When I was a teenager, my Dad was the pastor of our church. On one occasion, he led us through a study of the four temperaments that Tim LaHaye had made popular. (Tim LaHaye was the pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church where David Jeremiah is now pastor. And, of course, Tim LaHaye is the one who co-wrote the “Left Behind” series.)
As each temperament was described, and I discovered which temperament I had, I remember how validating it felt to realize that God made me the way I was (and am). Of course I was born with a sin nature and continue to struggle with sin. But, my basic temperament was given to me by God.
Before that initial study (I have studied much on this topic since then), I felt inferior to so many other people. I watched people confidently stand in front of crowds … while my introverted self was terrified at the thought of ever standing up in front of people (God has obviously helped me to conquer that weakness). I saw so many other traits that other people had … and then looked at myself and felt like I just didn’t measure up. I felt that something was wrong with me.
But the study on the four basic temperaments validated who I was. God made me the way I was and am. Because of my temperament, I had my own set of strengths and weaknesses. I wasn’t good at some of the things that other people were good at (who had other temperaments) but they also couldn’t be as good at some of the things that I was wired to do and enjoy.
So … I’m going to teach on the four temperaments at Westside Baptist Church beginning on Wednesday, January 30th. I’m not exactly sure how long the series will be just yet but I believe it’s going to be fun … and validating for a lot of people.
At the risk of being too transparent, but to give you an idea of how detailed this study can be, my temperament is Melancholy/Phlegmatic. For the most part, this description (found in the book cited above) describes me. … and some of the weaknesses listed below aren’t really a problem anymore as God has worked on me.
The greatest scholars the world has ever known have been MelPhlegs. They are not nearly as prone to hostility as the two previously discussed Melancholies and usually get along well with others. These gifted introverts combine the analytical perfectionism of the Melancholy with the organized efficiency of the Phlegmatic. They are usually good-natured humanitarians who blossom in a quiet solitary environment for study and research.
MelPhlegs are usually excellent spellers and good mathematicians. In addition to higher education, they excel in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, architecture, decorating, literature, theology, and many other “cerebral” fields. They are highly respected writers, philosophers, and scientists, and masters in construction, music, and arts. Extremely detail-conscious and accurate, they make good accountants, bookkeepers, and CPAs. If they enter medicine or dentistry, it is not uncommon for them to become specialists.
Most of the world’s significant inventions and medical discoveries have been made by MelPhlegs. One MelPhleg I know well is so gifted that I have often said, “He is the only man I know who is incapable of incompetence.”
Despite these abilities, the MelPhleg, like the rest of us, has potential weaknesses. Unless controlled by God, MelPhlegs easily become discouraged and develop a negative thinking pattern.
MelPhlegs are unusually vulnerable to fear, anxiety, and a negative self-image. It has always amazed me that the people with the greatest talents and capabilities are often victimized by genuine feelings of poor self-worth.
Ordinarily quiet, they are capable of hostility caused by their tendency to be revengeful. In addition to enduring mood swings, they can be stubborn and rigid, even uncooperative.
But once they learn to turn from the sin of criticism and to rejoice evermore, their outlook on life can be transformed. I know two brilliant MelPhlegs with a number of similarities: Both are the best in their fields, highly competent, and well paid. Both are family men and active Christians, but there the comparison ends. One is loved and admired by his family and many friends. He is a self-taught Bible scholar. The other man is respected by his family, antisocial, disliked by others, and miserable. The difference? The second man became bitter years ago, and today it influences his entire life; in fact, it even shows on his face.
Their strong tendency to be conscientious allows MelPhlegs to let others pressure them into making commitments that drain their energy and creativity. Even though humanitarian concerns may sometimes cause MelPhlegs to spend too much time away from their families, these people, when filled with God’s Spirit, are often loved and admired by their families because their personal self-discipline and dedication are exemplary. Unless they learn to pace themselves and enjoy diversions that help them relax, they often become early mortality statistics.
The most likely MelPhleg biblical candidate is the beloved apostle John. On one occasion he became so angry at some people that he asked the Lord to call down on them fire from heaven. Yet sensitive by nature, he laid his head on Jesus’ breast at the Lord’s Supper. At the Crucifixion he was the lone disciple who devotedly stood at the cross. John was the one to whom Jesus entrusted his mother.
Later the disciple became a great church leader and left us five books in the New Testament, two of which, his Gospel and Revelation, particularly glorify Jesus Christ.
If this piques your interest, get one of Tim LaHaye’s books on temperaments and read it. Some of them may be hard to find in book form but Amazon has them on Kindle.