“I’ve always been like this.”
“This is my personality. This is me. Take it or leave it.”
“If you’re not used to it by now, then you don’t really know me yet.”
“People keep telling me this over and over again. They misunderstand me.”
Ever heard these things come out of your mouth? Well, they’ve sure come out of mine. People used to complain to me that I’m too frank, offensive, and bossy. Frankly, I didn’t care if I hurt anybody with what I said. To me, I was telling it as it was, how I saw it, and if you can’t handle the truth, then you’re weak. That was my personality before, and I always hid behind it. I used it as an excuse for my awful behavior, as if it were acceptable, and I expected my friends to tolerate how I was. If they couldn’t, then it was they who misunderstood me. I was impatient, prideful and self-righteous.
When I was younger and clueless, when I did not personally know the Lord yet, I chose conflict because I thought I cared enough for my friends, knowing that the truth is what will help them. But I didn’t care enough to change how I said it. I convinced myself that “that is how I am” and perpetuated my own foolishness.
But isn’t character more important than personality?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying having a personality is a bad thing. God made us each different from the other. I still have my personality. I am who I am. I’m still a strong, loud, frank, straight-to-the-point woman, but God is continually molding my character. He’s teaching me, especially through discipleship, that I can and should use my strengths or my personality the right way. Because of my personality, I can be honest when I counsel or give advice, but because of my hopefully growing character, I can relay it in a loving way and keep our conversation confidential. Because of my personality, I can teach, but because of God’s work in my life and character, I can teach a group of people from experience. Because of my strong personality, I can also discipline my kids effectively by giving them the rod and by talking to them, but when I am in a teaching moment with my kids, I tend to lose my patience. I can’t very well tell them to accept my behavior because it’s my personality to be loud and impatient. I have to exercise the character God wants me to work on (humility & patience) — I have to apologize too and do better next time.
In any kind of relationship, conflicts are sure to arise. There are times that we do need to pick our battles, meaning not everything should be argued about and sometimes we need to compromise. In the times that we feel that it is necessary to “fight” for something, we need to learn to fight clean.
That’s why our character must override our personality. We must give more importance to building our character than protecting our personality. If we can choose to engage instead of to ignore, if we can choose to be involved instead of to be indifferent, if we can choose conflict over comfort, then we can and must choose character over personality.
We can’t after all be touched by the Lord, and remain the same.