No, I’m not blogging about the Wizard of Oz, and yes, I meant to say Lions, Beavers, and Otters. Oh, and let’s not forget Golden Retrievers. I’m talking about my family. Yes, you heard me right. My family is being referred to as animals. No, I’m not a verbally abusive wife and mother. Let me explain, if you don’t already catch my drift. This week, I’m taking you back. How ‘we’ became ‘us’. I think it’s important to share with you, and it’s just good stuff. I hope you get something out of it. Here’s the story…
When my husband and I were married one whole week, we attended a marriage seminar. It was a wedding gift to one another. It wouldn’t be fair to share this story without giving you the funniest part of the weekend… well, it’s funny now, anyway. We started out, week-old newlyweds, in a huge fight. Yup, leave it to us to attend a marriage seminar barely speaking to one another. Here’s a brief history…my husband and I met in December 1995, were engaged by March 1996 and were married October 1996. Needless to say, we had a lot of fighting to get in early on so we could move on to the ‘happily ever after’ part. We were very much in love, knew that God had brought us together, knew we were both called into the ministry, and that we wanted a family. So, things moved very quickly for us in the beginning. Ok, who am I kidding, we haven’t stopped since!
Ok, back to the juicy part. We’re in this huge fight, I was sitting in the hotel room, arms crossed and with a lovely scowl on my face, I announced to my husband, “I am not going.” Completely unmoved by my attitude, he continued to get ready and calmly said, “You have to go, it’s a marriage seminar, and we already paid for it.” Boy, he knew just how to get me! He knew there was no way I was going to pay for something and not get something out of it. “Fine,” I said. Nice, Janine. I look back on myself sometimes and cringe! What a brat I was at times!
So, we go. Did I mention that it was a Gary Smalley seminar? Right away, he starts making us laugh. He’s funny, charming, witty, and tells these hysterical stories about his marriage. My scowl quickly turned to a smile, then to a laugh, and I could swear I actually grabbed my husband’s hand. See, I wasn’t all that bad! I had no idea that I was in for a major eye-opening, ‘A-Ha’ experience that would rock my world.
Gary Smalley began to discuss personality types. He used four animals to describe them, a Lion, a Beaver, an Otter, and a Golden Retriever. Here’s a brief description of each category:
Lion – (Choleric) Strengths are: Great leaders, good at delegating. Visionary, practical, productive and independent.
Weaknesses are: Domineering, cold, stubborn, self-sufficient, and sometimes cruel.
Otter – (Sanguine) Strengths are: Fun loving, life of the party. Spontaneous and outgoing. Warm and friendly. Talkative.
Weaknesses are: undisciplined, unproductive, lazy, forgetful, has a tendency to exaggerate.
Beaver – (Melancholy) Strengths are: Self-disciplined, organized, efficient, industrious, willing to sacrifice.
Weaknesses are: negative, moody, unsociable, easily stressed, critical.
Golden Retriever – (Phlegmatic) Strengths are: Faithful, calm, easy-going, dependable, objective, kind.
Weaknesses are: Have a tendency to be worriers, procrastinators, easily taken advantage of, unmotivated, indecisive.
He had us take a personality test to see what categories we all fell into. The highest you could score in any one category was 40. I scored a 39 in the Lion category, and my husband scored a 38 in the Golden Retriever category. Wow. My next highest score was in Beaver, then some Otter, and the lowest score was in Golden Retriever. Then he had us group together with other couples to discuss our findings. For the first time in my life, I was speechless. 39? Lion?! I knew that I was a take charge kind of person. I always viewed it as a good thing. Hard-working, diligent…it always served me well. So I thought…until that day.
When it came to my turn to talk about what I learned about myself, and my husband, all I could say is, “Well, today I learned that I could devour my husband in one bite.” They all just sat there and looked at me, with smiles on uncertainty on their faces. Well, I was supposed to be honest, right? At that very moment, I learned just how unbalanced I was, and how it was not only affecting my life, but my marriage. Sure, being a go-getter was great and all, as long as you didn’t have your husband for lunch while you were doing it. It always bothered me that my husband wasn’t more of a leader, well, duh! I didn’t give him much room in that category, now did I? How could I expect him to take the reins when I was holding onto them so tight my knuckles were white?
From that day on, I promised God, myself and my husband that my new goal in life was balance. I began to search inside myself for the Otter, the Beaver, and most of all, the Golden Retriever. I had the Lion thing down, but learning to utilize the strengths of that part of my personality, without operating in the weaknesses was going to be the challenge. I had to learn to let go of things. Stop being so critical of my husband when he didn’t do things the way I thought they should be done. Being patient enough to allow him time to think through things I wanted an immediate answer on. It was amazing to watch the transformation of our relationship. The more I let go, the more Lion he became. Did I learn it all in one weekend? No way. Did my marriage immediately become a Fairy Tale? Not quite. But it certainly was the beginning of the shaping and molding process that God desired for my life.
Slowly but surely, I began to see the benefit of balance. The first five years of our marriage were good, but definitely the hardest years of all. Do I have regrets about some of my behavior? Heck yes I do. But, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. It was like character boot camp. My personality was just fine, it was my character that needed molding. I will forever be thankful for that Gary Smalley seminar, for the opportunity to begin a life of balance, and to myself, for being willing to change. It changed my daily thought process, how I handle my marriage, and the kind of mom I became.
I encourage you today to look at yourself. I mean REALLY look at yourself. Do our spouses have faults? Sure. But that’s not our concern. We’re only responsible for ourselves. How balanced are you? Yes, we will always have one category that is most natural for us to operate in. That’s our personality. That’s who God made us to be. But character is a whole different ball game. Character can be shaped, changed, and improved. It should be our personality’s best friend and closest confidant. Our character is what allows our personality to shine.
This post was originally going to be about my girls. About their personalities and who they are as people, and how my husband and I are striving to raise them accordingly, but I couldn’t do that without giving you the 411. The only reason I am able to teach my girls about balance of character is because God allowed me the incredible opportunity of learning it myself. I certainly have not ‘arrived’, but I am so glad I started the journey!
Take the Gary Smalley personality test free by clicking here. Print it off, take the test, and get the instructions and interpretation here. What personality type are you? The results may surprise you!
Stay tuned tomorrow for ‘Us’ Part two!
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