The Four Temperaments of personality have been developed from 3000 odd years ago where Proverbs is noted to say that the wise man saw four kinds of people (30v11-14). Personally, I’m not convinced of the relativity of the verse to the temperaments. Nevertheless, after this, research claims that Hippocrates gave the temperaments their names and then in 200AD Galen, a Greek doctor, wrote a list of strengths and weaknesses to go with each temperament.
After Galen there was Freud and his spin, then the Norwegian theologian Ole Hallesby threw in a different take and then Tim LaHaye developed Hallesby’s concepts to create what he called the ‘blend’s of temperaments. In other words, no-one only fits with one temperament. We all possess varying degrees of 2, 3 or all of the temperaments. Then, of course, there are the effects of ill health, parents, background, upbringing, educational level, varying faith-approaches and the like. In other words, it’s no exact science. It’s merely a way for human beings to understand themselves, each other and why they do things the way they do. The temperament approach works by way of category, because people love categories, they prefer being able to put something in a box. The truth is though, and I don’t expect anyone to believe me, that there are no boxes at all. No one is the same as anyone else, that’s impossible. Overall, it would appear, people seldom seem to be able to accept everyone’s uniqueness; they want boxes, comparatives, reasons, logic, explanation and the like. Yet, in the right light and context, these temperaments work well as a means to help a person discover things about themselves in a society that has taken them away from knowing themselves and the fact that they are amazing human beings made to do great things, no matter their inborn temperament.
Starting with Smilely Sanguine, as I call him/her: warm, lively and fun-loving. Lives in the now and bases decisions on feelings. Has the ability to keep conversation flowing and is an excellent story-teller, which often makes them the light of the party. Sanguines have the ability to make others feel special, whilst in their company that is. A Sanguine is energised by people, though openly sincere, s/he often speaks without thinking. They are erratic and have no interest in detail or being an accountant, for example, as numbers wouldn’t satisfy their cheerful nature, natural charisma and desire to work with people.
Their strength is that they enjoy life and wake-up to the day in a lively mood. They aren’t weighed down by the past and are naturally optimistic. They are also friendly and compassionate. After taking these points into consideration, their weaknesses are understandable. They have a restlessness about them which does not make them very good students, as they can be impractical and disorganised, which echoes their mental restlessness too, which leads on to their weak-wills. Often the façade of a dynamic personality covers the weakness of their character and hidden desire for approval from others. I think of the Death of a Salesman plot and also of how the American footballer with all his charisma and ‘the most likely to succeed’ yearbook quote, doesn’t succeed.
Sanguines are good at starting things, but not at finishing them. They usually cannot be depended upon to keep a time-schedule or meet deadlines. Still ,their egos have been buffed by the reception their charisma gets from others which creates emotional instability and a lack of loyalty in their character. In linking this temperament to love and marriage, Sanguines have the greatest problem with lust. They’re ‘touchers’ with charisma and charm and a lack of will to turn down a temptation. Their ability to live in the present makes them focus on the now and the temptation, and not on their family at home. From youth, in order to gain control of their flaws, they are advised to learn self-control, experience suffering to learn empathy and the damage they could do and step towards faith, peace and goodness.
Then there’s: Commanding Choleric. Cholerics are generally seen as active, quick, practical and strong-willed in temperament. They are self-sufficient and incredibly independent, decisive and opinionated within their keen minds. They will often make other’s decisions for them. A choleric will stimulate his/her environment with plans, ideas and ambitions, as s/he believes that life is activity. Your Cholerics will be the ones crusading against social injustices, with no inkling of fear towards any adversaries; s/he will land on his/her feet all the time. Once the goal is set, it will be accomplished, no matter what. Neatness and details, however, are not their forte. They will assign someone else to take care of the finances.
The emotional aspect of this temperament is the least developed of the four and tears around Cholerics may cause embarrassment and/or disgust. They offer little compassion at all, thus love is not high on their priority list. Hence, one can devise that the strengths of the Cholerics are their strong-wills, their ability to be practical, their natural-born leadership traits, their take charge ability and their dedicated optimism in their adventurous nature and unshakeable confidence.
Following on from this their weakness appear, their hot-tempers, with a great deal of anger, their cruelty at putting others down and simply running over other’s feelings. Cholerics are advised to learn morals from a young age, before their strength of will takes a downward direction towards criminal activity, dictatorship and/or cruel leadership. Their impetuous nature means that even if a project is something they regret they will finish it to save their pride as they maintain their stubbornness. They need to be aware that their cruel, blunt and sarcastic statements are often very hurtful to others; and that their independence may move towards complete self-sufficiency, where: “they don’t need God”, they don’t “need” anyone. With regards to love and marriage, love is not their priority, they do not apologize or show approval and some even beat their spouses into submission. Cholerics give and get ulcers. They carry a grudge and are often revengeful in their “A-type personality”. Parents are advised to develop their Choleric child’s ability to love, find joy, practice peace, gentleness, meekness and goodness, along with suffering, to learn empathy. A challenging temperament indeed.
Thirdly: Moody Melancholies are often referred to as the “dark” temperaments, and are genuinely the ‘richest’ of all four. They are analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted perfectionists with an extremely sensitive emotional nature. Of all the temperaments, they enjoy the arts the most. By nature they are introverted, and due to the predominance of feelings, very moody: from extrovertish to gloomy, depressed, withdrawn and antagonistic. They battle to make friends as they are suspicious of others, but once made, they are loyal, dependable and faithful, their perfectionist nature does not allow them to be otherwise. They possess an intensely strong desire to be loved by others. They often find their greatest meaning in life through great personal sacrifice. They are thorough and persistent and the most likely to accomplish great good with their high IQ’s, high level of creativity and capability to produce high-quality work. Melancholies pay attention to the details; they keep logs and work within their legalistic nature. They are excellent with budgets and balancing books. They are also naturals at growing things and natural at creating things too. Think of Beethoven, Van Gogh, Mozart and Wagner. Great mood creates great art, followed by severe depression.
For their strengths, you can say they are sensitive, creative and naturally gifted. Their standard of excellence usually exceeds any others. They will always want to analyse what was done and do better the next time. They are realistic and see the potential problems in any plan presented to them. They are faithful friends and would lay down their lives if required in their usual self-sacrificial manner. They prefer to be behind the scenes in the tasks of life and have a wonderful capacity to know their limitations and not take on more than they can handle and complete. On the flip-side, their weaknesses show them to be self-centred, which may lead to hypochondria. Constant self-examination paralyses their will and energy which can be harmful to them. This self-centredness can ruin their lives when compounded by their sensitive nature as they are easily insulted and/or offended. Melancholies carry their feelings on their sleeves. This follows on to reinforce their suspicious natures, that those hushed whispers are “about them”. If not observed, then this can lead to a persecution complex.
Melancholics are pessimistic. Their perfectionism and constant state of analysis sets them up for this. They see the end of a project, but also all the problems along the way that will have to be surmounted and the mental, and often magnified, problems outweigh the effort /end product in their minds. They have been ‘disappointed so many times’ that they doubt the end result will be as good as promised anyway. Sadly, Melancholies walk in self-pity with their pessimistic outlook that makes them fearful and indecisive. They don’t want to fall short of their high-standards or be the butt of other’s criticism. They are the most critical of all the temperaments with their unrealistic expectations. They’re also revengeful, if quiet and calm on the surface, the criticisms of others can create anger, hatred and/or animosity in their actions and they may harbour those grudges for years. It is an unforgiving, revengeful spirit that can outweigh their brilliant deductive ability and cause them to make prejudiced decisions.
If we look at the love and marriage context, these are your bachelors and spinsters. Many have ruined good marriages because their partners only matched up to about 92% of their expectations. Melancholies amplify and focus on the bad, not the good. The criticism, if not said, can be expressed through a haughty manner conveying that others do not meet their standards, and they are just as critical of themselves too. Thus, they have little joy in their lives. Melancholies in general battle to take the “fatal plunge” into marriage. Instead they ‘idealise’ from a distance, then, in relationship discover the other to have too many weaknesses. Often they truly love others, but will not enter wedlock, purely because of the other’s weaknesses. I quote Dr Hallesby: “A great many men are unmarried simply because they are Melancholic. They themselves may think that they are Melancholy because they are bachelors.” Yet they are bachelors, because they are melancholy. To quote LaHaye: “Many unmarried women will admit that they’ve had a number of marriage offers; it’s just that “Mr Perfect never came along”.
With regards to Melancholy youth: Work on exercises of love, learning to be joyful and thankful, finding peace, goodness, faith and self-control to get out of those depressions.
The final temperament: Funny Phlegmatic. We’re looking at a calm, cool, slow, easy-going, well-balanced temperament here. No matter what’s going on, Phlegmatics usually won’t react unless they hit boiling point, as their emotions are always kept under control. They are the consistent, unchanging type. They seldom lack friends as they have a naturally dry sense of humour that others enjoy, whilst the Phlegmatic him/herself doesn’t even crack a smile. Their personal joy is to imitate and ridicule others. They are usually annoyed by the restless Sanguine, disgusted by the gloom of Melancholy and throw ice water on Choleric’s plans. They tend to be spectators of life and try not to get involved. They are seldom motivated beyond their daily routine. Yet, if aroused to action, the Phlegmatic can be seen as highly competent and efficient as ‘reluctant’ leaders. They are big on waiting, which means they may often wait their lives away and not go for their desires. They are natural peacemakers and have helped many others fulfill dreams, if not helped themselves achieve their own. They are perfect for activities that need daily routine and meticulous patience. Thus they are accurate bookkeepers and able to keep everything monetary precisely balanced.
As far as strengths are concerned, Phlegmatics are very witty and don’t get involved in other’s business. They seem to have an inborn sense of comic timing that works with their imaginations to make them great stand-up comics. They are dependable, in fact dependability-personified, whilst being cheerful and good-natured; they will always do what is expected of them. Their slow easy-going nature makes them fantastic listeners. They also have the ability to keep from identifying themselves in the person they are listening to, thus not taking on the speaker’s emotions or depressions, which makes them objective counsellors. They work very well under pressure where other temperaments might ‘crack’. They are also efficient, practical, neat and well organised. Phlegmatics, although not perfectionists, have high standards with regards to precision and accuracy, they find this approach saves them time in the long run.
Then, lastly, their weaknesses. Even though they are likable by nature, they have a slow and lazy approach to everything, which is enhanced if they believe they are being stimulated to take action against their will. They are inclined to do as little as necessary. In being annoyed by the other temperaments, the Phlegmatics are prone to tease those who annoy them or threaten to motivate them. They will use their ability to tease to get others angry and stirred up next to their calm. They also have a prominent selfishly stubborn streak. Their selfishness extends through the spheres of money, effort and sometimes emotions too. In another light, they can be seen as stingy. They are also indecisive. With their practical and analytical ability they can usually find a better way to do something, but it happens SLOWLY. The love-marriage challenge here is that even if they love someone, they rarely let the other person know it. They are opposed to work and marriage takes work. They prefer to conserve their energies for what they feel like. Their stubbornness gets worse with age, yet they will never stamp their feet, instead they will smile and graciously not do what has been asked. Even so, they do want to be people pleasers but second guess themselves into believing they will offend if they do or say anything, so they won’t, which suits them, because they don’t like ‘getting involved’.
In guiding a Phlegmatic youth, lessons in love, goodness, meekness, faith and motivational self-control are imperative.
Of course, as per LaHaye, many people are blends of these temperaments. Through self-reflection one would be able to discover their personal blend. Even so, facing and applying these points objectively, even for one temperament, is very difficult for many people as they don’t like to see and know the truth about themselves.
Adapted from the book “Spirit-Controlled Temperament” by Tim LaHaye