Four Temperaments Overview
Have you ever wondered what your temperament is? Has your spouse ever wondered why you act the way you do? What is it about being made in the image of God that gives us so much in common yet allows us to be so different? In just two life-changing hours, you will receive an overview of the four basic human temperaments which are part of the image of God. Originally observed by Hippocrates, these temperaments were popularized by Tim LaHaye and Florence Littauer using hard-to-remember Greek names: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Melancholy. Some temperament tests use even more complex terminology. But personality types are easy to remember when 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), so as you listen, you will discover the character traits that are most like you and understand how your personality is made up of a unique blend of two or more temperaments.
What is a temperament?
Your temperament is a unique set of personality traits you were born with that describes your most natural and instinctive behavior.
Can I change my temperament?
Your basic temperament cannot be changed but can be brought into balance by Christ living within you. He helps you overcome your inherent weaknesses and enhances your natural strengths. We strive for a Holy Spirit-transformed temperament.
Made in the image of God
Mankind was made in the image of God with such qualities as reason, personality, intellect, emotions, and the ability to relate to God and each other. What do we know about God’s personality? We know He is…
- Merciful, compassionate and loving
- Strong, powerful, and authoritative, exercising might and dominion
- An awesome communicator, captivating and persuasive
- Perfect, detailed, analytical, creative, aware of every jot and tittle
We see these same qualities in Jesus, the express image of the Father.
- He was compassionate, gentle and sensitive to others, peaceful, steady, unshakable, calm, so that His disciples trusted Him.
- 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 lived a perfect life before God, did everything well, knew every jot and tittle of the Scriptures forwards and backwards, was conscientious and zealous about fulfilling the least and last detail of what was written about Him.
What is so 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 character traits we reveal in our lives, the more gifted and powerful a leader we will become.
Why did God make different temperaments?
God gave you your temperament so you could work together with others as a team. We cannot change ourselves or others from the way God made us. We must accept ourselves and those whose personalities differ from our own.
Here’s an example of different temperaments working together:
A group of people are having dinner. Each of the four temperaments is represented. During dinner, 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 pats 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!!
How many temperaments are there?
Four. The Greek physician and philosopher, Hippocrates, first observed them and gave them Greek names: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, phlegmatic. Christian authors Tim LaHaye (Transforming Your Temperament, Spirit-Controlled Temperament) and Florence Littauer (Personality Plus) use the same names. In The Two Sides of Love, Christian authors Gary Smalley and John Trent assigned common animal names to each temperament, making them easier to remember and more fun to talk about.
- Sanguines are playful and outgoing—like Otters.
- Cholerics are strong and powerful leaders—like Lions.
- Phlegmatics are friendly and easy going—like Golden Retrievers.
- Melancholies are detail-oriented, technical or artistic people—like Beavers (the engineers of the animal world).
Large corporations administer temperament tests as a leadership tool. The same four temperaments are often described using different names. 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.
The Otter (Sanguine, Influencer)
Motto: Life should be fun. Favorite saying, “Lighten up.” “Don’t be so serious.” Or, “Trust me. It will work out.” One Word Descriptions: Popular, “The Talker.” Extrovert.
- Charming, friendly, excitable, impulsive, fun-seeking, people-loving, schmoozer
- Makes friends anywhere, never met a stranger
- Loves to talk and be the life of the party
- Loves bright colors, is great on stage
- Wonderful storyteller and captivating public speaker
- Very curious
- Spontaneous, creative, enthusiastic
- Great salesman and networker (He/she knows people who know people.)
- Strongly influenced by environment and peer pressure
- Desires to be popular and accepted
- Will touch or hold on when talking to you
- Lacks organization and discipline
- Impulsive and excitable
- Great starters—poor finishers
- Talks too much
- Avoids fine print
- Forgets details (where the car is parked, to pick up the kids)
- Always wants something new in his/her life, changing jobs, moving
- Forms many but shallow friendships
- Quickly attracted to the opposite sex
Balancing the Otter:
- Force themselves to be organized
- Follow through on what they’ve started
- Talk half as much as before
- Become sensitive to others (better listeners)
- Work on developing lasting friendships
The Otter’s Gift
- Making life and work fun. Let’s enjoy life!
The Lion (Choleric, Dominant)
Motto: Let’s get moving! Favorite Saying: “Let’s do it my way, now!”
One Word Descriptions: Powerful, “The Doer.” Extrovert.
- Natural, take-charge leader
- Goal-oriented, vision-driven
- Decisive, bottom-line person
- Doer, impact player, not a watcher or listener
- Driven to correct wrongs
- More interested in achieving goals than pleasing people
- Intuitive and decisive.
- Makes quick decisions, with or without the facts, usually right
- Prefers short communication with few details—get to the bottom line!
- Highly competitive—thrives on opposition, dresses to impress
- Pragmatic, dislikes theory, concepts and speculation
- Loves history and non-fiction
- Control freak
- Too hard on people
- Often viewed as insensitive
- Hates to admit being wrong
Balancing the Lion
- Develop Christ’s love and compassion for others
- Work on the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness
- Wait on the Lord and let the Spirit lead—get His timing on things
- Do things in Christ’s ability, not your own ability
- Learn to rest and relax
The Lion’s Gift
- Leading and motivating people to accomplish goals. Let’s make a difference and have an impact.
The Golden Retriever (Phlegmatic, Steadiness)
Motto: Be faithful. Favorite Saying: Don’t get excited; it’s not that big a deal.
One Word Descriptions: Peaceful. “The Watcher.” Introvert.
Golden Retriever Strengths
- A true all-purpose person, adaptable
- Easiest temperament to get along with
- Full of compassion, very loyal
- Steady, consistent, faithful, dependable
- Great listener and empathizer
- Closest thing to a balanced person
- Not extreme, avoids conflict, works quietly, dresses plainly
- Calm, unexcited, in control under stress
- Has a wonderful, dry sense of humor
- Practical, neat, and efficient in work
- Has high standards of accuracy
- Quietly accepts the status quo
- Makes a wonderful, lifelong friend, can become a good counselor and leader
- Has a strong need for close relationships
- Has a deep need to please others
- A quiet will of iron when pushed too far
- Holds strongly to what they feel is right
Golden Retriever Weaknesses
- Struggles with fear and timidity
- Has a hard time making decisions, not wanting to offend anyone
- Avoids confrontation by hiding his/her feelings and failing to communicate
- Can be a doormat (especially when young) and a people-pleaser
- Dislikes change; prefers familiar, harmonious, secure environment
Balancing Out the Golden Retriever
- Their natural compassion for others will draw them out of their shyness and timidity.
- Needs to try new things, to motivate themselves, to learn to make decisions and say, No.
- Faith and trust in God helps them overcome inhibitions and become more outgoing.
The Golden Retriever’s Gift
- Let’s be caring, loyal, and dependable.
The Beaver (Melancholy, Conscientious)
Motto: Be prepared! Favorite Saying: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
One Word Descriptions: Perfect. “The Thinker.” Introvert
- Conscientious, strong need to do things “right” and “by the book”
- True perfectionist (often impractical)
- Reads manuals, maps, charts, lists
- Serious, deep thinker, analytical, makes careful decisions.
- Creative, appreciative of beauty and intelligence, genius-prone
- Prepared, carries lots of stuff in pockets
- Makes friends cautiously, but a faithful, devoted friend
- Emotionally reserved, self-sacrificing
- Works projects day and night to finish
- Researcher, doesn’t take things at face value, likes to dig into deeper truths,
- Well dressed, with every hair in place
- Has a somewhat skeptical and pessimistic nature, foresees problems
- Compassionate for others, doesn’t show emotions easily, often viewed as cold
- Sensitive and talented, but has by far the most complex problems.
- Prone to depression, slow mood swings
- Overly analytical (paralysis of analysis)
- Perfectionist, focused on errors
- Skeptical, pessimistic
- Hard time forgiving, turns anger inward
- Worries about his/her health
Balancing Out the Beaver
- Can’t hold everyone else to their own perfectionistic standards, especially children
- Needs to develop the fruit of joy
- Must get over constant self-analysis and depression
- Can’t take everything personally
- Needs to walk in meekness and humility to counteract pride in skills and abilities
The Beaver’s Gift
- Don’t settle for less than your best, but strive for perfection in all you do.
Every temperament has strengths and weaknesses.
Each temperament has strong points which reflect the image of God and weaknesses that reflect fallen man’s corruption of the original image. 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. Catch yourself when you go off on temperament extremes that are not well-received by others. For example…
Otters: Talking constantly, not being good listeners
Lions: Dominating and manipulating people
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 psychological 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. Learn to love their strengths and help them balance out their extremes.
No person is purely a single psychological type or temperament, such as a pure Lion or pure 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. It’s the blend that makes each of us uniquely who we are.
For more information on temperament blends, go to our Download Page and see Temperament Wisdom.