Monday, 4 October 2010

Personality Versus Character

Mort Fertel ,author of Marriage Fitness, recently sent out a quotation that seemed remarkably profound.

"The difficultly with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character."
- Peter Devries

Mort went on to say "Personality is easy to understand. Your personality is how people experience you. It's your public persona. But what is character? And why is character so crucial in your marriage? Character is who you are when no one is watching.”

I thought that this was an interesting distinction. Though I may try to project a certain persona to the “outside world”, the reality is that such an attempt will be short lived. Why, because it is what is in my heart that determines my real character.

Perhaps Proverbs 4:23 captures it best “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.” What this verse tells me is that it is not the external circumstances that cause me to act in a way that is unlike the kind, gentle, compassionate, humble person that I am but what is in my heart. I flip out when I’m in the fast checkout lane and the moron in front of me has a full basket of groceries. My impatience flares when any self-centered idiot with a cell phone up to his/her ear acts like the roadway should belong to them. Wow – where is all that hostility coming from? – My heart! The external circumstances only bring out what is already residing in my heart. I need to ask myself “Self, why are you reacting the way you are?” The honest answer to that question is that it is all about me -my wants, my needs and my desires.

In the final analysis isn’t that what causes conflict in our marriages. James must think so or he wouldn’t have written “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

We have expectations that our husband/wife have not met; we have desires that our spouse has not fulfilled; and we have dreams that now seem unattainable. Though my character does show when no one else is watching, it also shows when I am with the people I care about the most.

Negative feelings are like an alarm system, they identify something about the condition of my heart. If I am feeling angry, frustrated, impatient, hurt, frightened , resentful, jealous – okay I’ll stop already. I must dig down and identify the heart issue that is underlying those feelings,and then I must ask God for the ability to heal. 

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