Temperaments - the raw materials we are born with
Our temperament is the combination of basic traits with which we were born. Hippocrates (460-370BC), often given the title of 'the father of modern medicine', discerned patterns in those traits that enabled him to distinguish four main temperaments. He gave those patterns names that have all passed into our modern language. He called them:
Click each temperament for a brief introduction to its characteristics.
HCC Podcast 1: Introduction to understanding
Shealan is conducting a series of interviews with John to explore the importance of understanding yourself. In their first podcast John outlines the background to the Understanding Yourself resources and explains why it's important to understand ourselves and our temperaments. He gives a brief explanation of the four temperaments - the Melancholic and Phlegmatic introverts and Choleric and Sanguine extroverts - and the interaction between the introvert and extrovert temperaments within us.
Click here to download the podcast 'Introduction to understanding'
We are born with our temperaments and cannot swap them; however we can understand the temperaments we have and use them to the full. An understanding of our different temperaments and how they interact within us helps us to understand the way we think and feel and makes sense of many of the dilemmas and contradictory emotions we all experience. To explore the way our temperaments interact within us in more detail click here.
A few helpful points to remember
No one temperament is better than another - they all have their strengths and corresponding weaknesses. The Bible tells us that 'God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.' (Genesis 1:31) That includes us!
We all have at least two temperaments - some have three - and most people are a combination of extrovert and introvert, though some people are 'double introverts' and others are 'double extroverts'.
We must not use an understanding of our temperaments to excuse bad behaviour. We teach Understanding Yourself as a springboard to change so we can live in the best of who God has made us.
We must never use that understanding to criticise others. If we try to determine another person's temperament it must always be so we can be more understanding and supportive.
For those who hate labels - each one of us is unique yet we readily recognise similarities, for example within families. The recognition of those discernible traits provides us with a tool for understanding each other more readily. A gardener knows that each plant is unique but also that plants are in 'families' which respond well to similar conditions. So for us, the patterns help us understand ourselves and others more quickly so our lives can change for the better.
Strengths and weaknesses
Each temperament has its own set of ingredients which show themselves as strengths or weaknesses depending on how we use them. Generally, if Jesus is at the centre of our lives then those ingredients will be expressed as strengths. However, if we live for ourselves then those ingredients will come out as weaknesses. The two main factors which determine whether we use our attributes positively or negatively are how secure we are in ourselves and our will - that is the choices we make and how we respond to the challenges of life. To explore these principles further and read how they work out in practice in the Sanguine/ Melancholic and Choleric/ Phlegmatic blends click here.
Why do we teach about temperaments?
The Understanding Yourself material is not primarily about temperaments - it is about relationships. Understanding our temperaments is simply one factor that helps in building relationships - it makes the task quicker and easier and we can see what is going on more objectively.
John has been asked the question why he teaches about temperaments when they are not in the Bible - to read his response click here.
In summary - how it all fits together
Imagine a lamp with a prism on each side. The lamp represents the real you - your soul. It includes intellect, will, emotions and character. The prisms represent your particular temperaments. The white light from the lamp hits the prism and refracts into a glorious array of colours. Your combination of temperaments produces its own unique blending of colours. The quality of those colours depends on the quality of white light emitted from that lamp. Who you are on the inside determines whether your temperament traits come out as strengths or weaknesses.