How Families Clash over Worldviews   3 comments

The world we each inhabit is a menagerie of differing perspectives without a guide to help us sort through the issues. If one is a feeler and the other a fixer or if one is an optimist and the other a pessimist, conflicts arise. One may push for action while the other pushes for patience; one inclines to critique and the other to acceptance; one wants to plan and the other likes spontaneity.  Instead of welcoming and finding a place for alternative views, we often react out of fear or pride.  We lack the imagination or guidance to show us how to make room for ideas that don’t fit our outlook, yet how we respond to conflicting perspectives makes a huge difference in our personal development and relationships (as you can see in my previous post), and the family is most formative in this process.

Cholerics like my dad are the engines of the world.  Far less would be accomplished here without their initiative, decisiveness, can-do spirits, diligence and strong-willed personalities, and as with other temperaments, the various elements of their personality are mutually strengthening, consolidating their outlook.  Dad addresses a problem or issue by acting decisively to resolve it. This initiative is grounded in his confidence about his own diagnosis, solution, planning, and ability to control the outcome. His self-confidence not only motivates him to act, but also brings results because others, inspired by his confidence, buy into his plan (cholerics are natural leaders). If there is resistance, his confidence prompts him to vigorously argue his case, become more firm in his position, and inspire others to action.  And so his goals are met, which is especially validating of his outlook, not only pragmatically in seeing the results but especially emotionally because a choleric gets the most sense of satisfaction from a job well done.  These are all good, valuable traits, and rightly admired in our society with its can-do attitude.

Melancholics like myself do not receive the same accolades or appreciation by American society.  We often find ourselves overlooked and our contributions devalued.  We are “a voice in the wilderness.”  Interestingly enough, this also meshes with and validates our worldview.  We expect the world to be this way because we tend to be more aware of the dark side of life–the suffering, antagonism, fear, despair, and brokenness–and we need space to slowly find our equilibrium among these crashing cross-currents.  When a choleric is faced with brokenness, his first response is to fix it, while the melancholic’s first response is to sit with it, understand it, and grow by it. To the choleric, this response is wrong-headed or weak-willed, it looks like giving up and acquiescing to the dark.  Of course, there is a danger that we melancholics may slide into despair, but there is also beauty of soul that comes from listening to sadness and an ability to empathize with and comfort the broken-hearted.  Sitting with those who cannot be fixed but can only weep and sigh may demoralize a choleric but profoundly encourages the melancholic.  We feel that we are finally being real and truly connecting at a deep heart level, and that soul-bonding is what we value most in life.

So the choleric is good at fixing, the melancholic at comforting; the choleric is good at action, the melancholic at contemplating; the choleric has good solutions, the melancholic has good questions; the choleric sees neat and clean distinctions, simple blacks and whites, while the melancholic sees a vast spectrum of slightly differing detail, complex grey-scale; the choleric sees opportunities, the melancholic sees concerns.  In a hundred other ways my father and I fundamentally differ from one another and it has a very big impact on what we feel, how we act, what solutions work for us, what we identify as problems, how we approach relationships, and basically each thread that makes up our fabric of life.  We see and interact with the world in very different ways, even in how we relate to God himself, even in how we understand who God is.  So these differences go to the roots of who we are and what we believe and how we relate to each other.  How profoundly important, then, to ponder these things and seek for self and other understanding.

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3 responses to “How Families Clash over Worldviews

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  1. It seems providential to me that your Dad and Buck Hatch were together for so many years at CBC / CIU – a choleric and a melancholic who both made an incredible impact on my life . . . !!

  2. Well said. Something I daily wrestle through is that, as a melancholic, sitting with others as well as “sitting” with myself, instead of fixing, is often very painful and it is very tempting to just want to adopt the oft repeated mantra of ‘let’s just move on’, instead of probing more into the muck. I believe it is very much the strategy of the enemy to deter us away from greater depths of self-exploration to keep us away from those we may bless and from ‘the call’ placed upon our lives.
    I also see the power and influence of society as you mentioned. If someone is more successful than I am, I think they should be more sensitive to those who struggle, but if someone is “below me” according to the standards of society, then I am tempted to treat them as if they are less, revealing my hypocrisy, even as I walk through this world as a very broken soul.
    I recently watched a movie for the second time, The Soloist, it tells the story of a journalist who through a series of events comes across a homeless musician on the streets of L.A. playing an old, half working violin. Long story short, they form a relationship and the journalist begins to see him as a real person, someone worth investing time and getting to know his story, a story well worth knowing. The story impacts me because I really want people to see me as the journalist. The one taking time out of his “busy” life to help someone in need, even though I strongly favor the musician. Broke, ragged clothes, sometimes hungry and needing someone to come down from the hill and offer a kind word.
    May we continue to courageously enter into our pain and those that come across our paths.

    • Beautifully said, Brett. Thanks for sharing! I find this same constant struggle between the values of our pervasive culture and the contradictory values of what I believe. The society in which we are immersed is constantly telling us that we must be “strong” and have our act together to be of value, but my beliefs tell me that I must be real and honest and live in the truth of my brokenness (even as I seek over time for what healing I can find). My heart is constantly being pulled between these competing visions of life and relationship and spirituality because we have a deeply communal soul that is significantly impacted by the perspective of those around us. Our absorbent nature is not something we can just turn off like a light switch. I think that is why it is so valuable to find others who can live out our honesty values together with us. May you find such comrades!

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