The Paradox of Personality

Yesterday, I found inspiration in home group during our discussion on peace and God’s rest.  Someone was talking about how much they disliked certain characteristics about themselves and how that interferes with feeling any sort of peace.  That’s when a certain little belief I have popped into my brain.  I like to call it the “Paradox of Personality”.  You are what you are, but you are also what you want to be.

Paradoxes. They make my brain hurt…

I think that most people agree that each one of us is born with a certain basic set of personality traits that we inherited from our parents.  The mix that we get is unique to us and creates our own way of relating to our world.  Then life happens.  Learning and experiences happen.  We learn to respond through our personality traits to the world.  And this is where my little paradox comes in.

I believe that personality traits have a good side and a bad side.  Sort of like The Force.  We can use them for good, or we can use them for evil.

Let me explain:

Let’s say you’re a person that does not give up easily.  Let’s say you’re dogged and determined.  We’ll call that quality “tenacious.”  According to the New American Oxford Dictionary tenacious means:

  • not readily letting go of, giving up, or separated from an object that one holds, a position, or a principle : a tenacious grip | he was the most tenacious politician in South Korea.
  • not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action : a tenacious local legend |you’re tenacious and you get at the truth.


This is a good thing, because that means that you don’t generally give up easily.  You stay with the problem longer (clearly you are genius of Einstein’s caliber.  Don’t believe me?  See the quote on the left from dear Albert).

Now, let’s take a look at some of the synonyms for “tenacious”:

  • persevering, persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable,resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable,unyielding, insistent; stubborn, intransigent, obstinate, obdurate, stiff-necked; rock-ribbed; pertinacious.

Now, let’s divide these synonyms into groups.

Good side:

  • persevering
  • persistent
  • determined
  • dogged
  • strong-willed
  • tireless
  • indefatigable
  • resolute
  • patient
  • unflagging
  • staunch
  • steadfast
  • untiring
  • unwavering
  • unswerving
  • unshakable

Bad side:

  • unyielding
  • insistent
  • stubborn
  • intransigent
  • obstinate
  • obdurate
  • stiff-necked
  • rock-ribbed
  • pertinacious

Do you see the difference?  Tenacious can either mean you are persevering, or pertinacious.  Persevering stays with a problem longer, pertinacious is simply, and foolishly, sticking to their guns regardless of reason or wisdom.  A persevering person knows when to quit, a stubborn person does not.  People who persevere keeps relationships intact, stubborn people do not.  You get my drift?

See?  Good side, bad side.  You are what you are, but are you are also what you want to be.

So, you can either be this guy:

Nanny-nanny boo-boo!

Or this guy:

The I-just-stay-with-the-problem-longer guy.

Because,  you have a choice.  You can choose to use your personality for good, or you can choose too use your personality for evil.  You are not a slave to your own personality.  It’s up to you.  Which do you choose?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So tell me, do you have a personality trait you would like to flip over and use for good?

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