In a follow-up to the recent article on Introverts and Extroverts in the Body of Christ, we wish to explore some challenges associated with personality. Again, this is not a scientific or psychological study, but simply some observations from experience that we may find helpful. Given that God’s people are diverse in how their personalities are manifested, we want to be more aware so that we can better interact with one another. Rather than being judgmental of someone’s personality, we need to be understanding and merciful, knowing that all of us need that mercy (cf. Matt. 5:7).
Following are some further matters related to personalities that we might consider:
1. Challenge yourself to grow. This might feel uncomfortable, but don’t be content with your status quo. Try to recognize areas in your life where you need to grow. Be honest with where you are. If we know that we are deficient in an area that reflects on our spiritual vitality, then we need to know God’s word well enough to see where we ought to be. It may well be that our personalities need some work, and we can’t just rest easy by thinking, “That’s just the way I am.” Maybe the way I am needs to improve to become more like Christ. I need to pray for God’s help and seek to grow (cf. Eph. 4:15).
2. Work harder in those areas that need changing. Once we’ve identified areas in our personalities that need improving, then we need to be dedicated to working hard to improve. This in no way lessens our reliance upon God, but God does not want us sitting back and doing nothing. We need to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14), and if our personalities are such that we’re not inclined to put out much effort, then that needs to change. It won’t happen by accident.
3. Don’t use personality as an excuse to sin. “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Perhaps this is the most dangerous part of personality considerations. It is one thing to accept the reality of our personality differences, but it is quite another matter to use our personality traits and habits as an excuse to do wrong or fail to do what is right. If one is inclined to be emotional, for example, then using that is not an excuse to get easily angry and mistreat people (cf. Eph. 4:26-32). If another is inclined to shyness, then using that shyness is not an excuse to fail to speak up on behalf of Christ when the need arises (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15). If “the way I am” leads me to a sinful demeanor, then that needs to change, and personality cannot be an excuse. There are some aspects of our personalities that may well need to be overcome, which is why it is so important to challenge ourselves and work harder where we see the need to change.
4. Don’t be absorbed with self. The danger in thinking about our own personalities is that we can become self-absorbed. Our culture teaches us to do just that. We are taught to “be yourself” to the point that we might run roughshod over others in order to force our “rights” to be what we want to be. If “that’s the way I am” becomes an excuse to focus so much on “me,” then I’ve overstepped the line. We need to think enough about ourselves to know where we can grow and how we ought to change, but we also need to develop, as part of who we are, a sense of humility and a desire to serve others first. This runs counter to what the world tells us, but it is a major part of what it means to be Christians (see Philippians 2:1-8). The mind of Christ has us denying ourselves. If our personalities aren’t inclined to that because we are self-absorbed, then we’ve identified a significant change that needs to occur in our lives.
5. Consciously strive to bring God glory. One may lean toward introversion, and another toward extroversion, but both need to share in common the goal and desire to glorify God. Where personalities are concerned and no sin is involved, we should not expect everyone to be the same way, act the same way, or manifest emotions the same way. However, we should expect that we share the same goals in Christ and that we will all bring to the table our unique abilities that will help build up the body of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:16). This we need to do consciously, making those changes that are needed as we grow in Him. By doing so we will bring glory to God.
Various personalities are a vital part of Christ’s church, and we ought to celebrate the fact that no one is identical to another. At the same time, we need to be aware of the challenges that arise and be prepared to face them with God at our side.