Free to Be Me
by Linda Gilden
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
I stared in disbelief at the email before me. I had just spent over twenty minutes composing an email to my good friend. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was filling her in on all that had happened, asking her a few questions, and hoping she would reciprocate. And her reply was five words.
Before I let my feathers get ruffled, I realized we were both communicating in the style that was common for our personalities.
Joy was a no-nonsense, powerful choleric personality. When she received an email, she wanted to reply and check that off her list so she could move on to the next thing. It made sense to her to reply concisely. After all, who needed all the details and extra words? She answered my questions so now I had all the information I needed.
Conversely, my purposeful melancholy personality wanted to be part of her life and know what was going on with her family. I wanted details because I cared deeply about what was going on in her life. But I understood our different personalities and wanted to keep our friendship strong.
One year I attended a CLASS seminar where the curriculum included a segment on the four personalities and the strengths and weakness of each one. As each personality was addressed, I diligently searched for where I fit in.
Playful sanguine. No, I am definitely not a party girl. The less attention I draw to myself the better.
Powerful choleric. Although a list maker, I didn’t feel too powerful and much preferred being an “Indian” rather than a “chief.”
Peaceful phlegmatic. Hmm. Do I really enjoy relaxing? Not so much!
Perfect melancholy. Bingo! My perfectionist tendencies were making me harshly judgmental. And I was not the only one in the world who wanted to withdraw rather than interact in a crowd. Often when dining with friends, I listen intently to the conversation but rarely join in. Many people think I am antisocial but shy and more reserved are better descriptors.
Just a short introduction to the personalities and I was an avid student. I wanted to know all I could to build better relationships with others. With a little understanding, I could interact more with others and communicate in ways they would understand.
How freeing! It was okay to be me – just like I was! I didn’t have to try to act in any way other than what felt natural. God made me just the way I was.
As a young adult my feelings were easily hurt by a word, an action, or lack of an action from a friend. I didn’t realize how different personalities viewed life and how just a little understanding could change the course of most relationships.
For many years I felt inferior to my colleagues because I didn’t like to participate in large groups, I was uncomfortable in the presence of people I didn’t know, and my self-confidence was sometimes lacking. But now I could walk with my head held high, confident that I was made in the image of God to be exactly what I wanted to be – me! With the realization that I could be confident in who I was even though I wasn’t like most people I knew, I became comfortable being myself. I was able to step out to try new things. I even became more gregarious when in groups.
Not only could I be myself without apology or guilt because I wasn’t like everyone else. I became more tolerant of others because I understood that one of my strengths is perfectionism. I quickly learned perfectionism was a weakness as well when I applied it to others. I gave others permission to be themselves.
The familiar verse, Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well,” acknowledges the uniqueness of every individual. God made each of us as individuals.
When we understand that God made each of us unique and our personalities fall into one of four categories, we can do what it takes to get along with our family and friends. Romans 12:18 says, “If at all possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” It does depend on us.
If we can remember to speak with animation to those who are playful sanguines, be succinct in conversations with powerful cholerics, tread carefully around the sensitive feelings of the purposeful melancholy, and spare the copious details with the peaceful phlegmatic, we will communicate effectively and in a way that our words will be well received.
Most of all remember that we are all God’s children. No matter what personality, we can encourage each other and help each other grow into the man or woman God intended.
Linda Gilden is an author, speaker, editor, and writing coach. Her recently coauthored book, Personality Perspectives, helps readers understand how to build better relationships with those around them through an understanding of the personalities. Linda loves encouraging others in their writing journeys. Linda lives in SC with her husband, three adult children, and the four cutest grandchildren in the world!