Temperament Analysis: A Tool of the Devil?
I was counseling a married couple a few years back who were in the midst of real problems. As part of the process, I administered our temperament analysis tool to each of them and reviewed the results. A couple of days later, the husband came in alone armed with “proof” to convince me that temperament analysis (understanding our God-given psychological make-up) was totally wrong and actually occultic. He said that it was actually witchcraft to be engaging in this type of analysis. I will comment more on this coulple again at the end of this article.
There are certainly articles out there in the internet galaxy that make the argument against “psychological testing”, to use the secular term. They point out that terms such as “choleric”, “phlegmatic”, “sanguine and “melancholy”, for instance, have their roots in paganism and that testing of any kind is basically wrong because all Christians should be walking in the Spirit and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
We use a clinical temperament diagnostic tool called the Arno Profile System that was developed by the National Christian Counselors Association. Through a 54-question page that the client completes in eight to ten minutes, we get a report that describes a person’s temperament needs in three different areas: social orientation, control and affection. We have found, after administering thousands of profiles, that the test is quite accurate in assessing the person’s temperament (personality is different) and the NCCA’s own materials touts greater than 92% accuracy.
In our ministry, the issue is more pragmatic. I will not try to defend the terms here but a rose by any other name is still a rose! For us, the issue is not the labels but how they are applied. People are different and this tool provides a practical way to identify those differences. We are careful to point out some very key aspects of the report that each client receives:
• Each temperament type has strengths and weaknesses. There are no “better” temperaments.
• Temperament needs need to be met in godly ways or sinful behavior will result
• We need the power of the Holy Spirit to help transform us in certain areas of weaknesses
• Temperaments are not an excuse for bad behavior
Understanding our own temperament, and those of people close to us, can be extremely valuable, if we choose to serve and meet the needs of others as we know what they are. Coming back to the couple I mentioned upfront, it is interesting to note that the conclusion of the temperament review, the wife thought that her temperament was accurate and so was her husband’s! The husband, on the other hand was of the opinion that neither was accurate! He clearly did not like the results of the profiles (his temperament type was quite choleric) so his response was to try discredit the tool. It’s a common reaction: we want to shoot the messenger when we don’t like the message!
Until something more helpful comes along, we will continue to use this tool, and others, as the Lord leads, because when it is used properly it is helpful to bring understanding and facilitate spiritual growth and maturity.