Living with a Porcupine
A young son asked his dad if it is true that in some parts of the world a man doesn't know his wife until he marries her. The dad replied, "That happens in most countries and all parts of the world!" Marriage is a very interesting institution where two strangers fall in love, then commit their lives to one another. In the early years they think that love will solve all their problems, but eventually, they wake up and say “Oh my, what have I done? Who is this person beside me?” The wife comes to realize that her knight in bright and shining armor leaves the toilet seat up and his princess shaves her legs with his razor. Her new perspective of reality is a grumpy little boy who is late and watches too much sports. His new perspective is a moody and controlling woman who is “always emotional.” They both will realize that falling in love is easy, but staying in love is hard work! To make the marriage work, both have to learn to quit trying to change the other person and accept each other with their imperfections and weaknesses. They soon realized that they fell in love with a personality, but now they live with a character. As one woman noted, “My husband and I fight over religious differences. He thinks he is God, and I don't.” Thus, to love a special person is to understand that they are quite different from us: they come from different families, grow up in different environments, and have different personalities.
A personality is the combination of traits which we inherited from our parents. Our personality sets broad guidelines on our behavior patterns that will influence our life as long as we live. A person's personality makes him/her outgoing and extroverted or shy and introverted; it impels some people to become art and music enthusiasts, whereas others are sports or industry-minded. God created each person with a unique personality and unique strengths of character. These distinctions allow us to accomplish different tasks according to the Lord's plan.
Many years ago I was introduced to a behavioral model that identified four basic, yet different, personality styles. This model helped me understand the strengths and weaknesses of each personality styles. However, when you understand your personality style, then you are able to see your strengths and weaknesses in a proper perspective, as well as seeing others as normal even though they are different than you. Here are the four styles:
# 1- “D” Style- Active/Task Oriented: A person who is dominating, directing, daring, driving, demanding, determined, doing and decisive. However, this person needs to learn: that you need people; relaxation is not a crime; some controls are needed; self-control is important; adhere to personal deadlines, and to be sensitive to other people’s feeling. Paul would be a Biblical example of a “D” personality.
# 2- “I” Style- Active/People Oriented: A person who is inspiring, influencing, impressing, interacting, impulsive, and interested in people. They are emotional, trusting, pleasant, sociable, and generous. However, this person needs to learn: time management; deadlines are important; being responsible over being popular; being objective in decision making; learn to control emotions, be more realistic when appraising others, and be more firm with others. Peter would be a Biblical example of an “I” personality.
# 3- “S” Style- Passive/People oriented: A person who is steady, stable, shy, security-oriented, servant, submissive, specialist, loyal, patient, deliberate, team-oriented, predictable, protective, undemonstrative, and passive. However, this person needs to learn: change provides opportunity; friendship isn’t everything; discipline is good; boldness and taking risks is necessary; flexibility, feel that their accomplishments are worthwhile; and receive sincere appreciation. Moses would be a Biblical example of an “S” personality.
# 4- “C” Style-Passive/Task Oriented: A person who is cautious, competent, calculating, compliant, careful, contemplative, fact-finder, accurate, diplomatic, systematic, conventional, analytical, sensitive to criticism, and detailed-oriented. However, this person needs to learn: to work with others; make quicker decisions; show a willingness to delegate; have respect for a person worth as much as their accomplishment; deadline must be met; develop more tolerance for conflict; and more optimism will lead to greater success. Thomas would be a Biblical example of a “C” personality.
Identifying your personality profile will help you understand yourself and how you relate to others. Realizing that God made each person with a unique personality style should cause us to do two things: First, we should have a proper perspective of ourselves. Romans 12:3 says, "for through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Second, we should be willing to accept others with their strengths and weaknesses. Romans 15:7 says, "accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”
Falling in love with a person is one thing. Staying in love with a person is another. It is like two porcupines that have to get warm in the winter. They have to learn how to get close without stabbing one another with their barbs. Out barbs are our personalities. And to create intimacy with the person we love, we have to learn and understand their personality trait, so that we can blend ours personality with theirs. And it is not always easy, because that other person (even though we love them) is different from us. Thus, make your “porcupine” feel love by understanding their personality and practicing unconditional “agape” love!
-Pastor Mike Kotrla