Temperament is not something we can really measure. It is a subset of personality. We see that someone easily talks to complete strangers with spontaneity and warmth. This is a personality trait. From this we can make assumption that the person is extroverted and people oriented. Such a mom will enjoy talking to her kids, show affection, and give sincere compliments with ease.
Due to stress, illness, or circumstance, her behavior could, however, vary greatly, but her natural tendency, her temperament, is likely to remain warm and outgoing. Her personality is the tree above ground, which will change shape and color from season to season, but the root system will stay the same, growing deeper as the tree matures. This invisible root system is temperament.
If temperament were ignored and exactly the same behavior was expected of all mothers, each could find a way to produce the required “fruit.” Let’s take as an example helping a high school student with math homework. A Boxwood mom (we’ll get to know her later) will probably go to great lengths to study the curriculum so that she could assist her child every step of the way.
The Pine Tree mom (she’s going to be many people’s favorite) would likely ask her Facebook friends for sites with free tutorials and would give her child the links for self-study. The Rose Bush mom (not too keen to make this her problem) would perhaps pay for a tutor’s help, while a Palm Tree mom (not usually a homework lover) might suggest a study group with gifted students. Each mother’s help would benefit her child.
Behavior is flexible. We can be taught—by our cultural environment, people, and the influence of the Holy Spirit—to act against our temperament in order to conform to expectations. We can learn to deal with our predispositions (for example, the tendency to ignore math completely), but the predispositions will not disappear. We can conform, but we will experience burnout as a result.
Severe trauma can change our fundamental being, and even then the true nature of our temperaments will still sometimes break through the surface of our adopted personalities. In unguarded moments, we will revert to our deepest roots. When we receive healing for these hurts, we become ourselves again.
Not a strange new person. I often see people assessed with the same temperament results before and after deep healing. Different characteristics might have been dominant before, often many of the negatives. But after the restoration God brings, the beauty of this same temperament breaks through. You are still you, only whole and redeemed.
I can imagine that a free-spirited mother who suddenly has triplets on her hands would become structured and fond of lists as a survival mechanism. However, she would never have the sheer joy that the natural list maker has when looking at a grocery list that is color coded, neatly typed, and organized according to her local store’s aisles. What is functional for a mom who has learned to act a certain way is foundational to the mom who naturally acts this way.