Observations on Theology, Culture and the Hosier family

Saturday, 3 November 2007

PERSONALITY 6: PERSONALITY & CHARACTER

That Peterson quote again: “In the jargon of the day, we pray: ‘sacrifice is not one of my gifts – I want to serve God with my strength, with my giftedness.’ It’s a strange thing, but sacrifice never seems to show up on anyone’s Myers-Briggs profile.”

Understanding our personality is helpful, but it will only take us so far. We also need to develop character – it is godly character that will enable us to make sacrifices.

How can we distinguish personality and character? Often, the two terms are used interchangeably, but I think they are different. Two common mistakes we make are to criticize a character flaw in someone else, when in actual fact it is just their personality, or to excuse as, “its just my personality” what is actually sin!

So, some definitions.

As described in an earlier post, personality is about how others see us, as well as how we respond to circumstances. In contrast, character is more about how we are morally. D.L. Moody is quoted as saying, “Character is what you are in the dark.” It is possible to have an attractive personality, while being of corrupt character.

We tend to respond to people’s personality but need to learn to respond primarily to their character.

The good news is that we have much more control over our character than we do over our personality. Our personality is fixed by our DNA and our upbringing and experiences, while character is a result of our decisions. God can use any personality – character is always the limiting factor. So we need to be people whose character shapes our personality more than the other way around.

How can we develop godly character?

An important part of character development is learning to handle our personality! We need to learn to handle the temptations our personality leads us in to. We need to allow character to be the frame around which we build our gifts, rather than simply relying upon the power of our personalities.

The Corinthians had lost sight of this frame and foundation. We can see this in 1 Cor. 3:10-13, where Paul writes: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.”

The foundation Paul lay had nothing to do with personality – it had to do with the person of Jesus Christ. And how we build on this foundation is not about personality.

Whatever the limitations of Paul’s personality he grew in character – he finished strong. We can see this in 2 Tim. 4:6-8 where Paul, in a dungeon and knowing he will soon die, writes:

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Paul didn’t finish his race strong by chance. He got there strong because of the decisions he made. Decisions which day by day positively shaped his character.

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