Personality, like body type, is to a large extent fixed by the time we reach our 20’s.
While there are some things we can do to adjust our appearance – the clothes we wear, hairstyle, whether we work at our fitness or get fat, etc. – there is nothing we can do about the fundamentals. For example, I would like to be six foot tall, but the reality is that I am 5’11.5’’! I can wear shoes with a heel to get that extra half-inch, but I am never going to be six foot. And because it sounds lame to describe my height as 5’11.5’’, I always say I am 5’11”, which is a whole inch shorter than six foot!
If we try too hard to change the fundamentals of our appearance, it always backfires. The bald man who develops a massive scrape-over looks ridiculous – no-one is fooled! Michael Jackson looks ridiculous.
And I believe it is the same with personality.
We can modify our personality, but fundamentally it is fixed. If we try too hard to be who we are not it always backfires – no-one is fooled.
The trouble is that just as many of us are dissatisfied with our physical appearance, so many of us are dissatisfied with our personality. We would like to have the kind of personality that lights up every room we walk into and causes everyone to love us and think we are wonderful.
But not many people are like that. So we try and develop a ‘personality scrape-over.’ And no-one is fooled.
Most of us did not have the kind of personality that made us the most popular kid in school, and inevitably this grates. Most people go through their teens thinking, “I wish I looked like him/her” and “I wish I had a personality like him/her.” We can carry this attitude into adulthood, and it is always destructive.
The question we need to resolve is, Do we get our validation from people or from Christ? If our validation is from people then it is likely we will always be fighting our personality. If it is from Christ then we can learn his acceptance of us. I think Paul would have had plenty of reason to be uncomfortable with himself, but instead he comes across as a man who knew he was validated because he was in Christ:
1 Cor. 15:10 "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect."
Paul had learned to be comfortable with his personality – even if he wasn’t as ‘hail-fellow-well-met’ as Peter or as impressive looking as Apollos. No personality type is perfect – sanguines easily slip from being entertaining to being merely irritating; cholerics can be so opinionated they intimidate everyone else; melancholics can be so creative they just cause confusion; phlegmatics can be so passive that other personality types want to slap them…
The different tests I have taken have said I have a personality type similar to as wide a range of people as St Paul, Margaret Thatcher, Picasso and Elvis! In the end – and by the grace of God – I just have to learn to be content with being Matthew Hosier. There’s not much I can do about my personality, but there is certainly a lot I can do about my character. I would like to reflect Paul in that respect, because the thing that can indisputably be said about Paul is that he had character.
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