I recently read an excerpt from author Tim LaHaye’s, “Spirit Controlled Temperament.” I love reading about different personalities and picking out which ones line up with my family members. For those that aren’t familiar with LaHaye’s temperaments there are four of them. He calls them the “real you” and they are based on names given by Hippocrates. Your temperament is the combination of inborn traits that affect all our behavior. Your temperament, combined with childhood training, education, basic attitudes, beliefs and principles forms our character. The outward appearance of that character is our personality. Depending upon how genuine a person is those two might or might not match up.
I am firmly in the “Rocky Choleric” temperament: hot, quick, active practical, and strong-willed. I’m self-sufficient and opinionated. I’m not frightened by adversity and I have a “dogged determination.” Here’s the downside. The “Rocky Choleric” doesn’t always sympathize with others and we don’t naturally express compassion. In fact, it’s the one area for me that makes me very uncomfortable. Oh, and did I forget to mention we can also be bossy? LaHaye goes on to say that the Apostle Paul was a Choleric.
“Who but a Choleric would crawl out from under a rock pile and the next day walk 12 miles to preach the gospel?”Tim LaHaye
And boy have I managed to drop a lot of rocks on myself. I’m working on crawling out.
I wore my pessimistic personality like a badge of honor. I chastised people who I felt lived behind, “rose colored glasses.” I consistently was praised for fixing other people’s problems and resolving organizational messes. But did I mention us Cholerics can be bossy and not compassionate? On the inside, I envied other people’s social lives. I wanted to be that woman that walked into a room and threw off glitter wherever she went. People adore that woman. She gets invited to Palm Springs weekend getaways with the girls and Luke Bryan concerts (with backstage passes no less). I would sit hunched over my computer scrolling through other peoples’ facebook pages seeing all the parties I wasn’t invited to. I envied the sparkly people who were at all the book clubs and Bunco parties. And every time I tried fitting in, I failed miserably. Maybe that’s what James is talking about in this verse.
I was trying to do what Tim LaHaye says is next to impossible – change my basic temperament — because I was envious. I wanted to change the person God made me to be. What I needed to do instead was align the positive parts of my temperament to Jesus and learn how to release the negative parts. The world’s greatest generals, dictators, and gangsters have predominately been Cholerics, according to LaHaye. The difference? Their alignment or lack thereof with God.
Envy is a dangerous game. It leads to anger and hatred and sometimes violence. Warren Buffett once said,
‘It’s not greed that drives the world but envy.”
Envy is the idea of wanting what others have and taking it from them if necessary. We see a lot of envy in social media, the news, and even as a basis for some of the riots going on today. Someone wants what someone else has. As Christians, even in our darkest situations we aren’t to envy others. We are to turn to God for all our needs.
Envy never finds itself in good company. I visualize envy as a black swirling, scribbly mass that’s living inside our body. Its disorganized and ravenous. It keeps us from thinking with God’s wisdom. It tears at our hearts so we fail to be compassionate. We end up living far outside the righteous life He wants for us.
So, when I announced to a Bible study group a few years ago that I, Kris Shetter the Choleric, wanted to be Sparkly, also known in LaHaye’s world as the “Sparky Sanguine,” I had to figure out how to do that while remaining true to myself. The Sparky Sanguine is warm, buoyant, lively, and fun loving. She/He is optimistic, compassionate and friendly. Ya, I bet she goes to all the best parties!
James starts us off on the right path to aligning ourselves with God’s plan:
Humbleness and envy cannot exist in the same space. When we humble ourselves, we acknowledge the One greater than ourselves. We place ourselves as servants of God. We give up all success to God. When we envy someone we think we deserve better than others. We take personal credit for success. We have selfish ambition,
I realized I was walking around thinking I knew better than everyone because I could clean up their messes. Because you know those “rose colored glasses” types aren’t paying attention to all that glitter they leave laying around! I knew without a doubt that my way was the best way. And here’s a little secret: people don’t like to be around people who think they are lesser. People don’t like to be constantly corrected or fixed by other faulty human beings. Go figure.
Lest we think the other three of LaHaye’s temperaments are not without faults he gives us their weaknesses as well. That Sparky Sanguine? Restless, undisciplined, egotistical, and emotional. Seen as the Apostle Peter. The Maestro Melancholy? Self-centered, suspicious, over-sensitive, pessimistic and moody. Epitomized by Solomon. And my husband’s Flip Phlegmatic? Slow, lazy, provocative, selfish and stubborn. And yet LaHaye calls out Abraham as a Phlegmatic. Thankfully, my husband only got the stubborn part of that one!
Every single one of us has something about us that can use some Godly tweaking. I know some people have looked at me enviously – “She’s so organized!” “She’s a good leader and can stand up and talk in front of anyone!” “She’s such an amazing problem solver!” There’s a difference between admiration and envy. Envy takes all those statements about me and turns them into something ugly, as though that other person could never attain those same outcomes. I wanted to start admiring people who were sparkly, not envy them.
The state of being viewed with such approval or delight.
en·vy | \ ˈen-vē \
Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage
I don’t want to be envied for anything. I don’t need to envy anyone. I admire a lot of my friends. Because funny enough, I’ve surrounded myself with much more compassionate people that I am. And I’d rather just be admired for my faith in God. Because that is attainable for everyone. As for my Big, Fat, Sparkly Life? God and I are doing a lot of work bringing out my good characteristics and wiping away the bad ones. I know that only when I give to God those things about me that I’ve worked so hard to perfect over my 55 years will I find success – which to me means finding joy in as many moments as possible. Ya, that kinda sounds like “rose-colored glasses” living but who cares.
What parts of your temperament do you need to give over to God to help remove or refine? To read more about Tim LaHaye’s 4 Spiritual Temperaments click here.