Vincent and I found out about the Four Temperaments early on in our marriage. It was a blessing and helped us to deal with the personalities of our children.
My husband is a strong choleric and if we had not had the understanding of the personalities, it would have been difficult for him to accept the different ways that our children responded to things, the way they worked, etc.
I think it is invaluable to have this information. We need to learn how to graciously live with people and nurture better relationships. There are many good books out there about it. This particular excerpt is from the book Personality Plus by Florence Litauer. It was one of the first books about the subject we stumbled upon and is written with an easy-to-read and humorous style.
In the following, Mrs. Litauer gives us a good picture of two opposite temperaments living in the same household.
Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself
How many of you have a Michelangelo complex? How many of you look at other people as raw material, ready to be carved up by your expert hand? How many of you can think of at least one person whom you could really shape up if only he’d listen to your words of wisdom? How anxious is he to hear from you?
If it were possible to remake other people, my husband, Fred, and I would be perfect, for we set out to chip away at each other right from the beginning.
I knew that if he’d loosen up and have fun, we could have a good marriage; but he wanted me to straighten up and get organized.
On our honeymoon I found out Fred and I didn’t even agree on eating grapes! I always enjoyed plunking a whole bunch of cold, green grapes beside me and plucking off whichever one appealed to me.
Until I married Fred, I didn’t know there were “Grape Rules.” I didn’t know each simple pleasure in life had a so-called right way.
Fred first brought up the Grape Rule as I was sitting on the patio outside our cottage at Cam-bridge Beaches in Bermuda, looking out to sea and absentmindedly pulling grapes off a large bunch. I didn’t realize Fred was analyzing my unsystematic eating of the fruit until he asked, “Do you like grapes?”
“Oh, I love grapes!”
“Then I assume you’d like to know how to eat them correctly?”
On that I snapped out of my romantic reveries and asked a question that subsequently became a part of a regular routine: “What did I do wrong?”
“It’s not that you’re doing it wrong; you’re just not doing it right.”
I couldn’t see that there was much of a difference, but I phrased it his way. “What am I not doing right?”
“Anyone knows that to eat grapes properly, you cut off a little bunch at a time, like this.”Fred pulled out his nail clippers and snipped off a small cluster of grapes, which he set before me. As he stood smugly staring down at me, I asked, “Does this make them taste better?”
“It’s not for taste. It’s so the large bunch will keep its looks longer. The way you eat them— just grabbing grapes here and there— leaves the bunch a wreck. Look at what you’ve done to it! See all those tiny bare stems, sticking up all over the place ? They ruin the shape of the whole bunch.”
I glanced around the secluded patio to see if there was some hidden group of grape judges waiting to enter my bunch in a contest, but seeing none, I said, “Who cares?”
I had not yet learned that “Who cares?” was not a statement to make to Fred, because it caused him to turn red and sigh with hopelessness, “I care, and that should be enough.” Fred did really care about every detail in life, and my presence in his family did seem to ruin the shape of the whole bunch.
To help me out, Fred diligently set out to improve me. Instead of appreciating his wisdom, I tried to sabotage his strategy and subtly change him to become more like me. For years Fred chiseled and chipped away at my failures— and I sanded steadily on his fault lines— but neither one of us improved.
Each One of Us Is Unique
We started out with a combination of ingredients that made us different from our brothers and our sisters. Over the years people have chiseled on us, chipped, hammered, sanded, and buffed. Just when we thought we were finished products, someone would start shaping us up again. Occasionally we’d enjoy a day in the park, when everyone who passed by admired us and stroked us, but at other times we were ridiculed, analyzed, or ignored.
We were all born with our own temperament traits, our raw material, our own kind of rock. Some of us are granite, some marble, some alabaster, some sandstone.
Our type of rock doesn’t change, but our shapes can be altered . So it is with our personalities. We start with our own set of inborn traits.
Some of our qualities are beautiful with strains of gold. Some are blemished with fault lines of gray.
Our circumstances, IQ, nationality, economics, environment, and parental influence can mold our personalities, but the rock underneath remains the same.
My temperament is the real me; my personality is the dress I put on over me.
I can look in the mirror in the morning and see a plain face, straight hair, and a bulgy body. That’s the real me.
Gratefully, within an hour I can apply makeup to create a colorful face; I can plug in the curling iron to fluff up my hair; and I can put on a flattering dress to camouflage too many curves.
I’ve taken the real me and dressed it up, but I haven’t permanently changed what’s underneath. If only we could understand ourselves: Know what we’re made of, Know who we really are, Know why we react as we do, Know our strengths and how to amplify them, Know our weaknesses and how to overcome them.
We can! When we know who we are and why we act the way we do, we can begin to understand our inner selves, improve our personalities, and learn to get along with others. We are not going to try to imitate someone else, put on a brighter dress or new tie, or cry over the kind of stone we’re made from.
We’re going to do the very best we can with the raw material available. In recent years manufacturers have found ways to duplicate some of the classic statues, and in any large gift store you may find dozens of Davids, walls of Washingtons , lines of Lincolns, replicas of Reagan, and clones of Cleopatra. Imitations abound, but there’s only one you.
Click here for a very good talk given by our priest on the Four Temperaments. He is writing on a marker board so be patient, it’s a little slow getting started, but the talk is great and will give you good basic information about the temperaments!
Here are a couple of books on the temperaments. I know there are many out there but these are a couple of the ones I am familiar with.
The Temperament God Gave You: The Classic Key to Knowing Yourself, Getting Along with Others, and Growing Closer to the Lord
Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself
Here are some suggestions from the comments. Thank you for these!
This is an excellent treatment of all four temperaments by Fr. Christiaan Kappes:
There are two more by Art and Loraine Bennett.
Have you read any others you would like to share with us?
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