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!