The first class I teach for my church each year has little to do with Catholic faith or doctrine. I usually don’t have my full roster of students yet, so I don’t want touch on the “hard stuff” until most of my class is in place. The first class is a brief study of personality types, which we then apply to our personal lives and then to Bible characters. My goal is to not only have the students understand themselves better, but to make the dusty pages of their Bibles more real to them, to help them understand that the names in the Bible are real people, not just stories from some bygone time.
I base my class on a book by Florence Littauer titled Personality Plus. She bases her book on the ancient Greek study of personality types using the body fluids, hence the four types are (and remember these are general descriptions of common traits, not every person will have every trait):
Choleric: Choleric personalities are born leaders and dynamic doers. They are independent and self-sufficient. They exude confidence and charisma. Cholerics are goal oriented, and see the big picture, and don’t bother themselves much with details. They move quickly to action and delegate work. They thrive on opposition and are usually right. They can run anything. They are the ones who can and do get things done. TAKEN TO EXTREMES, these traits can yield individuals who are unaffectionate, headstrong, proud, domineering, tactless, manipulative, stubborn, argumentative, and short-tempered workaholics. Most of the world’s leaders have strong choleric streaks in them, and the tyrants take their usually positive traits to the extreme.
Phlegmatics: Peaceful Phlegmatics are wonderful people to have around. They are low-key, calm, and patient people. They are happily reconciled to life and make great parents and sympathetic friends. They are not easily upset or ruffled, operate well under pressure, and keep their calm in a crisis when everyone is losing theirs. They don’t get in a hurry, and are competent and steady in their affairs. They are inoffensive and make good listeners.They have many friends. They don’t like conflict, and are great peacemakers. TAKEN TO EXTREMES; the phlegmatic can be a lazy, timid, indecisive, unambitious, and aimless person to whom results are not important. “Don’t worry, be happy” (I have a relative like this and he drives me up the wall!)
Sanguine: The Popular Sanguine is fun to be around and very charismatic. They tend to have appealing personalities. They are the life of the party because they are usually cheerful and bubbly with a good sense of humor. The Sanguine can be quite naive, because he is so trusting and childlike. He is quite the talker and loves to tell stories. Full of energy and creativity, the Sanguine inspires others to join his group. Sanguines love people and are quite charming, and make friends easily. They seem exciting and are good on stage. They look great on the surface. They don’t hold grudges and apologize quickly. TAKEN TO THE EXTREME, Sanguines can be talkative, disorganized, messy, loud, scatterbrained and unreliable. They ride an emotional roller coaster of high highs and low lows, but neither state seems to last for too long. They are easily hurt, but that’s okay because the perfectly Sanguine personality has the attention span of a gnat, loves being around people too much, and can’t hold onto a grudge for long. Think of your ditzy blonde at the party who can’t remember where she put her car keys.
Melancholy: The Melancholy personality is deep and analytical, desiring perfection. They can be very talented and creative, appreciating beauty. They are philosophical, poetic, idealist, and conscientious. Content to stay in the background, they are genius prone and can be very persistent and thorough. They pursue order in their world and find creative solutions to problems. Good listeners, they also have a deep concern for others, though they make friends cautiously. When they do make friends, they are devoted and faithful. They have a need to finish things. Many artists and engineers are melancholies. TAKEN TO THE EXTREME: The Melancholy can be a persnickety perfectionist, pessimistic, critical and hard to please. This causes them to be unpopular and feel alienated, which generates a negative attitude. The Melancholy can be very insecure and bashful. They can be too sensitive and thus withdrawn. They can be loners and very moody. They are usually a calm and steady personality type, but when hurt or depressed they hold onto resentments and suffer long, deep lows. They are champs at carrying grudges and can be revengeful.
Everyone has all four types in their personality makeup, but usually one or two are dominant. Even day to day someone can fluctuate from being a strong Sanguine to a strong Choleric or even a strong Phlegmatic, but over time a person will usually fall into a particular category. Choleric/Sanguines make great leaders. Phlegmatic/Melancholies are great diplomats. Phlegmatics are good in emergency situations. There is no good or bad personality type, only strength traits taken to the extreme to make them weaknesses.
We had several students experience revelations about themselves last night. One girl pegged herself as Phlegmatic and has a strong Choleric for a sister. Now she knows why they don’t get along very well. One boy thinks he’s a Melancholy, and true to form, he didn’t want to raise his hand. The Sanguines just lit up. Everyone seemed to know of a Choleric in their school. Duh. Cholerics are hard to miss.
Then we looked at various stories in the Bible – Adam and Eve in the garden, Moses trying to weasel out of his commission to bring the Jews out of Egypt, Peter and the foot washing incident – and discussed their types and the fact that God uses all types and all people.
At the end of the class, as we were closing it down and preparing for dismissal, I asked them if they liked the class and if they learned something. Somewhere in the mumbles I heard “This class was AWESOME!” My sanguine side appreciated that comment!
It’s good to do the things I do, sometimes. Thanks to the Holy Spirit that drives me, and the gift of my personality to reach the students.