Does One’s Personality Influence Him to Take The Spiritual Path?

Does One’s Personality Influence Him to Take The Spiritual Path?

Verses to Read: <Eph 4:20-24>, <2 Co 10:1,9-10>, <2 Ti 1:7>

Some people say that one’s personality is himself. The person he grows up to be, the path he chooses, the jobs he does, the kind of person he marries – they are all related to his personality. We may have heard some people saying that one’s personality at 80 years old is determined at aged 3. This is similar to when we look at the personality of a 3-year-old, we will still see traces of that trait when he is 80 years old. If we can see that a 3-year-old child has a relatively docile personality, at 80 years old, he will still be the same. Or when we see some children who are impatient since young, when they grow up, they will also be easily anxious. Well, we humans have the perceptions of good and bad, especially when people live in a community, we all prefer personalities that can bring about cohesiveness and effectiveness. For example, it is a teacher’s dream to have a student whose personality is one that listens and is keen to learn. In a company that focuses on effectiveness, employees who are more decisive, have strong adaptability, and flexibility are more popular. These all seem to be related to human personality. Therefore, depending on the kind of environment people are in, they naturally have selective preferences on the personalities they associate with. Because there is a distinction between good and bad or ideal and unsatisfactory, people naturally think of developing the potential of a person’s good personality and then improve where there is lack in character. Therefore, this is what we call “moulding over the years”. Regardless of the kind of personality our children have, with the moulding over the years, our children can become a more ethical and popular person. Therefore, the education system today not only focuses on teaching well academically, but also emphasizes on the shaping of one’s personality. Regardless whether you are a student, an employee, or a citizen, we all are to become caring, compassionate, ethical, progressive and patriotic people. Indeed, human nature embodies a person’s personality, and a positive personality can indeed bring out some advantages. For example, people with friendly personalities are more popular; people with diligent personality can always study well or do their jobs well. Therefore, people continue to emphasize on shaping one’s personality. In particular, in today’s society, people increasingly believe that one’s personality can bring about effectiveness, especially how some things can only be done well by people of certain personalities. For example, a manager must have leadership and decisiveness. Therefore, in choosing a country’s leaders, the country will seriously analyze the personalities of its candidates. However, when the environment gets more and more complex, we will discover that relying on positive personalities is not enough, we need people of different personalities to come together in order to bring out effective outcomes. No matter what, the practice of exploring and paying attention to human personality is becoming more and more popular in today’s era. Therefore, nowadays, whether a school, a company or a church will advocate psychology so that people can discover the strengths of their own personality, and they will put together those who can cooperate to complete projects or work in ministries. The educational system of this era also tries to be as inclusive as possible, and hence try not to regard a person’s innate personality as negative. For example, the problem of a certain student is not rebelliousness, but that he has leadership. A certain person is not pessimistic but one who is more cautious.

But, what does the Truth tell us in such situations? So when we talk about spiritual life, how is it related to one’s personality? Some people’s personality seems to be more stubborn, hence, it is not easy for them to submit to God’s word or to church leaders. Some people have a relatively bad temper or have a strong self-esteem. They have not changed much since listening to God’s word, and often have interpersonal issues with others. Some people are gentle-natured and reasonable. It seems that they are easier to get along and co-work with, among brethren. Or some people are more doubtful, it is therefore not easy for them to believe what the pastor says, while some are relatively simple, and they will believe what they hear. So, we have to question: does a person’s blessedness relate to his personality?

Of course, according to the Truth, we all know that whether a person can be born again and his sanctification is purely the work of the Holy Spirit. But how do we explain the various causes of human personality? If our innate personality is not so advantageous in human perspective, how can we look at it from the perspective of the Truth?

When we talk about the human personality, we must first know the human sinful nature

After the fall of man, his personality is formed under the control of sinful nature

No matter how good a person’s personality, it is defective, and under the influence of time and environment. This human personality will deteriorate and manifest more obvious flaws.

Sinful nature made one’s personality deficient. <Ro 3:23>: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. No matter how good one’s personality is, it is deficient. He cannot know God through his personality, nor can he reflect the righteous and loving temperament of God through his personality. No matter how good his personality is, it is defective, and under the influence of time and environment, that human personality will deteriorate and manifest more obvious flaws. For example, our free-spiritedness turns into unreasonableness, debauchery, speaking and acting without consideration for consequences; those with slow temperament, if not challenged appropriately, will gradually become lazy and indifferent towards people and things around them. Thus, <Ep 4:22> says, “this old self is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” Old self (sinful man)’s desires cannot see God’s love nor understand the will of God. The information brought by those selfish desires only bewilders man, such that as a result of loving himself and following his own will, he wants to gain more, acquire more, and enjoy more. But in this, he gradually becomes worse and all the more unholy.

Most people of the world believe that the environment shapes a person’s personality

Universal observation tells us that we are influenced by whom we are in close contact with. In particular, some people have very curious personality and strong adaptability, so once they befriend the wrong company, they will very quickly pick up bad habits. But under the teaching of parents who love them and teachers who are patient with them, their personality can gradually become relatively better. But we also must not forget that because of the fallen nature of humans, they can also form undesirable personalities even in environment that is too good. Sometimes, we see certain people growing up in impoverished family environment, where they have to think for themselves in everything, thus their personality becomes very strong. That is why, we will hear people complain that their weak or strong personalities are a result of their harsh growing up environment. But from another angle, we also hear some people say that despite having such good environment, with people who love them, yet they fail to live up to expectations and ends up disappointing the people beside them. This is just like the result of parents making decisions for them in everything, some children grow up to form very strong dependency. Therefore, although people can be shaped by more positive environment, we must not believe that the shaping of one’s personality lies in the control of human. Especially, we humans all have weaknesses brought by our sinful nature, so we cannot give and receive perfectly. What we deem as good may not be good in God’s eyes, what we deem as undesirable may also not be without God’s perfect will. Indeed, we can cultivate a relatively better environment for those whom we love, but we cannot control what kind of person they will become. Hence, no matter what personality a person is born with, eventually he still needs the grace of God, then he can experience renewal and transformation in his innate personality.

Often, people make assessment of whether personality is good or bad based on their own preferences

The human sinful nature also causes man to make assessment of whether personality is good or bad based on their own preferences.

Therefore, we humans who are weak and fickle must not believe that there is any ideal personality. Instead, we should always think twice about what we deem as good. 

Especially, when we analyse at the human level whether personality is good or bad, we always base on our own preferences or the realistic situation at that moment. Sometimes, we do not like someone who is very strong at fighting, but in times when justice needs to be exercised, such a person will step forward to champion the cause of justice. Example: Most sisters delight in a husband who is considerate and gives in to her, but when he needs to discipline the children yet he seems to lack authority, they start to have opinions about his original personality. Therefore, we humans who are weak and fickle must not believe that there is any ideal personality. Instead, we should always think twice about what we deem as good. Perhaps what we consider as good personality is shaped by some hurts we received in our growing up process, such that there is certain imbalance in our hearts (example: someone who was always ordered around by the parents will prefer a spouse who is more easy-going. Or someone who grew up in a background where the parents did not care so much for the family does not mind a spouse who is more controlling). Thus, what is good or bad? It is still based on the human preferences! Therefore, the personality of sinful man is not merely an issue of good or bad, but it has to be renewed and sanctified in Christ.

Must first restore the truth, such that the personality cleansed by the truth can glorify God and edify men

If we step into any school, or hear any modern renowned person speak, we will hear some core values on building good personality, such as: respect, honesty, kindness, patience, compassion. Of course, these are very well-liked virtues, and they are the values which schools want to cultivate in their students, and whereby society wants to instill in its people. Modern people with deeper thinking all hope that regardless of what personality, qualities and background one is born with, they can all raise excellent people through acquired teaching and cultivation. Although it is worthy to possess good values and personalities, God’s word tells us that before all of these, man must first know the truth. The temperament of fallen man cannot be good naturally. Paul also said, “good itself does not dwell in me”. When we come to certain point, man would ask himself, “Why should I be so good? What can I get? If I am a good person, others will only take advantage of me, so why should I be a good man?” God created man to have a mind. He has logical thinking, and can make inferences. Only after he is born again, will he know God’s attributes through God’s truth and also knows the dignity of his life, such that his mind knows why he must respect people, why he must have compassion, why he must be honest, why he should have patience and mercy (And however Christ the Lord is, he is willing to pursue His likeness). When he receives sufficient reasons in his heart because of believing and obeying Christ, his heart will start to battle with the old temperament, and he will put on and act by the new temperament. Indeed, Christ the Lord is our freedom. Paul always said, “For the sake of Christ, I am willing to take whatever kind of suffering, discipline my body, face all kinds of tribulations…” This is the work of the Spirit of Christ, which is also the Spirit of truth, teaching and sanctifying a person through the truth. If a person’s heart does not hold onto this reason, but only rely on the fallen conscience and nature to strive being a good person, they will reach a point where he may even develop mental illness. Why? Because he looks at many wrong things and bears many grievances in his heart, yet he does not resist nor vent out. Instead, he suppresses himself, so as to be a good person. At the end, he will break down. Thus, in order for human personality to be sanctified, he must go back to the word of God- His Truth.

Then, can one’s personality affect whether he will walk the blessed path?

One’s personality more or less will affect the length of time he takes to receive healing after becoming a believer.

Indeed, those with relatively better personalities (such as: kinder, compassionate, patient, orderly, have good habits, etc) will take shorter time to be healed after believing in the Lord. Those with worse personalities need longer time to be healed, the process will also be tougher. Because the areas they need to change are a lot, sometimes because of their weak personality, they also easily get into conflicts with people around them, thus they need to spend a long time and use a lot of emotions to adjust themselves. This is natural. Think about it: Someone who easily gets angry, scolds vulgarities, and has many bad habits, of course requires longer time to receive healing. If we look at Peter’s life, he had an impulsive personality, and he was direct and blunt, thus in the gospel books, his weaknesses were all revealed, and he received much rebuke from the Lord. But Peter was blessed in that he was willing to be dealt with, this was God adding grace upon him. Thus, his life which had been dealt with could say very blessed words <Mt 16:16; Jn 6:68>.

Whether one’s personality is good or bad is the grace given him by God, but do not fall into the traps of self-righteousness or inferiority complex because of this.

Those whose personalities are not so good are usually aware of their weaknesses, and are not too popular among people. Thus, because of their inferiority complex, it is very easy for them to like hanging out with those who are similar to them, or those who can accept them. In this way, they will seek human approval more than God’s, thus the timetable for their healing will be slower. On the other hand, although those believers with better personalities and who are more popular can bring out beautiful testimonies, it is easier for them to fall into the trap of self-righteousness, just like how Job kept defending himself after he encountered sufferings. Sometimes, certain believers with better personalities will realize that they are not so thirsty for God’s word, because they may feel that they have not many areas to change. But to a believer with weaker personality and nature, he will more easily be touched by God’s word because of his obvious weaknesses, and it is easier for him to be led to a broken state. If such a believer repents each time he hears and believes the truth, his relationship with the Lord will be more intimate.

Therefore, whether we are good or not good today is not dependent on our personalities, but on whether we submit to the Lord.

No matter how our personalities are, we can be sanctified by submitting to God

Regardless of our personalities today, may we all learn from Paul, who said, “good itself does not dwell in me <Ro 7:18>, only by relying on Christ can we be rescued from this body that is subject to death <Ro 7:25>.” Therefore, whether we are good or not good today is not dependent on our personalities, but on whether we submit to the Lord. Are our personalities well-received? That is not the ultimate main point, but what is important is whether we continue to discipline our bodies to make them submit to the Lord in our hearts. If our personality is quieter or slower to warm up, but God asks us to make contact with people, are we willing to speak by relying on the Lord? If our personality is more extrovert and free-spirited, but God places us in an orderly environment, are we willing to live within the order? If we do not yield to our nature, but submit to God, we will more and more be filled with the Holy Spirit, such that we can do or not do for the sake of the Lord. Then God can go beyond our personalities to convict and guide us. Over time, we will discover that our personalities are sanctified, and we can be used by the Lord <2 Co 10:1,11>. Example: Those with slow temperament will not give people a lazy sense, but a steady feel; those with quick temperament will not give people an impatient feel, but the sense that they are very decisive and zealous in doing things; introverts will not give people a timid feel, but a sense of humility. If a person always submits to the Lord in his heart, his personality will be sanctified in this way.

In our existing personality, continue to pursue grace upon grace

The Bible does not say which personality is better, the Bible says, “put off old self, put on new self”, we must put off even what people thought to be good, and put on what God has given.

Must not use own personality as an excuse for sin

Not to say: this sister is more strong-willed and independent, and therefore harder to submit to husband; this brother is more shy and introverted, and therefore more indifferent and uncaring; that person does not like to read, therefore does not like to read the Bible and will just rely on listening to the messages; that person is outgoing and therefore harder for him to quiet down to listen to others; that person is more playful therefore he will flirt with those of the opposite sex. Indeed, we must never use personality as the excuse for us to be unholy. Therefore, the Bible tells us that we need to be born-again, and be sanctified by the Word which is the Truth. Although certain personalities may cause a person to fall into temptations more easily, we must in our personality, know Jesus’ humility and His heart to obey the Father in all things.

Pray for Holy Spirit’s guidance so that we are not restricted by our personality, but able to use the strengths of our personality 

Some of our personalities may not lead us to the state of committing sin, but they can be an obstacle in our current role. For example, Timothy had a timid personality, but he needed to teach, encourage and shepherd the church, and even defend the truth against false teachers. For a timid person like Timothy, it was very tough. However, if he chose to turn away from the challenges in these areas, the Lord’s church would suffer loss. Therefore, Paul did not say, “you can be used by God even if you are timid, it can reveal your humility”.

If we do not have a mission, it will be hard to overcome the limitations of our personality.   

On the contrary, Paul blessed him by telling him that he must rely on the Lord to overcome the limitation of his weak personality, for the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. <2 Ti 1:7> Of course, before these words, Paul had already talked about how Timothy had the faith of his grandmother and mother so it was likely that Timothy was modest and compassionate. Possibly, the timidity of Timothy also comprised his cautious nature. Therefore, Paul talked about the spirit of power, love and self-discipline. He meant to encourage Timothy to overcome the limitations of his original personality, but also experience grace upon grace in his original strengths. Actually, if we do not have a mission, it will be hard to overcome the limitations of our personality.   

Receive God’s anointing to understand and engage with people of all kinds of personalities

If we continue to carry the mission of the gospel, walk with God, engage with all kinds of people, we will slowly be like Paul, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” <2 Co 9:22> Because there is no greater joy than to see people receiving the gospel. Such a person is not limited by his personality, but he is increasingly able to understand and engage with different personalities. God will also anoint him, and for the sake of the gospel, develop different dimensions of personalities in him. Take Paul for instance, he was timid, but he was also strong; he was accommodating, but he was also law-abiding; he was strong, but he was also weak; he was gentle (non-imposing appearance), yet in defending the truth, he was courageous and meticulous. All these were the grace God added to him as he served the church, so that the different dimensions of personalities could help him understand and engage more people.

Pastor Vincent Choo Chi San
choochisan@gmail.com

Vincent serves as the President of The Blessed RUN Ministries. He is also the Senior Pastor of The Life Church and Missions (Singapore) and is an ardent missionary to the Chinese World. He currently lives in Singapore with his wife, Qiufen, and has three kids, Mary, David, and Caleb.

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