Personality or Character?

Christians are constantly talking about transformation, about becoming “more like Jesus.”  But what does that mean? What are God’s goals for our transformation?

For the longest time, I thought that God’s desires to see me “changed” included changing my personality.  That God wanted me to be less rambunctious and more settled in social settings.  I figured that Jesus’ temperament was quiet, ordered and measured, so I tried to be less loud, chaotic and impulsive.  But then a realized that there is a difference between personality and character.  God doesn’t want to change our personality.  God wants to change our character.

Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian famously said, “Now by God’s grace, I will become fully me.”  Our personality is that God-given and morally neutral—neither right, nor wrong—part of us. Personality includes how we express ourselves socially, sort information and make decisions, as well as much of what we enjoy or don’t enjoy in life. Personality has to do with whether we are introverted or extroverted, whether we prefer order and closer to disorder and open-ended options.

I am moderately extraverted and enjoy being loud and rambunctious.  I am a “Ready, Fire, Aim” temperament, making impulsive decisions and having famously lived by the mantra, “think long, think wrong.”  Again, God doesn’t want to change my personality, but rather wants to bless, strengthen and see my personality flourish.  After all, he formed me and knit me together (Psalm 91)

Our character, on the other hand, is our moral makeup. Character has to do with whether we are honest or dishonest, whether we are kind or unkind to others, and God certainly wants to change our character. The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives to gently transform us into the “character” of Jesus, not the “personality” of Jesus.  God wants to change an arrogant extravert into a humble extravert, but not into a humble introvert.

If we confuse personality and character, then it is easy to find ourselves in ministry roles that don’t fit our natural wiring, and then we find ourselves expecting God to somehow make us a better fit through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

One to one coaching can help us in distinguish between personality and character, as well as help us identify the areas where are character is negatively impacting the expression of our personality.