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dogwood flowers

I am a result of both nature and nurture. But I have choices, and God is working in me.

We seek to know; this is a God-given desire. One thing we want to know is about ourselves. Why am I so much like my mother? Why is my child so different from me? Would I have been different with a different upbringing? Should I blame my parents or grandparents for who I am and what I am? Why is it so hard to change, even when I see things about myself that need to change?

Studies have revealed the very real possibility that we were 75% of the persons we were going to be when we were born. (Here we are talking in terms of our personalities and genetic predispositions where some traits are an asset and some are not.)

For instance, we came into this world as persons who are extroverts or introverts. The extrovert relishes being in the center of all that is fun. Or he may be the leader of a corporation. Then there are those among us who are introverts and like to spend our days pouring over books. And, how can we forget those dear individuals who are the natural-born peacemakers? Ask any mother: “Did your child come into the world with his or her personality already exhibiting itself?” And she will answer with an emphatic “Yes!”

We cannot change who we are in this regard. I know a woman who jokingly said, “I am a sanguine want-to-be.” She has a beautiful, analytic mind; she has the temperament of a melancholic. She might not be the life of the party, but sit next to her and she’ll have some very interesting things to say. She was joking; I don’t think she really wanted to change herself. In fact, her humorous remark came out of her analytical personality! Would any of us really want to change who we are? If we think about it, everything about God’s design for us fits; it is just right for the persons God made us to be.

However, if the influences in the childhood home or culture are unhealthy, then the strength of the personality can become a weakness. The extrovert, who had the potential of being a servant-leader in the home or at the office, can become the boss. The introvert can shut himself off from all people. And the peacemaker can become a doormat.

For example, the peacemaker may trade reality for denial. He may think this is a very noble approach, but the rest of us are left sniffing daisies, as he calls them roses. “This flower sure does smell sweet!” he will say, and we may feel forced to agree. (Have I just described the living room where the elephant got to claim most of the space?)

When receiving new life through faith in Jesus Christ, we are made ready to be transformed by the Lord’s working in our lives and hearts. God not only designed our personalities, he stands ready to shape them! “Our old self was crucified with Christ” (Romans 6:6). The “old self” includes not only our own sin, but also any unhealthy influences on God’s intended purposes for us. We can experience increasing freedom from the power of harmful, negative influences that have hindered us from being what God created us to be: more than conquerors (see Romans 8:37).

Just knowing the dynamics of our past, heredity, or personality will not necessarily influence our lives for good or give us power to overcome the negative influences. There is a saying: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” This little knowledge—insights about our past and personality—can be a dangerous thing, if we stop there.

By the grace of God, we can flourish as God’s vibrant individuals by pressing on with the personal knowledge of the Lord. There will come a day when we will see that we are exceedingly blessed to be who we are.

~A.R. Cecil