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We CAN All Get Along

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One of our biggest sources of problems is simply our daily interactions with other people. We all have conflicts, especially with certain personality types we find offensive. Most of us would admit that we also sometimes offend others. Why can’t we always just get along?

All human beings are created in God’s image, but we have different strengths and weaknesses, experiences, and perspectives—and therein lies part of the problem.

From the days of Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460–370 BC), there existed a theory that individual human beings can have one of four temperaments. These temperaments, along with health in general, were thought to be affected by the excess or deficiency of four bodily fluids called “humors.” Galen, a second-century Greco-Roman physician, argued that all human pathology could be conceptualized as imbalances of these humors.

Modern science has disproven humorism and its correlations, though some modern-day psychological personality classification systems use categories that are named after the four Greek humors. Having a general understanding of different types of personalities can enable us to better understand and get along with others.

When we engage in social interactions, we soon learn about being offended or offending others. James recognized this in James 3:2: “For we all stumble in many things.” The word stumble is also translated in some versions as “offend.” James continues by talking about the tongue, the source of what may be the most frequent way we offend—saying something offensive.

Carl Jung, the well-known, early 20th-century Swiss psychologist, believed that people have all four temperaments, but with varying preferences and frequency. Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers further developed this theory, determining that there were 16 personality types, which could each be determined through assessments. Today, most personality theories include the possibility of mixtures among the types and sharing two or more temperaments, based on extroversion or introversion, how we perceive and process information, how we make decisions, and whether we like planned structure or spontaneity.

Let’s take a simple look at how the strengths and weaknesses of temperament or personality may lead us to take or cause offense.

  • The Choleric type’s qualities are leadership, ambition, confidence, determination, and greater ability to focus and to multi-task. But these qualities can give offense when they lead a person towards being aggressive, domineering, critical, impatient, rude, tactless, intolerant, and prone to taking charge even when they aren’t in charge.
  • The Sanguine type’s qualities are affability, optimism, charisma, warm-heartedness, and a tendency to be fun-loving. But they can be offensive when they are overly talkative, self-absorbed, arrogant or cocky, impulsive, or needful of excessive recognition and attention.
  • The Melancholic type’s qualities are thoughtfulness, caution, organization, creativity, and a tendency towards planning and attention to detail. They can offend, however, by becoming obsessive, perfectionistic, difficult to please, moody, overly cautious, unsociable, detached, and hypercritical.
  • The Phlegmatic type’s qualities are calmness, consistency, diplomacy, observance, introspectiveness, and kindness. But they can offend through indecision, passive-aggression, and a tendency to be withdrawn or to too easily get their feelings hurt.                                                                                                                     

So, how do we manage? Jesus Christ gives the answer in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” In John 15:12, He states, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

If we strive to live by this simple wisdom, we will monitor ourselves and show care to reign in our personalities from negative extremes. We will use the strengths of our personalities for good and strive to not offend by “stepping on others’ toes.”

Paul said Philippians 1:9–10, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”

In many things we offend, but that doesn’t mean we should not strive to get along.

There is a message of hope that will one day bring the world together. Watch the telecast "The Message That Changed the World" to learn more.