“Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
There’s a difference between temperament and character.
Temperament – or personality or disposition – is in your DNA. It’s woven in the womb. No one really taught you to be chatty or reserved or analytical or impulsive. It’s just part of your unique make up. It’s what makes you, you.
Character – the quality of the fibre of your being – is often expressed through your temperament, but it’s taught and learned and copied and grown. Which is why you discipline your kids for disobedience, dishonesty and disrespect. You can’t change their personalities, but you can prayerfully and intentionally shape their characters.
Sometimes, though, we confuse the two – or we make them synonymous. A friend’s snide remark slipped between your ribs with intention and accuracy is laughed out with an apology – ‘Ah sorry man; I say what I think. I’m just honest, you know. It’s who I am.’ Someone spits angry about the length of the sermon or the loudness of the worship – and we brush it off gracious saying, ‘Shame, that’s just his personality.’ Like it’s ok because people can’t help it that they’re mean. It’s just how they are.
Of course, it’s awesome – and necessary – to be patient and tolerant with people and their quirks. But it’s never ok to use our personalities as an excuse for sin. Like I said, we can’t change personality, but we can – we must – surrender our characters to changing grace. Because character recognises that personality has a dark side. Character knows that when we operate in the strengths of our temperament we need to be vigilant that we don’t tip into overdrive, where our greatest strengths become our greatest weaknesses. Like, the meditative ascetic who becomes entirely antisocial. Or the dynamic leader who becomes overbearingly controlling.
We may also find ourselves using personality as an excuse not to serve in any way that makes us uncomfortable. For sure, we should predominantly stick to seamless ways of loving God and loving people – ways that blend beautifully with who we are. But just sometimes, God calls us to brave the realms beyond easy. Sometimes, an expressive, self-assured person needs to be quiet. Gentle. Listen and not talk back. Sometimes, a reticent, behind-the-scenes washer-of-feet needs to step up to the podium and still the room with her courage. Because sometimes character demands – for the cause of Christ and his glory – that we move from the comfort zone of personality.
I pray that the older I get, the more the sharp edges of my personality would be softened by the character of Jesus in me. Less of me. More of him. I pray that that would be true of all of us. I pray that, as our lives fill up with years and we pour ourselves into the generations coming, the loveliness of who we are – each crazy different one of us – would be lit up by the light of Christ. Erik Rees points out that often, God wants to do something in us before he does something through us. As you embrace and enjoy the personality that God created to live and breathe comfortably in your skin, pray that he would renew your mind and give you extraordinary wisdom to know, for each season or situation, how you should live.
Point to ponder
Don’t use your personality as an excuse to harbour sin in your life. Allow God to shape your character so that you look more and more like Jesus.
Verse to remember
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30
Question to consider
Where is God challenging you to submit to him what feels natural and inevitable in your personality?
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