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Personality & Spiritual Gifts In Marriage

Below are several areas to consider with your fiancé/spouse within the topic of Personality and Spiritual Gifts in Marriage. The subject matter and Scriptures should serve as a starting point but it is not meant to be exhaustive.

SCRIPTURAL DIRECTION AND BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES

Husbands and wives were created for unique roles.
A husband and wife each have a role in the Body of Christ both as individuals and as a couple. We are each uniquely created by God and called to live out our lives in a way that glorifies God. (Eph. 4:7, 12)

We were created to be different from one another.
Spiritual gifts are given by God and vary between individuals. They are intended to work together for the edification of the Body of Christ. In your marriage you have the opportunity to help each other grow and develop in a unique way based on how God has designed you. (Roman. 12:4-8, 1 Cor. 12 :4-11)

We are designed to be unified by Christ.
While God designed us to be different, He intends for our differences to fade into the background as we unite around our Head, Jesus Christ. All that we have been given, our personality, gifts, passions, weaknesses, and abilities, are to be surrendered to God so (1) He can redeem them from their sinful nature, and (2) He can use them to help us pursue Christ-likeness and point others to Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

We each have strengths and weaknesses.
The combination of strengths and weaknesses a husband and wife possess, as individuals and as a couple, are the soil in which God works in and through us. The marriage relationship allows spouses to love and accept each other for who they are. (1 Cor. 12:12-27)

Dealing with differences.
Differences in marriage are inevitable but can sometimes lead to misunderstanding and conflict. You need to be respectful of the different ways God has created you and your spouse. Love, kindness, humility, respect, and mutual submission are key. (Col. 3:12-15)

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

While personality can certainly impact life, a number of factors influence it. The goal in describing the types of personality features and characteristics below is to facilitate understanding and communication. The goal is not to “pigeon-hole” anyone or to give people “labels.” Rather, read through the following information with the goal of better understanding how God created you and your spouse and how this information can help your marriage grow.

Personality and Temperament

What is personality?
“Personality refers to a distinctive set of traits, behavior styles, and patterns that make up our character or individuality. How we perceive the world, our attitudes, thoughts, and feelings are all part of our personality.” Personality is relatively consistent and enduring over time. It is a result of both predispositions that individuals are born with (i.e., temperament) and more flexible characteristics. Each one of us has personality characteristics that are generally established early in life, are long-lasting, and are difficult to change. Other personality characteristics are shaped by life experiences and may change with time.

What is temperament?
Temperament can be defined as the “biologically-based individual differences in emotion, motor reactivity, and self-regulation that demonstrate consistency across situations and over time.” Temperament is God-given, enduring, and results from a combination of heredity, neural, and hormonal factors. These factors then affect how an individual responds to the environment. Within limits, temperament can be moderated by environmental factors, the responses of others, and personal choices. The following are nine aspects of temperament that are commonly identified in childhood and are found to endure into adulthood.

Activity level: The degree of activity a person inherently possesses; how active or passive he or she is.

Predictability: The degree to which someone’s lifestyle is characterized by regular routines and functions versus being more irregular and unpredictable.

Threshold of responsiveness: The intensity level of a stimulus needed to get a response from someone. Some people are very “touchy” while others require significant “prodding” to get them to respond.

Distractibility: How the person responds to the effects of distractions and interruptions. Some people are highly focused, while others’ minds wander easily from topic to topic. Also, some people don’t mind interruptions while others are greatly bothered when something or someone disrupts them.

Persistence: The length of time an activity is pursued by an individual; especially, how long a person can continue working on an activity in the face of obstacles.

Approach or withdrawal: The nature of a person’s response to new experiences in life (e.g., trying new things, meeting people).

Adaptability: The speed and ease with which a person can “shift-gears” in response to a change in the environment or circumstances.

Intensity of reaction: The amount of energy used in the expression of moods. How intensely someone expresses his emotions.

Quality of mood: Positive mood (pleasant, joyful, friendly) versus negative mood (unpleasant, blue, critical).

Does personality change?
To want to change some aspects of your spouse’s personality or to think that it is in your power to do so is not unusual. However, generally speaking, personality is not something that you can change about your spouse. Rather, it is something you learn to live with and accept. Because each one’s personality is such a fundamental aspect of the self, striving to change someone’s personality or requesting that type of change can be interpreted as rejection.

Each person’s unique personality is an avenue through which God demonstrates His power and ability to bring glory to Himself. That said, it may be necessary for you or your spouse to work on growing in your ability to relate or respond to others. For example, if you are someone who normally keeps your thoughts and feelings to yourself (i.e., the personality trait called introversion), then you may need to work on growing in your ability to share your thoughts and feelings with your spouse. Conversely, trying to force an introvert to become an extrovert (someone who shares their thoughts and feelings very openly) is not a realistic expectation.

Personality and personal responsibility.
While personality establishes tendencies, individuals can make choices to live in a manner that is controlled by the Holy Spirit and consistent with biblical truth. Personality and temperament should not be used as an excuse for sinful or inappropriate behavior. Some aspects of your personality may make you more vulnerable to certain types of sin. For example, if you are a very verbally expressive person by nature, you may have to be more careful about gossip. This also means that sometimes each spouse will have to “stretch” and “adjust” to doing things in ways that does not necessarily feel easy or natural. Your goal should be to be fully controlled by and submitted to the Holy Spirit in all aspects of your life.

Do “opposites attract,” or do “birds of a feather flock together?”
Actually, depending upon the circumstances, both statements are often true.

Complementary traits: Occur when couples are opposites on a certain trait. Often, in the beginning of a relationship, these personality differences are initially loved. For example, a quiet, reserved husband may admire his wife’s outgoing, uninhibited nature or a wife who examines every option before making a decision may admire her husband’s spontaneity. However, over time, couples sometimes stop seeing the blessings of the opposite trait and start to try to change their spouses to be more like themselves.
Unfortunately, this can lead to conflict if the spouses are not feeling understood or appreciated.

Similar traits: Occur when couples are alike on a certain trait. Often, in the beginning of a relationship, these personality similarities make things go smoothly. To the degree a couple is similar, they are able to make decisions more quickly and with less conflict. However, over time couples who are similar on certain traits will need to be aware of what they may be missing. For example, if both the husband and wife tend to be reserved and keep their thoughts and feelings inside, they may not have major arguments, but they may also be avoiding having some very important discussions they need to have.

The role of birth order.
Birth order is one factor that may affect how one’s personality develops. The size of one’s family (e.g., being an only child versus having eight siblings) clearly affects how an individual views life. One’s birth order can affect one’s level of need for achievement, desire to be in charge, desire to keep peace, tendency toward personal responsibility, etc. When considering birth order, remember that not everyone “fits the mold” perfectly. There are many variations in how birth order is expressed, particularly for middle children.

Understanding each other is key.

Understanding strengthens your relationship.
Understanding your personality and the personality of your spouse is helpful in determining what roles and functions each of you will most naturally fulfill. With this information, you can make the most of your strengths and accommodate one another’s weaknesses. The goal is to use each of your strengths effectively and to help each other temper the weaknesses. A thorough understanding can help you anticipate your spouse’s needs and help you respect each other’s different ways of dealing with life.

Focus on common ground.
Establishing common ground on which to build can help when dealing with differences. Focus on the similarities you share (common interests, spiritual goals, etc.) that are not related to personality differences. Then, make the most of personality differences by viewing your spouse as providing a source of refreshing perspectives or inspirational variety. When differences in your personalities come up, make efforts to listen with the purpose of understanding your spouse. Communicate clearly and respectfully. You will experience greater intimacy in your marriage if you seek to listen to, validate, and understand each other.

Some personality and character traits can be harmful to relationships.

Seek to understand what shaped one another’s personality.
Spouses should seek to understand how one another’s personality was shaped through life experiences. The combination of one’s personality with one’s relationship history will make a big impact on closeness and intimacy in a marriage. Our experiences with parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, etc., all help to shape our personality and shape how we interact in relationships. These past relationships may help provide a foundation for future healthy relationships. Other times, unhealthy personality traits may have been developed through relationships with others. These unhealthy personality need to be dealt with thoroughly so they do not hurt your marriage and family. Sometimes seeking counsel is necessary to work through these issues. Either way, trying to understand each other’s personality, temperament, relationship history, and spiritual gifts can be a healthy, growth-inspiring exercise for couples.

Below is a listing of traits that can be harmful to relationships. While we rarely want to talk about our weaknesses, you both need to identify the areas you need to grow in. Go through this list individually and together, and talk about items that describe areas you need to work on. Take time to pray together about being able to grow in overcoming these issues.
Domineering                           Undependable                                                Self-righteous
Controlling                              Perfectionistic                                                Stubborn or rigid
Impulsive                                Unreliable                                                       Overly dramatic
Unempathetic                        Disrespectful                                                  Having to be right
Dependent                              Unforgiving                                                    Jealous/possessive
Quickly angry                         Materialistic                                                   Manipulative
Insecure                                   Emotionally abusive                                    Physically abusive
Paranoid                                  Moody                                                             Pessimistic
Flirtatious                               Envious                                                           Gossiping
Being a martyr                       Critical/faultfinding                                     Contentious
Never satisfied                       Insensitive                                                      Overly sensitive
People pleasing                      Self-centered                                                 Other:_________

Spiritual gifts in marriage.

What are the spiritual gifts, and how many are there?
Different views exist about the various spiritual gifts, and one should not become overly dogmatic about which view is taken. Several passages of Scripture list spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; and Ephesians 4:7-13). Below is one possible listing of gifts:
Prophecy                                 Teaching                                                     Prayer/intercession
Pastor                                      Discerning of Spirits                                Leadership
Missionary                             Knowledge                                                  Mercy
Evangelist                              Giving                                                          Faith
Exhortation                           Helps                                                           Administration
Craftsmanship                      Hospitality                                                 Service
Wisdom                                  Music

Each individual has been created to give God glory.
We have been made in God’s image, which means that every part of us is to be a reflection of our Creator (Genesis 1:26-27). However, this image is imperfect because of the presence of sin in the world. Our goal is to become more Christ-like so that He is glorified through our actions. Our desires, abilities, experience, personality, and spiritual gifts are all resources we have that can work together in our pursuit of serving God (Romans 15:6).

The Holy Spirit has given each Believer stewardship of a spiritual gift(s).
1 Peter 4:10 says, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” These abilities and desires are given by God for the common good of the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:4-5). These gifts often work together with our personality and one’s personality may contribute to his or her ability to practice a spiritual gift.

Spiritual gifts are not earned, deserved, or given to only “special” people.
Since these gifts are God-given, we should not view or compare ourselves as better or worse than we are. Rather, we should seek to encourage each other to use our gifts by provoking one another to love and good works. (Rom. 12:3, 2 Cor. 10:12, Heb. 10:24)

Recognition of spiritual gifts is not pride.
Some Christians assume that recognizing they have a spiritual gift is the same as being proud. This is not accurate. Remember spiritual gifts are “bestowed” by God. The spiritual gifts are God’s, not yours. You are a steward who has been fashioned by God to serve Him. (Eph. 2:10)

You don’t have to be better than others.
God never intended for us to have to be “the best” at something in order for us to use our gifts. There will always be someone better than you (looks, intelligence, strength, social skills, humor, etc.). The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can stop trying to perform up to impossible standards or be someone you are not and start serving God the way He created you to be.

Spiritual gifts are for a purpose.
When striving together as a couple to discover your individual spiritual gifts, remember that design helps reveal purpose. Therefore, take note of the way you are each designed by God with desires and abilities. He equips us with gifts and desires that allow us to fulfill this purpose. Often, where you find yourself most effective and where you find the most satisfaction and joy indicate the presence of a spiritual gift.

Spiritual gifts are to be used.
Spiritual gifts are to be discovered, developed, and used through participation in the Body of Christ. Prayer, exploration, consultation with others, and a reliance on God for direction and guidance are all essential components when discovering and utilizing your spiritual gifts. (2 Tim. 1:6-7)

Using spiritual gifts leads to gratitude.
Acknowledging our place in the Body of Christ and the gifts given to each one of us cultivates gratitude for God. This gratitude leads us to desire to serve Him more fully and faithfully. (2 Cor. 9:15)

Don’t get side-tracked.
Focus on what God has asked you to do, and don’t get side-tracked by focusing on what you think others should be doing. (John 21:21-22)

Certain tasks can aid in the discovery of spiritual gifts.

  • Desire the knowledge of spiritual gifts in general and yours in particular. Pray specifically for God to help you understand and develop the spiritual gifts that He has given you.
    (1 Cor. 12:31, 14:12)
  • Determine your gifts by reading about spiritual gifts in the Bible, getting feedback from those that know you well, and taking a spiritual gifts inventory.
  • Develop your gifts by learning about them, seeking ways to use them, and getting guidance and mentoring from others.
  • Diligently act on your knowledge, and be a good steward of the gifts that have been given to you. Actively practice your gifts for the edification of the Body of Christ.

Encourage each other.
Make sure you take the opportunity to build up and encourage your spouse by pointing out the areas in which you see God working in and through him or her. Thank God for how He created your spouse and how He is empowering you to bring Him glory, serve others, and experience joy.

You Are S.H.A.P.E.D for serving God.

Each of you has been uniquely created, gifted, and molded by God. Consider the five areas listed below and how each shapes who you are. If you submit your whole life as an offering to God, He can and will use these things to bring glory to Himself, help and encouragement to others, and joy to you.

Spiritual gifts: given to you by God to use for His glory and to strengthen the Church.

Heart: things you feel strongly about; perhaps a certain type of ministry that is particularly close to your heart (e.g., HarvestCall, working with children).

Abilities: natural talents you can use for Kingdom purposes (e.g., mathematics, music, sewing, mechanical abilities).

Personality: uniqueness in relating to others; perhaps your style of relating to others allows you to reach some people for the Lord more than others might.

Experiences: the things you have been through in life give you perspective; these experiences shape who you are and may allow you to minister to others in special ways.

For further information, including couple questions and exercises, please see the full document.


For Further Information:

Does Your Spouse Annoy You?
This short article emphasizes how recognizing and accepting personality differences in marriage can strengthen your relationship. [Family Life]

Keirsey Temperament Sorter
This website allows visitors to take an online version of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a commonly used personality and communication styles inventory (similar to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator).  This assessment is free and take roughly 20 – 30 minutes to complete. The results provide helpful information about how a person prefers to communicate, take in information, make decisions, and interact with others. The results can be used to help individuals understand each other better and build bridges instead of polarize. It provides helpful information for engaged and married couples, coworkers, etc. [keirsey.com]