Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Temperament God Gave You to Work With

Part 2---The Mommy Wars

Whether a wife/mother works outside the home must involve intentional discussions, praying, prudent planning, and much discernment between the spouses with special discernment towards the needs of the children. It also involves knowing that God's Will will trump any plans of ours and temper that knowledge (because knowing God's Will is such an incredibly hard thing to know) in knowing that God will take any bad decisions of ours and make good come out of them.

Know Thyself

The decision to work outside the home or not also involves fully knowing (and accepting) our temperament.  Accepting our temperament is far more difficult than finding out what it is.

It is often more difficult for our family to accept those God-given temperaments than it is for us to accept them.

Or...perhaps it is the other way around...harder for us to accept our own temperament than for others to do so.

Whichever it is, and I don't attempt to know the answer, our temperament truly defines us, as well as defines our life, because it is weaved into our DNA so finely and meticulously. Our temperament defines why we make the decisions we make; it is endowed by God and thus who we are. It was weaved into us by a "Professional", I guess you could say.

What Is Temperament?

In brief, temperament is one's personality type based on the four humors identified by the Father of Medicine himself, Hippocrates.

 "The body of man has in itself blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile; these make up the nature of the body, and through these he feels pain or enjoys health. Now, he enjoys the most perfect health when these elements are duly proportioned to one another in respect to compounding, power and bulk, and when they are perfectly mingled. Pain is felt when one of these elements is in defect or excess, or is isolated in the body without being compounded with all the others."

Knowing One's Temperament

Here is a pretty simple 72 Jung and Briggs Myers Personality Test you can take online. It will tell you a little about yourself. It does not define your temperament but give personality traits. I was able to predict mine pretty much:

My Personality Type is:


My personality is high in perception. I perceive people reactions, situations, and feelings at a rather high level. I have often wondered if that makes people uncomfortable. When you test, try not to analyze yourself too harshly and do not test in past tense, your childhood or your past life, but how you are today.

Our personalities and reaction to situations do change with experience and maturity. No two people's results will tell the whole story or be all inclusive. You want to know what your temperament is today, not yesterday or tomorrow, but know that these traits tend to change with circumstances, experiences, and interactions.

Remember also that no person is 100% introvert or 100% extrovert. We are all, in fact, multi-faceted creatures made in the image and likeness of God. These tests and labels do not define us but, rather, show us where our strengths are and where our comfort zones lies.

You might be interested in this book The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett (54 paged PDF file of the first part of the book as well as a Temperament Indicator)

Study of the Four Temperaments is fascinating for those who like to study human nature and why people tick the way they tick...or don't tick. People have made studies out of this and, because human beings are such complex creatures, these studies have expanded into every direction you can imagine. Here is something about the Keirsey Temperament Sorter which results in 16 personality types. For anyone it's a good way to learn why other people react the way they do and how to better get along with people in your social or work circle.

Knowing temperament styles is a necessary plus (somewhat vital) in knowing to to get along with family members, especially one's spouse and/or children.

The important thing to remember is that we ALL have strengths and we ALL have weaknesses. There is not one person whose score or personality type is perfect. Extrovert people tend to feel outwardly superior to introvert people. Introverts tend to feel inwardly superior to extrovert people. This alone is a false asumption that God made one person superior to another. Totally false and extremely arrogant.

Accepting One's Temperament

The other night I was trying to justify to my husband something I had not done yet that I felt like I should have already done and I just couldn't bring myself to do; and I knew exactly why the said-thing wasn't getting done.

It demanded too much of me.

"I have to have my downtime," I moaned to my husband. "I just have to have my downtime or I am incapable of doing anything at all."

"Well, that's fine," he said, "but you seem to need more downtime than uptime."

Now, knowing my husband, he was being funny...because he's usually a funny guy...all the Gibson guys are...but, after 26 years of marriage (this May), his wit is sometimes lost on me. I want sympathy, not comic relief. I've remembered his comments days later because I have thought too much over the downtime I've sequestered myself inside of these past couple weeks. But, the fact is, I am in a singular season of my life. This season of downtime assures me of getting through the uptimes that are sure to come, most notably this week.

Even the earth begs a season to sit in quiet reprieve in winter. In spring, it springs into a lovely new dress and rotates into life with a flouishing dance, multi-tasking, nurturing, caring, serving. Then she settles her skirts to enjoy the picnic of life. She enjoys the fruits of her labor then snuggles back under a blanket of leaves and snow to await the new dress and the new season.

Women are much the same way. Sorry, folks who may disagree, but women are made very different from men. I am not an "expert" but I have a husband and 2 sons and 3 daughters to prove my point. Men are task-oriented; women are people-oriented. Men see what is in front of them; women see what is on the sides, top, and bottom of everyone. Men tend to the task before them; women multitask constantly.

Of course we all know there are no defining limits on the above. In accord with our particular temperaments, we all share similar components and differences but, overall, men and women ar different.

Working Through Life Despite One's Temperament

I am sure I am more intentional than intense. While some people have an overwhelming need to do and act during times of stress, I have an overwhelming need to just be and think. I blame it on God.;-)

It is not the duties or work, however, that quells me but, rather, the constant interrruptions. I can do the work, it's the excessive noise and commotion in the back that paralzes me. I have written before about expectations and their crippling effect on me.

But, thank God for conversions. :-)
"It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion . . . I felt charity enter into my soul, the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I've been happy!"  (St. Therese of Lisieux) 
Like St. Therese and her Christmas conversion, I had my own minor conversion of sorts several years ago. I've learned to not only quiet and calm myself but to quiet and calm all those voices and constant interruptions. Not an easy thing to do but God has sent great teachers into my life to teach me how. A few may know who they are. ;-) I also encourage the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

If anyone is under any illusion that I do too much, my family will bring me back to my knees. Our temperaments can be affected by a glob of hormones and pre-menopause mood swings, thyroid issues and blood pressure pulsing as well as many other things.

I felt guilty my birthday morning when my husband worked until 11 at night then got up to fix me a birthday breakfast at 5. I felt guilty as all my grown children left the breakfast table to go out into the early dawn to work and school while I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and my youngest and I cuddled on the sofa to watch "A Wrinkle in Time"...then fell asleep. I felt guilty last night when my husband got home from work after working over and I was already sleeping on the sofa and then when he got up in the dawn to go to work this morning and I was still sleeping. I feel guilty for admitting these lazy sessions whether I admit them to 20 readers or 200 readers or 2000 readers.

The reason for the guilt is in knowing that in sharing these faults, I am placing myself into the firing line of those arguments that justifies stay-at-home mommies as being shiftless and lazy...without knowing the whole story.

Only Through God is Any Work Glorified

Again, thank God for conversions or I would indeed be shiftless and lazy. I have to believe that what I do each day is an offering of self to God or all that I do becomes nothing at all. Irrelevant and unnecessary. Only God can amp it to a high level.

The whole story behind my personal "downtime" are all the little things that must be done every day and all the mental work that goes on inside a woman's head. I might be sitting but my brain is forever jumping forward and sideways and backwards. The mental work exhausts me in a way the physical never could, but the mental work affects the physical state as well. In an attempt to store-up my mental energy, I have to conserve my physical energy. It isn't laziness or weakness; it's the temperament God gave me. There isn't much I can do to change that. It's about self-conservation which is a whole other ball of wax. 

Again, this is where God enters in or it becomes useless thoughts, useless logic, useless nothingness.

This is what drives work-outside-the-homers crazy. Those friends of mine who are single parents, having to work full-time jobs and tend to children's education and health issues as well as pay the bills and oversee countless other "little' tasks; my hat is off to them. I don't see or know how they do it. I just don't know. That our technological, media bred age is running us to death and creating us to be people God never intended us to be is another conversation as well.

What drives work-outside-the-homers crazy is that I actually have the "time" and "privilege" to conserve any energy at all. That I have the privilege to focus fully on home and hearth and self. That I have the benefit to unburden myself during some part of the day. That I actually have time at home to unwind, refocus, and have sanctifying "downtime" is appalling to some and "unfair" at best.

Yet I know the temperament He gave me and all my life decisions (for the most part) have been made in order to live within that temperament. If I abuse this temperament I am not being the best that I am capable of being. Frankly, if I don't live within my temperament, I am abusing the person God made me to be. God knows me better than I know myself; He made me!

If I abuse my temperament, my children will have a crazy mother and we don't want that! Now do we?

{Next Time: How part-time work has given my temperament the balance it needs}

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