Four Temperaments Overview
Have you ever wondered why you act the way you do? You respond to people and situations in your own unique way, but approximately twenty-five percent of the population tends to respond in ways similar to you. Your personality is your own, but you have characteristics in common with others who have the same “temperament.” Link to the Main Temperament Page (including the free Test).
What is a temperament?
Your temperament is a unique set of personality traits you were born with that describe your most natural and instinctive behavior.
Hippocrates, a Greek physician called the “Father of Medicine,” observed four distinct temperaments, which he called Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Melancholy. These four temperaments have been popularized by Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Florence Littauer. In fact, many businesses use temperament tests, such as the DISC test, to help those in the same office better understand their innate differences and learn to work together.
While I am thankful for the Greek temperament names and the other naming systems used by other tests, they don't mean much to me unless I study them and commit them to memory. But I've found that personality types are easy to remember for the common person when they are called by the familiar animal names suggested by Gary Smalley and John Trent—Otter, Lion, Golden Retriever, and Beaver. This easy-to-learn terminology makes the study accessible to all (simple is good).
Can I change my temperament?
Your basic temperament cannot be changed but it can be brought into balance by Christ living within you. Tim LaHaye's first book was called Spirit-Controlled Temperament. The Holy Spirit living within you wants to help you overcome the excesses and weaknesses of your temperament and to enhance your natural strengths. The goal of studying the temperaments is not to pigeon-hole and label people, but to help us identify our natural strengths and weaknesses and to strive for a Holy Spirit-transformed temperament.
Where does the Bible talk about temperaments?
While the Bible does not refer to the four temperaments directly, they are part of the “image of God” in which mankind was made. The image of God includes such qualities as reason, personality, intellect, emotions, and the ability to relate to God and each other. The Bible tells us a lot about God’s personality? We know He is...
- Strong, powerful, and authoritative, exercising might and dominion
- An awesome communicator, captivating and persuasive
- Merciful, compassionate, and loving
- Perfect, detailed, analytical, creative, aware of every jot and tittle
We see these qualities in Jesus, the express image of the Father.
- He was a strong, fearless, and bold leader, driven to right wrongs and do God’s will, full of vision for His Church.
- He was a “people-person,” outgoing, enthusiastic, attending dinner parties, meeting strangers well, being a wonderful storyteller and communicator, capable of holding an audience’ attention for hours.
- He was compassionate, gentle and sensitive to others, peaceful, steady, unshakable, calm, so that His disciples trusted Him.
- He lived a perfect life before God, did everything well, knew every jot and tittle of the Scriptures, was conscientious and zealous about fulfilling every detail that was written about Him.
What is remarkable about Jesus was not that He demonstrated one or two of these qualities, but that He manifested all four equally. It’s difficult to combine strength and compassion, persuasion and precision. The more of these four behaviors we reveal in our lives, the more gifted and powerful a leader we become.
Why did God make different temperaments?
A group of people is having dinner. Each of the four temperaments is represented. During the meal, one person accidentally knocks his plate off the table. Somebody immediately stands up, takes charge, and assigns people to get a rag, a broom, and a second plate of food. Another reaches over and comforts the person who spilled the food, saying, “Don’t feel bad. It could happen to anyone.” A third explains, “Now if you had kept the center of gravity of your plate two inches further forward, this would not have happened.” A fourth tells a hilarious story about how he spilled food all over himself in public and gets everybody laughing and feeling good. What a team God has designed!!
God gave you your temperament so you could work together with others as a team. You have strengths others don't have, and others have strengths you don't have. You need them, and they need you. By combining our strengths, we can accomplish more together than we can working alone. This is the principle of synergy which is expressed in the body of Christ.
Let's briefly describe the four temperaments.
- Cholerics are strong and powerful leaders—like Lions.
- Sanguines are outgoing and playful—like Otters.
- Phlegmatics are friendly and easy going—like Golden Retrievers.
- Melancholies are detail-oriented, technical, or artistic—like Beavers (the “engineers” of the animal world).
In the DISC test, for example, the D stands for Dominance, or Lion. The I stands for Influence, or Otter. The S stands for Steadiness, or Golden Retriever. The C stands for Conscientious, or Beaver.
Whatever you call them, these four temperaments are part of the image of God. They are distributed equally among mankind and observable in every culture.
Every person has strengths and weaknesses.
As the Holy Spirit comes into our lives in new birth, He accentuates our strengths and balances out our weaknesses, so we do not go to the extremes we used to. Learn to rein yourself in when you go off on temperament extremes that are not well-received by others. For example…
- Lions: dominating and manipulating people
- Otters: talking constantly and not being good listeners
- Golden Retrievers: not voicing what they think and feel
- Beavers: sharing so many details they bore others
Accepting ourselves and our mates as God made us.
God made us the way we are for a reason. We can’t change our basic temperament type but we can learn to laugh at our natural tendencies. You can’t change your wife or husband’s character traits. They are who God made them to be, so learn to love their strengths and help them balance out their weaknesses.
No person is purely a single temperament, such as only Lion or only Beaver, but is a unique blend of two or more. For example, there are Lion-Otters, Lion-Golden Retrievers, and Lion-Beavers. Though all are Lions, each blend has a different flavor. Your dominant temperament is blended with one or two secondary temperaments, and it’s the blend that makes each of us uniquely who we are.
Take the Free Temperament Test
Click here to take our free temperament test. After you take the test, visit the pages linked below to learn about your specific temperament.
Then, once you score your test, look for your highest score and then click on the individual page below for your temperament.