Try to imagine a world filled with people who were just like you! You’re laughing, right? While you and I may be very good at some things, we are not complete in ourselves. Well, I certainly hope that you realize that fact is true. Some of us are warm, friendly, and team-builders. Others of us are calculating, risk-takers, driving towards getting the job done. Some of us keep the organization functioning with our dedication to paying the bills and keeping the systems intact. Others can’t plan a day in advance but we make people feel so valuable because we really love them.
Studying personality types is interesting. Since ancient times wise people have realized that their colleagues often think differently about the same situations in life, and not because of a lack of intelligence or skills. We are simply different in the way that God has wired us! There are many ways to label the various personalities. Gary Smalley uses animal names to describe our predominant personality type. He observes that some of us are Lions– those self-reliant leaders who set goals and love to ‘get the job done.’ Others are Otters -social creatures who enjoy being influential, surrounded by many friends. And some are Golden Retrievers -very loving, resistant to change, and steady at the job. Then, he says that some are Beavers – who work hard, maintain tradition, and make sure everybody is keeping the rules.
There are other systems that help us to understand ourselves and those around us. Very likely, if you work for a large corporation, your human resources department has used one of the many tools available to help you to understand your way of relating to the world and organizing your life. The point is that we are different. There is no ‘right’ personality type, nor should we use our temperament as an excuse for sin. For example, I am predominantly a lion (using Smalley’s description). Along with the strengths that come with being a goal-oriented leader-type, I have a tendency to be insensitive (hey, I heard that ‘amen.’) and to use people in pursuit of the mission. I could just say, “That’s who I am, deal with it.” Or, knowing those weaknesses, I can wisely watch the way I interact.
An ancient maxim, revered by the ancient Greeks, and often attributed to Socrates says – “Know thyself!” What a wondrous thing it is to become self-aware, to begin to understand the impulses and prejudices that reside in our hearts and minds. You might be ready to raise the objection that we are incapable of really knowing ourselves, that we are mired in sin to such an extent that we cannot begin to discern the content of our inner person. Perhaps that is true before one comes to Christ, but after we are converted and filled with the Holy Spirit, we have a Teacher, who reveals the secrets to us! Yes, it’s true! We don’t have to hide the ugly stuff from ourselves. We don’t have to pretend or live in ignorance.
In the book of Hebrews, we read this passage – which could be terrifying. “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. Nothing in all creation can hide from him. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes. This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done.” (Hebrews 4:12-13, NLT) Were it not for the assurance that immediately follows that passage, I would be terrified by the project of being laid open, left vulnerable, by the work of God.
But here is what comes next – “That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT)
God lays us open, reveals our secrets, and then gives us His merciful grace. His gift is forgiveness, first, and then, transformation. No, it isn’t very likely that God will change your basic personality type. After all, He originally made you who you are! What He’ll do, if you will cooperate with Him, is make you Christ-like, holy and useful to His purposes. Friend, I believe that unity within the Church will result when we ask Him to help us to understand ourselves and others. When we let the Spirit teach us our strengths and help us with our weaknesses; when we let Him teach us how we can best relate to others, valuing them precisely because they are different, unbelievable things will happen in the work of God.
Here’s my prayer for you today – “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, The Message)