Your Slice of Pie

What’s the difference between temperament and character?
by Father Nathan Miller | Source:

Here’s the first question: what’s the difference between temperament and character?

   In our last post we showed that there are eight temperaments, but we also said that each person is called to develop his/her character.

   Think of your temperament as a brand-new pair of ice-skates. They are a certain size, color, sharpness, weight and form (God-given, so they fit just perfect, actually.) Now let’s say you’ve never skated before. So what needs to change for you to get out on the ice: you or the skates? (Careful, that’s a trick question.)

   In short, YOU are the one who needs to change. You need to learn how to fit into your skates, lace them up, control your balance and to push and slide on the slippery ice without falling on your face.

   Your temperament is God-given, it’s mostly hereditary, but also includes many factors of your earliest upbringing: culture, language and family setting. Your temperament is the complicated summary of many set tendencies. For example: I tend towards solitude, I can’t stand “standing still”, I react quickly to everything that hits me.

   This doesn’t mean you can’t change you tendencies. But honestly they change very little. With time your ice skates do give in to the form of your foot, will bend easier after thousands of sudden stops, and will slowly but surely fit better and better. But all in all, they change very little. In other words, your temperament will mostly always TEND towards the same things your entire life.

   Your character, on the other hand, is a combination of your temperament and all the hard work you put into BECOMING a balanced person, despite your tendencies. After a while you will develop habits that will help you to think, act and speak as you choose, even though your tendencies continue to be adverse.

   So in short: the first step is to get to know your temperament well, and the second is to start working on forming habits: that is, to forge your character.

Fr. Nathan is editor of

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