Fr. Roy Cimagala
It’s one factor among many others that we need to consider if we want to make our relations with others more human and Christian. It’s not even the most important one, but it is basic and should not be ignored. It may not define the person definitively, but it certainly can describe him well and can guide us on how to deal with him.
One definition of tem-perament, as found in the Internet, is “an individual’s characteristic level of emotional excitability or intensity and is typically recognized within the first few weeks after birth. It is often assumed to be an early indication of perso-nality, though personality combines temperament with experiences to shape life-long traits.”
Another Internet des-cription of temperament as contrasted to personality is the following: “Tempera-ment refers to a set of innate or inborn traits that organize a child’s approach to the world, while perso-nality is what arises within the individual.”
Getting to know the different kinds of tempera-ment is important if we consider that we are always a unity of body and soul. And temperament precisely refers to our traits and dispositions that affect both the body and soul. If we have to be simplistic about it, temperament can be likened to a bridge between our body and our soul.
Thus, in guiding souls, as priests and others do, it’s important that at least a basic knowledge of the different temperaments is most helpful. Confessors and spiritual directors especially, should adapt themselves to the people, since they need to be all things to all men. They should know how to deal with others as they are, without forgetting to help them to be how they should be.
Obviously, we need to know our own tempera-ment also so that we would know how to approach the others with their own temperaments. It can indeed be a disaster if not kno-wing our own temperament and that of the others, we make wrong moves and inappropriate questions and comments when talking with them. Instead of helping people, we can be harming them.
Of course, no tempe-rament is perfect. But it’s good to know the different kinds and discern their strengths and weaknesses. That way, we would know what to reinforce and what to play down. This is a tricky business that would require constant assessment and discern-ment.
As more or less articulated scientifically, there are four basic tempe-raments: the choleric, the sanguine, the melancholic and the phlegmatic. Gene-rally, the choleric type tends to be domineering and controlling. He is the most insensitive, argumen-tative and persuasive, impetuous and impulsive.
The sanguine tempe-rament is typically impulsive and pleasure-seeking. He is the talker and is very expressive, sociable and charismatic, very outgoing, but prone to disorder.
The melancholic is typically introverted and thoughtful. They are analytical and cautious. They are prone to be perfectionists and fault-finders. They can have deep love for others.
The phlegmatics are fundamentally relaxed and quiet, ranging from warly attentive to lazily sluggish. They strive for greater self-knowledge. But they can be selfish, self-righteous. They can resist change and be indifferent.
We certainly can be a mixture of all these, but one of them is dominant. Fr. Roy Cimagala is Chaplain, Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE), Talamban, Cebu City, Email: roycimagala @gmail.com.