel valued by verbal acknowledgment; words without some tangible gift may seem empty. For another person, the gift certificate without any verbal appreciation might raise feelings of disappointment: “They’re just trying to buy my loyalty.”
Understanding your temperament can make you aware of which of your tendencies to encourage and which ones to avoid. If you know your own preference is gifts over appreciative words, you may need to remind yourself to be grateful when a friend expresses appreciation to you through verbal compliments. Awareness of your own and others’ temperaments can greatly enhance your ability to love others well.
Read Session 5: Heritage.
Complete the Life Inventory: Heritage exercise beginning on page 109.
Complete the Life Inventory: Values I exercise beginning on page 112.