I looked at my copy of Art and Laraine Bennett’s The Temperament God Gave You: The Classic Key to Knowing Yourself, Getting Along with Others, and Growing Closer to the Lord. It wouldn’t close anymore. The cover was curled up from having been in my hands so long. The corners were bent. The back was completely marked up. In front of me sat one book that had truly helped clarify the world around me.
I had received it as a Christmas present from my husband a few years ago when my oldest was still a toddler. Desperate to find out what my, my husband, and my children’s temperaments were so I could fix—something—about the way I interacted with them, my husband I took the lengthy temperament quiz in the back of the book during the three-hour car ride between our parents’ houses that Christmas day. Doggedly answering, marking, and calculating, we had finally solved the puzzle: I was a melancholic and my husband a choleric. Our oldest darling girl: a choleric, just like her dad. Finally, some answers.
As I worked through the book, understanding first the four temperaments and how they come into play in marriage, the spiritual life, and in parenting, the fog of confusion of relating with people completely unlike me in my household began to lift. As I came to a greater understanding and appreciation of the four temperaments, the gifts natural to them and the accompanying struggles, I had a greater empathy for those around me. I slowly came to understand the constant inborn need for my husband and daughter to always be doing something and also see as a legitimate need my desire for quiet time and reflection. I understood better friends who first saw the world in terms of relationships instead of principles. I came to a greater appreciation of my own natural gifts, and became more rightly abhorrent of vices that ran in contradiction to what should come naturally to me (for instance, melancholics are naturally tidy, orderly people, and I am notoriously messy).
I found myself very often using the tips found in Chapter 8 entitled, “How to Motivate Yourself and Others”. I often had great success using the suggestions listed for motivating the different temperament types. When I remembered to motivate with principles and goals my first child and with relationships the second, more often than not the work got done. Occasionally, I found that chapter’s advice on motivating individuals to be completely disastrous, until I realized that I had mistakenly switched tactics in my head, using them on the wrong temperaments. When I remembered and corrected myself, I had the same beautiful results again.
In the following weeks, I hope to more closely examine the different temperaments, highlighting key advice from the Bennetts on how to relate, motivate, and best love those with each type of temperament.
To the Bennetts: I am so grateful for your wisdom. Thank you for this most beautiful book that has done wonders for my family.
“Every temperament is in itself good, and with each one man can do good and work out his salvation.” (Father Conrad Hock, pg.27)
Copyright 2012 Meg Matenaer