By Nakkolackal V. L. Eapen
According to William James, the Father of Modern Experimental Psychology, personality is the sum total of an individual’s behavior. Personality traits are, therefore, to be understood as behavioral patterns peculiar to a person or persons. Psychologists have broadly classified people, based on their personality traits, as being either Type A or Type B personalities.
The following extract, Lk. 10: 38-42, is a brilliant exposition of the contrast between persons who epitomize the two types of personality traits/behavioral patterns. “Now as they went on their way, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Martha receives the Lord into her HOUSE, but then loses her bearings, and misses out on the unique opportunity to be touched by His divine presence, and be sanctified by His elevating words of eternal life. Her SELF-DEFEATING Type A personality traits – being “distracted”, being “anxious and troubled”, and being AGGRIEVED at the Lord’s indifference to Mary’s leaving her “to serve alone” – lead her to be disenchanted with the majesty of the Lord’s solemn presence under her roof. For Martha it is a laborious tiresome evening to be FORGOTTEN, for which she has only herself to blame. The Lord rightly reminds her, “One thing is needful,” which she has failed to grasp, and let go. And it is gone, yeah lost, for ever!
Mary, instead, receives the Lord into her HEART. Her SELF-FULFILLING Type B personality traits – taking things in her stride WITHOUT BEING PANICKY, appreciative awareness and enjoyment of the grandeur of the moment, and thus, choosing “the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” – enable her to sit reverentially at the Master’s sacred feet, and be taught by the Teacher of teachers while basking in her good fortune. For Mary it is an UNFORGETTABLE evening to be fondly cherished for ever thereafter. “One thing is needful,” and hers and hers alone is that priceless thing!
“One thing is needful,” is the Lord’s admonition to ALL Type A people who fret and fume over the normal routine of life; are impatient and obsessed with deadlines to be met; are constantly rushing and resentful; are explosive and embittering in their responses; are uptight and whining; … Often they find fault with the Type B people for their being calm, cool, composed and collected even in the face of crises.
Work does not weary us as much as the conditions under which we perform it. Working for hours together at a stretch, will not be tedious, but fulfillingly rewarding, if ours is a positive Type B frame of mind. On the other hand, working at a hectic pace, with tension, worry and anxiety, will wear us down within a short while. Life is not a race for riches or recognition. Life is for LIVING it in its FULLNESS with love, laughter, peace and joy, for which a negative Type A mind-set is the most ill-suited
Studies, conducted on the relationship between personality traits and the incidence of heart attacks, conclude that Type A personality traits trigger heart attacks much more frequently than obesity, high B.P. or smoking. Almost ninety per cent (90%) of all cardiac patients have Type A personality traits. Type A persons have twice the risk of heart attacks as that of Type B’s.
Dear Readers, “ONE THING IS NEEDFUL.” And, that is, spending more time ‘WITH the Lord’ like Mary than ‘FOR the Lord’ like Martha. That will relieve you of avoidable hardships and heartaches. The Lord takes delight in those who are His, and assigns His Guardian Angels to protect them from all harm. “For He will give His angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Ps. 91:11&12).
“Smile a while,
While you smile, another will smile;
And soon will there be, miles and miles of smiles,
Just because YOU smile.” (Anon.)