Ever wonder why you do what you do? Perhaps you are quick to react and like to argue, to debate, to be the boss, to always be right, to be a doer. On the other hand, you may be diplomatic, peaceful, hate conflict, are oversensitive, and enjoy being home in a quiet place. Both these descriptions describe two temperaments analyzed in the book The Temperament God Gave You, written by Art and Laraine Bennett. Art is a licensed marriage and family therapist who helps clients discover their temperament and thus become a more effective parent, a loving spouse, and a true friend.
Bennett’s book is not a trendy self-help book. Hippocrates first wrote about four main types of human traits back in 370 B.C. Bennett explains the temperament is not personality. It is like the raw material an artist uses for his masterpiece. We are born with a certain temperament. Bennet writes that personality “begins with a basic temperament, but it is clearly affected by environment, education, and free choice.” Our temperament can never be destroyed, but it can be modified.
I delved into this book to understand myself a little better and perhaps be a force for good in this weary old world. That happened. Little nooks and crannies of my inner self became obvious to me. I desperately wanted to be a sanguine, a person who had many friends, who loved parties, who was popular, self-assured, and carefree. Not gonna happen. In my childhood days, I loved to jump on my bike and take long rides…alone. A perfect day for me was to watch The Three Stooges on television and then go to my room to read a book…alone. In high school, I envied the cheerleaders who flitted around the hallways, always smiling, looking pretty, admired by the cute guys. Deep down I just wanted to be invisible and…alone with my thoughts.
I kept reading Bennett’s book and the picture became clear. My dominant temperament (most people have secondary temperaments) is phlegmatic. I am an introvert. I am a person who is polite, prefers routine, is patient, tolerant, not a leader, and can be indifferent or unmotivated. At the end of the book is a 232 point temperament indicator. I diligently circled appropriate traits. I still rooted that I would be Sanguine. Yet, I knew the truth about myself. Final tally: Chorelic 14 traits, Sanguine 28, Melancholic 39, Phlegmatic 55. No contest.
Know thyself. That is a vital factor in spiritual growth. I can better know my strengths and weaknesses, thereby build where I must and have reasonable expectations about what I can’t do. Bennett emphasizes that we can change how we interact with ourselves and the world. It all starts with self-awareness.
Not to worry. I do accept my little phlegmatic self. It certainly helps in my vocation as a Secular Franciscan. You see, people of my temperament are peacemakers. It appears to me that our world is in great need of those who by nature desire peace and try to bring harmony to their little corner of the world.