I love to study the four basic human temperaments. I guess it’s because they apply to everyone on earth. Everyone has a predominant personality temperament, and most have perhaps a mixture of two or perhaps three.

Some are strong, natural leaders -- impeccable organizers and initiators. They are most likely to run a giant corporation or serve as commander of a large military installation. People look to them for guidance. Tim and Bev LaHaye, who championed this study years ago, call this personality the Choleric.

While the Choleric has impressive leadership skills, he or she also has a downside. They tend to run over people -- they often exercise the iron fist. Hitler was a prime example of the choleric out of control. They are not the kind of people you would go to when you are feeling blue, or needing encouragement or sympathy. If you ever do, you will not be greeted with patience and understanding.

Then, there are those of you who are the life of the party. You were the class clown. There is no greater fulfillment to a sanguine, that to make people laugh. They have a million funny stories to tell, and they love being the centerpiece of a crowd. A great example of the sanguine was the late actor/comedian Robin Williams. These people tend to excel as motivational speakers, comedians, sales, and yes, these people, known as Sanguines, are most likely to don a clown suit and entertain at children's birthday parties. A Sanguine, by nature, has a heart of sympathy. He or she will cry with you when you are a wreck, emotionally.

But their weaknesses? They tend to not be decisive and have the most difficulty seeing a project through. They have trouble being serious much of the time. They can weep at the drop of a hat, and then two minutes later, they can be engaged in one of their "yarns."

How about the Melancholy? These are your maestros, your poets, your interior decorators, researchers, and bean counters. They give great attention to detail and are perfectionists. While they are talking to you, they are brushing dandruff off your shoulders. They are the ones who see a tiny little scratch on your new SUV, which you would never see.

The melancholy is usually trustworthy and always follows through on a task - to perfection. The downside to a melancholy is, when they complete a project, they tend to slump into despair. They must always feel that they have a purpose for existing, and to sit still and be neutral is to lose that sense of worth and self-esteem.

The phlegmatic seems to enjoy his or her comfort zone. They are hesitant to volunteer. When plans are laid out for a project, they can think of a dozen reasons why it won’t work, or why it isn’t worth the effort. That is because they do not want to become involved. They will often resort to sarcasm and will poke fun at the instigators of the project to discourage it. Yet, when the phlegmatic become sold on the effort, they can rise to the occasion and get the job done.

But just a word of caution — if you familiarize yourself with these temperaments, (1) do not become obsessed with trying to mimic the temperament of someone else. God made you to be you - not someone else. I don’t know about you, but I tend to become the most frustrated with people who have my temperament; (2) Do not form opinions of others or degrade them because their temperament is not like yours: (3) And don’t excuse the weaknesses of your temperament. By that I mean, never say something like, “Hey, I’m a choleric — I’m designed to be mean and nasty! That’s just the way I am.” Or “Hey, I’m a Sanguine — I’m supposed to be emotionally unstable and I’m not expected to follow through with a task.”

A grand result of being informed about the temperaments is to help enable you to understand what makes others tick. It can help you to focus on how God has gifted and enabled others. You do not have to be jealous of someone else’s temperament — God used them, in the same way, He uses you, only their assignments may be different. There was a day when I was jealous of a pastor who was a great administrator. He seemed to run a “tight ship.” I fall way short when it comes to administration — I’m more of a compassionate encourager. But God has blessed me with people in my church who are dynamic organizers. It’s my place to empower them and turn them loose to do what God has enabled them to do — and I don’t have to be threatened by that.

We are living in a day when it is more imperative than ever that we learn to accept each other for what we are, and for how God designed us. Regardless of your temperament, God has always had a specific purpose for your life and gave you the temperament which He can use to bring Him glory and worship.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 (ESV)


Paul Gauntt currently serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Palmer.