Gathering Labels

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I can’t remember the exact day I was first labeled choleric.  It was sometime in my late teenage years.  According to Wikipedia, this is the definition of a choleric personality:

“The choleric temperament is fundamentally ambitious and leader-like. They have a lot of aggression, energy, and/or passion, and try to install it in others. They are task oriented people and are focused on getting a job done efficiently; their motto is usually “do it now.” They can dominate people of other temperaments with their strong wills, especially phlegmatic types, and can become dictatorial or tyrannical. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics. They like to be in charge of everything and are good at planning, as they often can immediately see a practical solution to a problem. However, they can quickly fall into deep depression or moodiness when failures or setbacks befall them.”

Let’s be fair here.  I have some of these characteristics and have since I was a child.  I was bossy at times and certainly could be mean (I had friends who kept a “Rachael” doll at home they beat up to get back at me for the way I treated them…).  I liked to get my way.  I often became the default leader. And I must admit, when I first took a personality test and fit myself into a nice, neat box, I felt comforted.  There is something liberating about someone else telling you who and what you are, especially in such neat terms.  I had a list in front of me of my strengths and weaknesses.  I had leaders in my life cheerleading the results.  “Yes!  Rachael, that’s totally YOU!”  I found that the label of choleric began to define who I was to outsiders.  Gradually, that label began to define myself in my own mind.  In certain situations, I asked myself what a choleric would do and proceeded accordingly.  I took the lead in relationships, frequently justifying my aggression by reminding myself my actions and responses were simply a result of my GOD-given personality type.

Then a few years ago I had a conversation that stopped me in my  tracks.  During a conversation with my best friends from middle school, one of them looked at me and said, “okay MOM!”  I was taken aback and asked what that comment was about.  She brought up a fact I had long since forgotten.  In middle school, my friends referred to me as “mom”.  I asked them about it and they reminded me that I was always trying to take care of everyone around me.

This innocent reminder started me on a journey of self-reflection and questioning God about my identity in Him.  I won’t bore you with all the details of that journey.  I will tell you what I have gathered about myself as a result of that journey.

1. I am a caregiver.  This doesn’t fit into the neat little box of choleric, but it is me.  My love language is acts of service.  If I love you, I’m most likely going to cook for you.  Or I’m going to offer to babysit for you.  Or tutor you.  Or help you organize your closet or house.  I’m going to pray for you because I CARE.  I’m going to love your children and invest in them.  I’m going to call you when I know you’re struggling.  Not because I’m awesome like that.  I’m going to care for you because God made me a care-giver and it comes naturally to me.  Always has.

2. While I have some characteristics of a choleric personality, I don’t have them all. I like to lead.  Sometimes.  I am often just as content to support the one in charge.  And I’m socially awkward.  Whoever heard of a socially awkward choleric?  I am shy at first.  It takes me awhile to warm up.  Where do these characteristics fit into that choleric box?

3. Many of my choleric attributes were a result of necessity.  My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was 9 and battled it until he died when I was 16.  That kind of upheaval and uncertainty led me to try to control anything and everything I could…. but only because the thing I wanted to control most was truly out of my control.  Most of my choleric personality characteristics emerged from a childhood of turmoil and uncertainty.

I said all of that to say this:  Our identity rests in God and God alone.  I believe in utilizing the strengths God has given me, but ultimately I am not the label that anyone else has tacked onto my shirt.  Who I am in God simply does not fit into a little box on a personality profile.  When I try to fit into that little box, I limit who God wants me to be in His kingdom.  I will find myself resisting the hands that are trying to mold and shape me.  I will make excuses for my bad behavior based on the weaknesses I believe I possess.

Instead, I want to open myself up to the possibilities of who I am in God and who I CAN be in Him.  I want to move with the gentle prodding of His Spirit, entering new territories and wading into deeper, unknown waters.  I don’t want my course to be charted by my narrow thinking and preconceived ideas about who I am and who others have told me I am.  I want to be a Moses, speaking boldly to a Pharoah in spite of his fears and comfort zones.  Or I want to be a Paul, changing direction on a road to Damascus when God spoke.  Most of all, I want to be like Jesus, speaking mercy to the condemned, faith to the doubting, and life to the dead.  I want to be the Jesus version of Rachael, whatever that means for the season I find myself in.

Do you have labels?  Have labels ever held you back?  Do you find yourself labeling your spouse, your children?  What does GOD say about who you are?  I would love your feedback!

Comments

  1. Belinda says

    I am so glad to see someone who recognizes my pet peeve. Personality tests! I have taken them so many times and still get frustrated. Am I answering this question because of who I really am meant to be or because of what my background and environment have pushed me into? And if its the latter does that mean I have failed in becoming who God intended? Who am I really? What do I do with the emotions that I don’t like about myself and wished I didn’t have? Should I just thank God for the desired and undesired parts of myself because He allowed my past to be what it was to help mold me into who I should be because He knows the end from the beginning? What about the choices I made despite knowing better? I really think God shapes and molds us with what we give him and allow him to use. My past has lots of things I wish weren’t there, some not my fault and some are. But it has made me who I am. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and have become a very compassionate person because of things I went through and I can very quickly empathize with others. So I say don’t squish me in a personality box with neat little sections. I have mixed qualities and am doing my best to allow God to sharpen those that need to be and soften the others that need to be toned down. Now if only I had a magic eraser to erase a few myself that get in the way of letting Him work in me. :). It’s a good thing I don’t have a blog I think I’m too transparent

    • Rachael says

      I loved reading this comment! I’m glad someone else sees where I’m coming from! And I think transparency is just what’s needed in a blog, maybe you should consider it :)

  2. Erica Cook says

    Rachel, I don’t have a lot of time to respond now but the way you described yourself fits me to a tee!! I am not good with expressing my thoughts in words and I love reading from people who can. When I read things from you and Jen Hatmaker I wish I had the abilities to express my thoughts like you guys can. I have such a fun time reading your blogs and posts along with her books because I just laugh at how much I can relate. I definitely wear the label of bossy, trying to take care of the whole world, dictator, etc. and I always attributed it also to that was the way God made me and he created me as a first born because this is who he wanted me to be. Over the course of this past year he has been dealing with me on not being so hasty to always give everyone a solution I think is right, but instead expressing my love and support to them even if they don’t see it the way I do. It is very difficult especially when you feel like you are watching people self destruct and you just want to step in and take control of everything. I have to remind myself God has a plan for them and they are on their own journey that I have no control over. Sometimes I love my personality and others times I just want to give it away so I can learn to relax once in awhile.

    • Rachael says

      Erica, thanks for the feedback. I can truly relate to what you’re saying. I find relaxation difficult sometimes as well. Keep me posted on your journey and I will keep you posted on mine!

  3. Billie says

    As a peaceful phlegmatic/sunny sanguine, I have a different perspective of the personality labels. Reading about the different personalities and how they think has really helped me in dealing with people. From my view, the desired effect of the book was to give insight into how other people view things, and therefore, helping to understand them better. The whole point, the way I see it, is to see what our weaknesses are so that we can work on them. Instead, a lot of us just figured out who we were and used it as an excuse to justify our shortcomings. For myself, i saw how a choleric could learn to be more laid back, a phlegmatic to be a little more assertive, a melancholy to be more even keeled and help a sanquine not talk so much or be so loud. Anyway, that’s my two cents for what it’s worth.

    • Belinda says

      Billie, I do agree that is a useful tool when dealing with others. Tailoring my response to someone differently than someone else based on who they are. Even my children I think could benefit from me looking more closely at this for them. And I also agree that we should use this as a tool to help not a crutch but my frustration lies in the fact that I can’t figure out where I am myself. That really irritates me to not know what section I’m in and if the answers I give are my true self or from what I’ve had to learn to be and should I try to unlearn that area and focus elsewhere. I have taken these many times and tend to always get different answers. But I do think there are many who this helps tremendously and my husband is one of them as are most in my Sunday school class. I just always feel like I don’t fit in the right boxes of those tests because I never know if my answers are my true self or my learned fake it because you have to self haha.

    • Rachael says

      Billie, I agree that understanding personality profiles can be useful! In my personal case, however, a lot of my personality characteristics were a result of life circumstances. I also find that often people (including myself) use their personality type as an excuse for bad behavior. I love the Personality Plus book. I just don’t think it’s always as cut and dry as the book would lead people to believe. And I think we always have to allow God to move us outside of our boxes and personality profiles if He so leads. Thanks for the feedback!

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