Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Four Marks of a Healthy Personality

I consider it such a treasure to read and learn about life. There are books to read, stories we hear, movies we see, and life to observe. This search uncovers many things in life that we either know but need reminders about, or things we didn’t know, and can yet apply if we so choose.

One such gem was the reading of Selwyn Hughes’ re-telling of a valedictory message, on ‘the four marks of a healthy personality,’ held at Harvard University “several years ago.”[1]

It was a professor of psychiatry who delivered the original message. The four elements of a healthy personality are:

1. A clear sense of identity and being comfortable with that

When we have a sense of belonging and of being unconditionally loved, a high sense self-worth, and a sense of meaning and purpose about our lives we have a clear sense of identity.[2]

It’s not enough to have a clear sense of identity; it must be something we’re comfortable with. Our public (external) lives must match our private (internal) lives. We must like the person we are both for who we see ‘us’ as, and as others see us (and what we think of that).

2. A loving spirit that reaches out to others

“We learn from the [holy] Trinity (i.e. Father-Son-Holy Spirit) that relationship is the essence of reality.”[3] We learn from the Trinity (Godhead three-in-one) that the central energy that pulsates within the Godhead is other-centred.

The ‘dark little dungeon of the ego,’ as Malcolm Muggeridge coined it, is self-centeredness that compromises every relationship.

The tragic irony of self-centredness is this: “the punishment is that something will die within us, our creativity will dry up, our zest for life will be eroded and our ability to withstand stress will be reduced.”[4]

We are thus severely compromised in our potential as fruitful human beings. We must therefore live, love and learn creatively and expansively.

3. A sensitive conscience that knows right from wrong

A casual but nonetheless consistent observation of Hughes’ is something I’ve also read from Guinness, Tozer and many other respected commentators; the post-modern age has blurred truth. Truth has all of a sudden become ‘abstract.’

Whilst there is a sense of truth here that is bigger than any one person’s grasp, the real issue is the compromise with truth that affects values. ‘Compromise’ is the key paradigm.

We want a truth these days that suits us; and that, paradoxically, is a lie!

If we are purveyors of truth, we could take an example from Jesus in promoting truth creatively--we see untruth and we challenge it by “confront[ing] things that are wrong in a spirit of humility, not by preaching a thundering sermons at people.”[5]

4. A healthy attitude towards one’s death

Perhaps one of the most important crossroads we all must negotiate in coming to truly know ourselves is that of our approach to eternity.

George Bernard Shaw once said rather amusingly but nonetheless poignantly, “The statistics concerning death are very impressive.” Think about it… the day approaches. We are all destined to die just once.[6] How well adjusted are we to this thought?

Do you yet think of this glorious day?

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Selwyn Hughes, Spoken from the Heart: Powerful talks and addresses that have blessed and inspired audiences around the world (Surrey, England: Crusade for World Revival, 2005), pp. 93-104.
[2] Hughes, Ibid, p. 94.
[3] Hughes, Ibid, p. 98. Hughes quotes D. Broughton Knox, The Everlasting God (Evangelical Press, 1982).
[4] Hughes, Ibid, p. 99.
[5] Hughes, Ibid, p. 102. Hughes cites Jesus washing the disciples’ feet as a way of challenging their perceptions of a leader’s role to serve. This is notwithstanding some of the things Jesus said to the Pharisees and religious leaders of his time.
[6] See Hebrews 9:27.

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