Sunday, December 17, 2006

Spiritual Lives of the Temperaments: The Sanguine

“Never a dull moment…”

“Moment” is an appropriate word when talking about the Sanguine, for this is the facet of life that the sanguine lives in! Of all the temperaments, the sanguine possesses a God-given ability to “stay in the moment.” The ability to stay in the moment keeps the sanguine focused on others and receptive and courageous in the face of challenges. These traits are indispensable.

“People” are probably the sanguine’s favorite subject. The sanguine LOVES people. Due to their extroverted, enthusiastic, cheerful and outward-focused nature, the sanguine is always the best MC. Unlike the choleric, they are very “team” oriented. It truly is a case of “the more… the merrier” when it comes to the sanguine.

It’s almost if the sanguine possesses the model Christian temperament. Their enthusiasm for others and their zest for love and life sound very close to what inflames the heart of every apostle we read about in the pages of Scripture. What then should the sanguine develop in order to bring themselves to Christian perfection?

It’s hard to talk about a “dark side” when speaking about the sanguine temperament, but with human nature being fallen as it is, the sanguine has difficulties that need to be overcome. There are three things that the sanguine needs to develop in their spiritual life to keep them from becoming “children of the world”: They are, control, consistency and perseverance.

The enthusiasm of the sanguine is infectious. This is a trait that easily wins souls for God. An energetic preacher always has an irresistible pull that can win over even the most hardened heart. The problem is that enthusiasm can trump proper reflection and the pursuit of truth. The sanguine needs to watch out for moments of unchecked enthusiasm that place more emphasis on the excitement of an activity or pursuit than on the “rightness” or “nobleness” of the activity or pursuit. Sanguines can become so enthusiastic about a project that they forget to take the time to think it through. One only has to think of the apostle Peter, most likely a sanguine, who became so excited at the sight of his Master walking on water that he immediately jumped off the boat to meet Him, only to quickly sink because of the ferocity of the waves around him! The sanguine, therefore, needs to learn emotional control. He needs to take time at the outset of any project or activity to think through what the project might entail. His first impulse is always going to be to jump in with both feet with no thought of how the project may impact others or himself.

Consistency and it’s companion, perseverance, also need to be practiced by the sanguine. Not long after the sanguine jumps into a project without thinking about it, he is soon distracted by the thousand other things he’d like to be doing. So, he abandons the project. This is especially dangerous in the spiritual life because moments of aridity in the faith-life of the sanguine can cause him to abandon his prayer life and commitments simply because he is not getting the same “high” that he originally had. The sanguine needs to realize that he has a tendency to be too attached to things simply because of their intensity. To combat this tendency, he needs to learn to persevere in his commitments and prayer life even when the “magic” isn’t being felt anymore.

The question is, of course, “how?” Big helps for the sanguine are activities that appeal to the senses and involve him with other people. For instance, if a sanguine is finding dryness in prayer to be a problem, he should make use of externals in his prayer, such as candles, the beauty of a chapel, or any other scene that adds a sense of beauty and aesthetic appeal to the moment. As far as his commitments are concerned, the sanguine needs to make himself accountable to others in his resolutions. This will compensate not only for a lack of follow-through, but will also ensure that the resolutions themselves are noble causes that the sanguine should pursue, rather than “whims” that are unworthy of the sanguines’ effort.

One last thought: The sanguine needs to learn to put his security in God alone, chiefly through prayer and the sacramental life. Sanguines (and as we shall see later, phlegmatics) have a tendency to be people-pleasers. Sanguines need to learn to overcome their tendency to follow the crowd. We all know how Peter, after his bold promise that he would die for Christ, denied Him when the pressure of the crowd crept in.

With a strong regimen of prayer and accountability the sanguine can learn to harness their energy and love for people towards winning souls for God. Their cheerfulness and zest for living is what the Church, in my humble opinion, desperately needs in an age of despair and dissatisfaction with life and a Church that at times fails to live up to what She proclaims and promises.

God Bless,