Temperament Theory

So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.                                                                                                                           Genesis 1:27

There has been a great deal of interest in temperament types, especially in the past 30 years. People are fascinated by the idea that there are fundamental underlying forces in our make-up which drive our behavior and the way that we think. Indeed, I believe that temperament is etched into our genetic material, and that we have a natural “bent” of the way that we perceive the world and react to it.

Carl Jung (no relation as far as I know) popularized this in his work Psychological Types. The concept has been around for many centuries, darting back to Herodotus who wrote about the “4 basic humours (as he called them) which determine a person’s health”. Those humours were blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. The balance of those humours, he believed, determined not only health, but the temperament of the individual. Those temperaments came to be labeled “choleric”, “phlegmatic”, “sanguine” and “melancholy”.

Interestingly enough, Jung’s later explanations of psychological types lined up nicely with Herodotus’s explanations, just with different names, and much more science to explain them. Later still, the Myers-Briggs Personality Types were themselves a further explanation of Jung’s Psychological Types.

Being a Jung myself (but not necessarily a Jungian), I do find temperament theory fascinating and quite helpful in explaining interpersonal relationships. In relationship counseling, it can be very helpful to discover temperament and explain to the partners in the relationship how those differences, which initially brought the couple together, now drives the other crazy.

What makes an Introvert attractive to an Extrovert, and vice-versa? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each type? How does temperament affect our responses to stress? Why do some people fail to appreciate their own temperament type?

These are some of the questions and concepts I will be discussing over the next few blogs. I hope you join me on the journey.

Prayer: We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and only you can really understand us. Thank you for your creative plan for diversity, which makes life so amazing, Amen

My Kids Are Amazing By the Way…

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.                                                                                                               Jeremiah 31:3 

I am just saying that I am in love with my kids.  My daughter and my son are really amazing persons. Yes, they are adults with children of their own. And, yes, I am a proud and completely biased parent. I see my kids in a light that no one, save their mother, whom I also love, can see them. Except their spouses I guess. They love my kids too.

I am blessed to have daily interaction with my kids. We text, call, email, share articles, compete on exercise challenges, and generally have fun with one another. I am completely blessed.

I think that is what God wants from his kids, that is -us. He wants regular interaction and communication with us. He wants to know what we want and need. He wants to be part of our daily life.

I believe God also thinks that we are amazing. We do not always feel that way, and indeed, we do not always act that way. Yet God has this father type love for us that transcends our puny abilities to live up to it.

Children always want the approval and affirmation of their parents. Even when we are adults, even as older adults, there is this thing of needing and striving for that approval. I see this in clients who have striven for years to gain an approval which seems to be elusive. Sometimes, this gets in the way of seeing God as one who loves them unconditionally. That is sad. Indeed, some people have been alienated from their parents for various reasons. Yet, there is hope for a parent relationship which can transcend family of origin relationships.

I trust that if you have children, you want a regular and meaningful communication with them. God wants that too. Prayer is simply that regular communication with him- the one who loves you more than you know.

So, call on Dad regularly, he wants to hear from you.

Prayer: Father, thank you for loving us as a father in such a special way, Amen.

 

Ready for Service

 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.  A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep”.                                                       John 21:15-17

This is the last story recorded in the Gospel of John. John relates a story about his friend, and sometime rival, Peter. Peter had recently denied Jesus on the night Jesus had been arrested. This played out just like Jesus had predicted, despite Peter’s vehement belief otherwise. Peter’s denial was three parts, that is, he had been asked three times about his affiliation with the arrested Jesus, and three times, Peter denied his friend and Rabbi.

Now, as part of the restoration, Jesus asks Peter three times if he can be trusted with caring for Jesus’ flock of believers. Peter was hurt and frustrated that Jesus had to ask him three times about his worthiness. More importantly, Peter heard Jesus question his love for Jesus.

I am guessing that Peter began to question himself in that regard. After all, he had promised before to be loyal to Jesus and he had failed miserably. Finally, Peter responded, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”.

I think that was a great response, one of insight. Peter came to understand that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Jesus knew that Peter needed redundant affirmation to be restored to service, so he brought up the three-time denials, and turned that around with three-time exhortations to serve.

The Bible frequently brings up the broken parts of its heroic characters to remind us that all of us have the required characteristics to serve God’s kingdom. We are flawed, yet forgiven.

Ready for service

Prayer: Father, thank you for the plan to restore us as we serve you, Amen.

Back to the Basics

“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.                                                                                                                                  Luke 12:6-7

 

I considered several different topics for today’s blog, and I ended up, for one reason or another, rejecting them. After I had written them, they just did not seem to hit the mark. That happens sometimes right? So, I decided to just look up the verse of the day on Biblegateway.com, and it is Luke 12:6-7. You can’t go wrong with good old Luke, probably my favorite Gospel writer. Luke gives such a good summation of Jesus’ teachings.

In this passage, the comfort that is expressed is so clearly obvious, yet easy to pass over sometimes. Jesus asserts that God does not forget a single sparrow. Not one! Then he states that God has numbered the very hairs on our head. (Admittedly, easier for God to do with some of us, but I digress.) He cares so much about our needs and welfare that he knows us that intimately.

We need this reminder from time to time when things around us are so altered and abnormal. The landmarks that we use to navigate our regular routines and plans have all been changed by the pandemic. Maybe those landmarks were inadequate to begin with. Perhaps this is the time to rethink what those landmarks should be. Holding on to the truths that Jesus taught are good ways to feel the sense of direction that we need. Just the basics- God loves us and values us, even in the midst of the chaos we are experiencing.

This disruption can serve as a way to find new navigation tools that really work. If we feel secure in the understanding of the most basic truths of God’s love for us, we can ultimately make sense of our changed environment and be better for it in the long run.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the simple truths which provide such comfort to us, Amen.

A Baseball (and Life) Story

 

 

For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.                                                                                                                                Psalm 103-11-12

As I see it, baseball can be a very useful metaphor to reflect life. There are a lot of life lessons that baseball can teach, and today I share one.

Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were pitchers on the New York Yankees for a number of years. Both were highly successful to say the least. Roger Clemens is considered by many as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Andy Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Famer, and may someday get into that hallowed place.

Both of them had a problem.

Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were named in the Mitchell Report (a commission to investigate performance enhancing drugs) as users of the substance HGH- Human Growth Hormone. HGH was banned by baseball due to its misuse by players. During the investigation, Pettitte was interviewed and mentioned that teammate Roger Clemens had introduced him to the substance when Pettitte was rehabbing an injury. Clemens himself had been widely known to use HGH and other performance enhancing substances, but he denied such use with vehemence.

Pettitte, soon after the report, acknowledged his use of HGH as an aid to rehabilitation. Human Growth Hormone does indeed speed recovery from injuries and is used medically for that purpose.

Roger Clemens, on the other hand, went to great lengths to deny his use of the substance. He even appeared before a Congressional sub-committee to testify and was brought up on charges of obstruction of Congress. While he was later found not guilty of those charges, his inconsistencies and his strident reactions have continued to cause him a lot of problems. One of those problems is that he, recognized as an all-time great, is still not in the Baseball Hall of Fame 13 year after his retirement from baseball. He is the only 300-win pitcher not in the Hall of Fame.

What is the difference between Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens? Andy Pettitte rather quickly acknowledged his use of HGH. People rarely remember much about the controversy with Pettitte. Clemens chose to deny his use and vilify those who accused him. He still awaits Hall of Fame recognition.

The moral of the story? When we admit to a wrong or a failure without blaming others and we take full ownership of the problem, people tend to quickly move on, forgiving, sometimes even forgetting the offense.

Recently the author Malcolm Gladwell was asked what characteristic is missing in our leaders today. Gladwell responded, “They do not own their mistakes and admit when they were wrong”.

I think Gladwell is right. People can believe and trust good leaders when they own their humanity, including admitting mistakes. The Bible teaches that when we confess our sins, God forgives, and he even chooses to forget that it even happened.

The things is, people tend to remember.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the forgiveness you so freely give, and the result of wiping away our failures, Amen.

Is Old Saul Still Around?

 

 

 

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.                                                       Ephesians 3:8 

This verse has always struck me. Paul a giant of the faith, one who had a deeply moving experience with God on the road to Damascus, calls himself “the least deserving” of all God’s people. Was this false humility? I don’t think so. Paul, who had also said that he had a “thorn in the flesh” from which he had not been delivered, was a man, I believe, deeply beset by a sense of shame.

I am not a Bible scholar, and this is strictly an amateur opinion of mine. Paul was a man who lived a life deeply committed to Jesus, and he was also deeply flawed. Sounds like a guy I would really like and could relate to.

Paul had persecuted Christians, and he had been present at the stoning of Stephen, an early martyr. Stephen’s last words were: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

If you are present, indeed complicit, in the murder of a person who is praying for your soul while you stand by assenting to that death, I have to believe that it leaves a deep impression. Was this really the moment that prepared Saul (before he became Paul) to see that those Christians were a different kind of people?

Maybe Paul, remembering those haunting words, saw himself, even after his redemption, as a man with scars. Maybe those scars were remnants of incomplete self-forgiveness. Who could blame him? Yes, he was forgiven by an amazing grace. Yet, he knew what he did. He knew that old Saul was still part of his story.

I don’t know. This is complete speculation on my part. But I think there is something to it. We all know what we have done, better than anyone else ever can. Yes, we are forgiven, but maybe there is a part of us that always reminds ourselves of that past, however forgiven it might be.

My point? Don’t be too hard on yourself if you still harbor some lingering elements of self-unforgiveness. You are in good company. But remember also, that God is not the one remembering those faults. His plan is for us to have complete forgiveness, including forgiving ourselves.

In the words of the old comic strip character Pogo- “we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us”

Prayer: Thank you for the truth that you have forgiven our sins “as far as the east is from the west”, Amen.

 

 

Self- Forgiveness

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.                                                                                                                                                              Colossians 1:14 (The Message)

I have discussed forgiveness in this space in the past, but today I want to tell a story of self-forgiveness. It is a common issue- we all face it, but this is an uncommon story. I say the issue is common, because it is part of our nature to have a conscience. It is true, that there are some individuals where the conscience is not well developed, or in rare cases, such as sociopaths, where there appears to be no sense of conscience present.

For the vast majority of people though, the sense of having done wrong, and being aware of it, is just part of being human. Thankfully, we have this sense of responsibility and awareness so that we can live collectively and supportively with one another. Just like anything else in us, this strength, this necessary self-awareness, to an extreme, can become a weakness.

We have a very hard time forgiving ourselves. We remember what we have done, how we have failed, or how we have hurt someone, and it eats at us. It can destroy us if we do not deal with it.

I had a client years ago, I will call her Lisa (not her real name, of course) who told me her story. Lisa had lived a life of brokenness. She had been a prostitute and a morphine addict, and one night she was taken to the emergency room- probably from an overdose. I will put the story in her words:

“They say that when you are dying that you are drawn to a bright light. There was no light where I was going. I was falling into a deep, dark, frightening pit. As I was falling, I heard a voice say to me ‘Lisa, if I sent my son to die for you, to forgive you, how dare you not forgive yourself!’

With that, the next thing I saw was myself lying on a table in a bright emergency room. In a moment, I was aware that I had not died, and that my life was changed.”

So, what had happened to Lisa? Maybe God had spoken to her. Lisa certainly believed it. The story was so powerful to me that I remember it 20 years later, and I share it, with her permission. It is a statement of the need for self-forgiveness, not as an option, but as a command! How can we choose not to forgive ourselves if the price of forgiveness was so high? How dare us not accept that forgiveness and live it out.

Lisa was a very dear person- one whose life really did change. Her story is powerful, and I hope it helps as a reminder of our need to forgive ourselves when we get lost in shame for things we have done, or for failures that seem to stick with us.

Tomorrow, another self-forgiveness story.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the forgiveness you freely offer to us. Help us to use it for the freedom for which it was meant, Amen.

 

 

Marvelous Things We Can’t Figure Out

“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’                                                                                                                                                      Jeremiah 33:2-3 (The Message)

 So, that is what God said to the prophet Jeremiah. We can’t even begin to understand the marvels of creation.  Every day it seems we learn more about how incredible the human body is designed. Intricacies of animals and insects can scarcely be understood, even by brilliant scientific minds.

While I was listening to a podcast the other day on my walk (yes, I am a podcast addict), I was fascinated by a discussion of the chemical make-up of wasp venom. Yes, I am also a nerd- I like that kind of stuff. At any rate, the podcast host was explaining how there are certain complex enzymes and proteins in the wasp venom that make it incredibly effective. Such detail in the design of a wasp!

We take so much for granted in our creation. Indeed, we get preoccupied with so much noise of bad news around us that we fail to breathe in the wonder of creation and appreciate the most common things in life.

I often tell my clients that the first thing we need to take control of in situations where we feel no control is our breathing. We can take voluntary control of an involuntary function. It helps us to slow down and regain our cognitive control when emotions carry us to an anxious place.

The very act of inhalation and expiration is a complex chemical reaction of enormous proportion. Maybe when we take control of that breathing, we can also be thankful just for the opportunity to do it.

Sometimes I marvel at the innocence of lower life forms who are not sentient and are unaware of their own existence or significance. Maybe, in our own way, we are sometimes just as clueless.

I think that there are marvelous and wondrous things we will never figure out on our own…

Prayer: Thank you Lord for this amazing life you have given to us. We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made, Amen.

Grace

 Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord                    II Peter 1:2
Grace…
-unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
-a virtue coming from God
-disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency                                                                                          
  -a pleasing appearance or effect                                                                                                                  
 -charm

These are some of the definitions of the word “grace” as given by Merriam-Webster. These are elegant phrases. Isn’t it nice to just read them and consider them? The word, grace, comes from the Greek word chairo, from which stem words like charity, charm, and charisma.  

I would like to suggest that we all need extra grace these days. Yes, we always need grace, but in these very trying times, we need an extra amount of it. The problem is, when we are in need of it so much ourselves, it is harder to give it away. You know the old saying, we need love the most when we are the most unlovable.

In these times when we are stressed by – make that surrounded by- COVID-19 considerations, we need grace. In the times when our teachers, principals, and superintendents are confronted with impossible decisions, they need grace.

In these times when elected officials are trying to make those same difficult, controversial decisions, they need grace. I believe that these people are doing the best they can. Do they always make good, correct decisions? No. But I believe that they are sincerely trying to serve and to make the best of a situation where there are no reliable road maps.

Some may believe that there are vast conspiracies, malevolent motives, nefarious plans afoot. I don’t think that helps. I hope we can choose to show grace to those who are trying to work in the best interest of those whom they serve. Yes, we can disagree with decisions. That is indeed a part of life. But as we make known our dissent, how about a little grace.

We all need it right now.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the unmerited favor that you always show to us, even when we are so far from deserving it, Amen.

 

On Leadership

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you                                                                                                   Psalm 32:8

I have spoken to numerous groups over the years about leadership principles, and the integral characteristics of leadership. One of the examples I give is that of Dean Smith, the legendary coach of the University of North Carolina basketball team for many years. Coach Smith was a winning basketball coach. That is like saying “the sun is hot”. He won 879 games in his storied career, as well as two national championships, an NIT Championship (when that meant something), and an Olympic gold medal. The list of his basketball accomplishments could take this whole blog, so I will suffice it to say, this Hall of Fame Coach, was really good at coaching basketball.

More than his basketball coaching prowess was his great leadership ability. The young men he coached would come back to visit him year after year, attesting to his impact on their life, and not just their basketball life- their life. Dean Smith cared about the young men he coached, and they knew it.

One of the touching and impactful things he did was to set aside money in his will to give a check for $200 to each of the former lettermen that he coached for those 36 years at North Carolina. A letter went to each of those men after his death, stating “Enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith.”

Dean Smith demonstrated a lesson even after his death. You care about the people whom you lead, and you remember them. Great leaders are selfless, thoughtful people who continue to teach, even after they are gone.

Thank you, Dean Smith for those lessons. Leaders like you are hard to come by.

Prayer: Father, thank you for examples of how to care for the people that we lead and mentor, Amen.