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Learning to love another person is so much easier when we conceive of our creation in two phases. On the one hand, the Creator God has designed an awesome, long drawn-out, gradual process of evolution. Our body and mind are products of this evolution. On the other hand, the Universal Father acts directly, bestowing on each mind-body system a unique personality and sending a fragment of his spirit to dwell within that personality as its nucleus–“the spirit poured out upon all flesh,” “the kingdom of God within you”).

Loving other people is harder when we operate merely as beings with specific traits of education, social class, race, gender, religion, habits of behavior, level of maturity, condition of health, degree of physical attractiveness, and so on. If we see others primarily or exclusively in terms of these variables, we are missing the heart of the person that God created. If we are functioning primarily on the basis of such variables, we are not relating in fullness, as who we most truly are.

If we are truly to love, we must courageously rise above these evolutionary variables and live the truth in love and mercy to reach the goal of ministry as our way of being. In short, our relating is to be spiritually centered, and we relate to others as indwelt personalities. Yes, the evolutionary variables are part of who we are, and responsible interaction involves wise, merciful, and responsible awareness of these variables. But qualities of excellent relating spring from centered appreciation of the other as an indwelt personality.

When we have difficulty in loving someone, we can refresh our relating by remembering the other’s indwelt personality. Even if we simply hold that fact in mind for a while, it enables God to enhance that fact with overtones of value and spiritual realization.

Let me clarify the concept of personality with a quote from Living in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

“Every personality is a mystery; we can never completely understand even those we know best. A physician could describe the body, a psychologist the mind, and a theologian the soul, but their descriptions cannot define the person we know and love. In the beloved there is something unique and indefinable. When the grandmother says to the grandchild, “My, how you’ve grown!” she does two things: observes change and recognizes continuity. The word “you” refers to what is constant through change. Body and mind change; character grows; yet she identifies the child as the same one she knew earlier. Year after year, we go through changes, yet we are the same person.

“Wisdom does not try to reduce mystery to something explainable, but neither does it fall into permanent silence in the face of mystery. For example, there are some things that we can say about personality. An adequate philosophical concept of the person had to await the tradition of personalism, which upholds the primacy of persons and tends to regard human beings as including body, mind, and soul. In addition to these components, it recognizes that unique, indefinable, and unchanging mystery in all of us; personalist Nikolai Berdaiev (1874–1948) called it personality. He associated several characteristics in his concept of personality:[1]

 

  • Each personality is unique.
  • Personality is mysterious, never fully predictable or comprehensible.
  • Personality is “the unchanging in change, unity in the manifold.”
  • Personality has free will.
  • Personality is beyond everything worldly that can be treated as an object by biology or the human sciences.
  • Personality transcends itself by relating to God, to other people, to supreme values, and to the inner depths of the world.
  • Personality has the potential for victory beyond merely belonging to a particular hereditary or social group—success in effort and conflict, triumph over slavery, mastery of self and world.
  • Personality includes reason but is not governed by reason.
  • Personality is not the soul.
  • Personality encompasses spirit, soul, and body. “Personality, which is not a sum of parts, acts always as a whole . . . on the way to perfectly accomplished unity and wholeness.”[2]

 

On the basis of this philosophical concept of personality, we can build further. If personality is constant throughout change, then it cannot be like the body and mind, which change as we grow. If personality remains constant no matter how perfect we become, it cannot be a product of evolution; it must have come straight from God. Therefore, each human personality is a masterpiece of the Creator’s art.

Looking into the eyes of someone we love, we are not looking mainly at the person’s body and mind, but at a deeper self, a wonderful mystery. That mystery may seem to be buried underneath unbeautiful emotions or behavior, but when we have a glimpse of the person in truth, we see something of a different order. Someone who truly knows and loves you does not love you primarily for the positive qualities in your package of evolutionary variables. You are loved for a dimension beyond what you can see in the mirror or find by introspecting within the mind.

Happy relating!

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By Macaaa – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30411980

[1] The term “personality” is used not only to name the unanalyzable constant in persons; it is also used to name the entire mind-body-soul system that is coordinated by the free will of personality. The way that Berdaiev used this term does not fit either common usage or the theories of psychology—for example, the theory that defines personality in terms of five variables; once a person has developed his or her degree of each variable, there is little chance of much change. The variables can be expressed through questions. How extraverted or introverted is the person (including traits such as outgoing, talkative, energetic, and assertive)? How agreeable (including sympathetic, kind, affectionate, compassionate, and loving)? How conscientious (including organized and thorough)? How neurotic (e.g., tense, moody, and anxious) or emotionally stable? How open to experience (including being intellectual, insightful, imaginative, and having broad interests)? This summary follows that of University of Oregon psychology professor Sanjay Shrivastava at http://pages.uoregon.edu/sanjay/bigfive.html, visited June 7, 2012.