Summary: The Article is On Personality and Basic Temperaments.

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Personality Defined

Personality can be defined as consistency in a person’s way of being — that is, long-term consistency in their particular ways of perceiving, thinking, acting and reacting as a person. Organised patterns of thought and feeling and behaviour.

To some extent, people generally do tend to operate in a similar way day after day, year after year. We’re not talking about specific actions being repeated again and again, like compulsive hand-washing, but about overall patterns, tendencies, inclinations. Someone who has tended to be quiet and reserved up to now will probably still tend to be quiet and reserved tomorrow.

It is this general predictability in individuals’ thought patterns, behaviour patterns and emotional patterns which defines personality. Or to put it another way:

“Your personality style is your organizing principle. It propels you on your life path. It represents the orderly arrangement of all your attributes, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, behaviours, and coping mechanisms. It is the distinctive pattern of your psychological functioning—the way you think, feel, and behave—that makes you definitely you.”

Talking About Personality — Four Types v. Five Factors

In ancient times it was thought that all people could be divided into just four personality types — sanguine, choleric, melancholicand phlegmatic. This was supposedly something to do with the dominant fluids in their bodies (blood, yellow bile, black bile or phlegm). This idea was briefly revived in Renaissance Europe and there are some modern versions of it around today.

But when you actually look into it, trying to fit all the world’s people with their amazing range of differences into so few boxes is not easy. For example, ‘sanguine’ people are supposedly extroverted, creative, sensitive, compassionate, thoughtful, tardy, forgetful and sarcastic. But in fact there is no evidence that these characteristics go together at all. You can certainly be creative without being extroverted. You can certainly be compassionate without being sarcastic. So what does ‘sanguine’ really mean, if anything?

Dividing people up into a few types may be a nice and simple way of looking at the world, but in reality it doesn’t get us very far.

An alternative approach used by modern psychologists is to look at the words we actually use to describe each other’s personalities. This is called the lexical approach.

When we describe someone’s personality, we use words which characterise whatever makes that person distinctive and perhaps even unique. This is partly because we tend to notice people’s most outstanding characteristics (as opposed to ways in which they are just average). For instance, just as we might describe someone as ‘very tall’ or ‘totally bald’ based on their physical attributes, we might also describe them as ‘very shy’ or ‘totally domineering’ based on their personality.

We also want to remember what it is that distinguishes one person from another — being very tall and totally bald is an unusual and distinctive combination, as is being very shy and totally domineering. We remember, and talk about, the things that stand out the most.

So when we look at the words most often used to describe human personality, we find that they describe the extremes rather than the averages. (Similarly, there is no word in the dictionary to describe people of average height, only people who are distinctly above or below average in height: tall v. short.) Also, these extremes can be organised into pairs of opposites — shy v. outgoing, impulsive v. cautious, dominant v. submissive, and so on.

Moreover, when you take all the personality-describing words in a dictionary and analyse how people use them, you find they can be separated into a certain number of sets or ‘clusters’. The words in one cluster all have a b-r-o-a-d-l-y similar meaning, but mean something different from the words in other clusters. And what psychologists have found again and again is that there are just five clusters. In other words, there are just five sets of words (including their opposites) which contain pretty much all of the words we might use to describe personality.

These are known as the ‘Big Five’. We could simply call them Factor 1, Factor 2 and so on, but they have been labelled as follows:

• EXTROVERSION — the tendency to be outgoing, energetic and sociable

• OPENNESS — the tendency to enjoy variety, novelty, challenge and intellectual stimulation

• NEUROTICISM — the tendency to experience unpleasant emotions

• AGREEABLENESS — the tendency to be friendly, compassionate and cooperative

• CONSCIENTIOUSNESS — the tendency to show self-discipline and self-control


When the Bible says we were created in God’s image, it does not mean God looks like us – a most carnal theory- God looks like us- a most carnal theory – God in essence is Spirit (John 4:24). We are like God creative personality, having intellect, sensibility, and will. Many believe this likeness also refers to the Trinity. God is one in essence but three in “Person” – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A person also is a trinity of sorts, although the parallel is not exact. Many like to stress that a human being is composed of material (body) and immaterial (soul, spirit, mind, etc.) parts. This is a valid distinction.

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