What I Learned This Week: Understanding How Others Are Made

This week, my amazement moved from seeing how God made me, and how it brought me such liberty and self-acceptance, to seeing how God made my significant others, and how it is changing my acceptance of them.

My husband and I share several characteristics, one is that we are normally all or nothing.  However, my extremes don’t affect me quite like they affect him, and his version of all or nothing has baffled me for decades.  He will take on huge projects, end up doing them all by himself, physically exhaust himself, and then be physically and emotionally down for several days.

For me, I wear myself out on a project, albeit rarely a physical job, as I am pretty much a sloth when it comes to that, and I am back up and running at least after one good night’s sleep, or watching a movie or programming (which I like to do for intellectual challenge and creativity purposes).  I just haven’t understood him.  Honestly, the cycle just seemed stupid to me. Why do that to yourself?  Why not work smarter, not harder, and pre-plan and get more help before doing the project?

But as I am learning about Ronnie’s temperament, it is very eye opening.  He and I share a focus on tasks and getting things done.  My projects are basically intellectual and things I can do alone, without having to depend upon other people (programming, writing, counseling, teaching).

However, his achievements are normally much bigger, include some type of physical tasks, and require many people.  His temperament rarely delegates because of his inborn belief that no one can do a job as well as he can, so he ends up doing it all himself and experiencing burnout.  What was really, really interesting was that there are signs that he is about to enter burnout – he starts talking a lot, stream of consciousness, working situations and emotions out in his head. I never realized the the talking was a precursor to the burnout, because otherwise, he doesn’t talk that much.

Since he is talking about frustrations and problems, I always figure he wants help creating a solution to this repetitive problem so it doesn’t happen again, but nooooooo.  He always says, “Can’t you just listen to me and not try to fix anything?”  And I end up thinking to myself, you do this every time; do you not see a pattern? Do you not want to fix it and stop doing it like this over and over again?  Baffled is the best word to describe it, but if I’m really honest, I just felt superior to him, like I don’t do stupid things like that – why does he? (Pride, anyone???)  Now, I understand it is just the verbal release before he literally passes out.

But after learning more about his temperament, I realize that he has no clue what he is doing, as I didn’t either.  If you don’t know your temperament, its strengths and weaknesses, you have no options to fix them.  You are on automatic pilot and remain there.  However, once you recognize a temperament weakness, you now have a choice regarding how you will act, and you have the responsibility to make the healthiest and godliest choice for yourself.

His need for accomplishments drives him to do great and mighty things for God. But his weakness in delegating because of his inborn perfectionism, which makes him think no one can do it right and he’ll just have to re-do it, causes him to pay for it dearly every time.   So knowing this now, I have a completely different understanding of him, and I don’t think what he is doing is stupid nor that I am wiser that him in how we handle our tasks.  He couldn’t do things any differently if he tried right now, because this is a built-in weakness in his temperament. But once he learns about it, I am interested to see what he does about it.

I haven’t had a chance to share any of this with him because I’m waiting for him to take his temperament test and go over the results with him.  I look forward to seeing if what he learns changes how he handles things.  I know that what I am learning is changing how I see him, so I’m hoping it will change the way he sees himself.

I am looking forward to being able to offer the temperament analysis test to my members, and then meeting with them to discuss their temperament strengths and weaknesses.  I have yet to meet a person with whom I have discussed it who hasn’t received a measure of peace in their life from understanding why they do what they do, and giving them godly options to replace those unhealthy actions. So stay tuned, and I’ll make an announcement when I can offer it.

In the meanwhile, I am working on my own temperament weaknesses, like not freaking out because someone has not followed the rules, but keeping it in perspective and just letting it go.  I’m so much more peaceful, and I hope more easy going at work.  And God is giving me more of His agape love toward those I know as I better understand their motivation and how God made them. I hope that is showing as well.

Your Sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: Seeing Others Through God’s Eyes

I have found that, ever since I have come to better understand temperament types, I am much less judgmental of other people, not just less judgmental of myself.  Knowing their inborn, God-designed temperament gives me a compassion for them when they are in the grips of their weaknesses because I know what it is like to be tripped up by my own.   It also allows me to more often see them as God sees them, which is perfected in their strengths.

It is very tempting, when someone has gone off the rails (or let’s be honest, simply doesn’t do things the way we do things!), to see them as a 2-dimensional caricature of themselves.  We only pay attention to their negative side, forgetting that these character flaws or bouts of misbehavior are the negative side of their divine strengths and gifts.  They don’t want to act that way, but it is difficult for them to overcome some of their weaknesses at that moment.

One evening, at a restaurant, both my husband and I had a reaction to one another that was not appropriate. He embarrassed me (and really annoyed me), and so I returned volley by “setting my boundaries” (which was really rebuking him like a child, a little too loud for that very quiet restaurant).  The result was a steaming husband who refused to speak to me. When we got home after the silent car ride, I asked if he was going to be able to get past it and if he wanted us to spend the evening together.  The response was an angry one, which I took as a “hell, no!”

As he walked away from the car, the temptation to refer to him as a lower orifice of the body rose up in my throat.  I opened my mouth and pronounced the first syllable of the word, which begins like the “A” in “apple”. But God spiritually and suddenly clapped His hand over my mouth and rebuked me loudly and sharply by saying “NO!  Not A********!  BROKEN!”

I was stunned into silence. “BROKEN!”  God knew that I knew that I was broken.  I spend most of my time dealing with other people’s brokenness, and am able to be compassionate.  Why was I not recognizing brokenness in my husband in this moment?  Why did I feel superior to my husband during a momentary setback of weakness when I am absolutely no better than him in my moments of weakness?

It humbled me, quickly.  All of the anger drained out of me.  I saw Him for the first time during one of his “moments” as God saw Him.  I also realized that is why God has compassion on me, because He knows my brokenness causes me to act in ungodly ways, hurting myself and others around me.

Similarly, once I realized that some temperament types are low or very low energy, I felt horrible about how we had all labeled my son as “lazy”, to the point that he refers to himself as that.  But he isn’t lazy; his temperament is just very low energy and very slow to action.  I told him the other day that I was very sorry for ever having used that word, and that he wasn’t lazy.  That was just how God made him.  He responded with a huge smile and a sincere thank you for saying that.  I hope it helps him see himself in a new way now, instead of through that minimizing label we pinned on him.

In John 1:42, Jesus changes Simon’s name to “Peter”, which means “little rock”.  Now, if you look at Peter’s personality, he was anything but a rock. He was wishy-washy, prone to exaggeration, flew off the handle according to his emotions, cut off someone’s ear, and denied Jesus three times.

But when Jesus looked at Peter, He didn’t see those things.  He saw Peter, the “little rock”, standing in front of 3000 people on Pentecost preaching the gospel and standing for the unmovable truth, willing to die for Jesus.  Now, Peter wasn’t perfect, and it’s not like his temperament was changed, but Jesus saw how Peter would be when living according to his God-given strengths, and treated him as He saw him.

I think this speaks volumes, especially when we see that Peter didn’t always continue to get it right, even after Pentecost.  Jesus named him “little rock” even though he saw Peter further down the timeline, when He would be rebuked by Paul for acting like a Gentile around Gentile Christians (not requiring anything but faith for salvation), but then acting like Jews around Jewish Christians (a sect believed Gentile Christians must be circumcised according to Jewish law).   Even though Peter wobbled a bit, Jesus always saw him, called him and treated him according to His strengths.

I am trying to take what God is revealing to me and apply it to all of my relationships.  I truly want to transform the relationships that I have reduced to 2-dimensional, completely flawed caricatures into 3D, living color pictures taken through the lens of God’s compassionate eyes.  Not ______________ (fill in the blank with the character flaw you despise in someone), but BROKEN!  Lord, let that rebuke stay with me and change how I see everyone.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

 

 

 

What I Learned This Week: I’m Made This Way and It’s OK!

I have only one topic for this week because it is a big one.  It affects all of the other areas of my life.  It has reduced a ton of stress in my life due to incorrect expectations and assumptions about myself and other people.

As I am studying the different Temperament Types for my Counseling License, I am finding myself relaxing.  I have spent a lot of my life trying to fix things about myself that I didn’t understand, made me different, and made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Now I know that these features come standard with who I am – they are the weaknesses that are the flip side of the strengths for which I am so grateful.  Now I don’t have to make these things go away – I just have to learn how to handle them in godly ways.

For example, I have always felt rejected, since a child.  I saw it everywhere, and whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first, it doesn’t matter.  I saw rejection everywhere, so I rejected people first with my protective “I don’t care about you either” attitude.

Until I learned that was a major part of my God-given social interaction temperament, I gave in to it.  I considered what I saw in other people and how I expected them to act and feel toward me to be true and real,  so acted accordingly.  But what if it wasn’t true, and it was just me projecting my fears onto others?  How could my life be different if I didn’t assume that everyone I meet sees something that will turn them away from me, proving I am unacceptable?

I feel like the entire part of the world that I have always avoided out of fear of rejection just opened up to me.  I was the one keeping myself out of it, and now I am free to venture in and discover what (and who) is in there whenever I want (which according to my temperament won’t be a lot anyway…).   Knowing how God made me gives me peace, and makes me stop wanting to compare myself as much to everyone else.

Now, I always knew I had high standards, but until I was faced with the term “impossibly high standards” for myself and others, I realized how it affected my attitude, my relationships and my emotions.  I couldn’t help but judge others, even subconsciously, when they didn’t always keep their promises, or do what I expected them to do.  That will always come out in your relationships, and put a barrier between people, even if you never verbalize what you think or are feeling.  Interestingly enough, it also explained a lot of my anger and irritation at “life”, because life isn’t fair and never works like it should, which is completely unacceptable to my brain.

So now, when people don’t do “what I would do”, I remind myself that I can’t even do what I want to do to the level I want to do it, and that I am expecting way too much from people.  This reminder allows me to cut myself and others slack, which takes away my irritated attitude and can help restore and maintain relationships.   I remind myself that this, like always seeing rejection, is basically a brain glitch, and I have to make a concerted effort not to act as though it is true.

I want to encourage you to learn about your temperament types.  I will be making available the test which you can take to determine how God created you to be, so you can stop trying to change things that God doesn’t want changed, and focus on the things you can change.  It will change everything in your life!

Your sister in Christ,

Penny