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Personality or Character?

From Deeper by Frog and Amy Orr-Ewing:

Many people who have been in church for a while, find themselves wanting to escape from any Christian expression which is shallow, limited to the surface or fake.  This is a desire for authenticity.  We believe that a crucial outworking of this sense is the development of Christian character.  Now we need to be clear that what we mean by 'character' is not the same as 'personality'.  Character takes place within a moral framework overseen by God, whereas personality is a level playing field, even though both are to do with the self and our relationship to others in society.  Character can be good or bad, whereas personality is introvert or extrovert, without moral judgment.

The church and Western society in general have moved quickly from speaking in terms of character, to understanding the self in terms of personality, and they are poorer for it.  The words and virtues associated with gentleness and valour, were all sustained by a belief in a higher moral law, whereas the adjectives one would use to describe personality would include fascinating, stunning, attractive, magnetic, glowing, masterful, creative, forceful. David Wells writes:

None of these words could easily be used to describe somebody's character.  Attention was shifting from the moral virtues which need to be cultivated, to the image, which needs to be fashioned.  It was a shift away from the invisible moral intentions toward the attempt to make ourselves appealing to others, away from what we actually are and toward refining our performance before a public that mostly judges the exterior.  The self-sacrifice of the older understanding made way for the self-realisation of the new.  Now, it became more important to find one's self, to stand out in the crowd, to be unique, to be confident, and to be able to project one's self.

How many times, especially within local churches, do divisions happen or people leave or withdraw from involvement because of 'personality' clashes?  I wonder whether this is just a code for 'yes we are different but we don't want to work on the character development necessary to enable us to relate well and work together'?

Maybe we think we need to rearrange membership of churches until a particular church has no personalities within it that 'clash'.  But then why would God allow children of vastly different personalities to be born into a single family?

Maybe instead we need to understand that we can't say to a person of different personality - 'I have no need of you' (1 Cor 12)!

David Wanstall, 01/07/2009