Many of the personalities of the characters in my novels are broadly based on the seven spiritual gifts listed in the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans (1).
Why, you might ask? Well, back in the late 1970’s, right before I started working on my novels, I heard a lecture on how these gifts could also be seen as personality types. In describing these gifts/personalities, I realized how many people I knew fit into these categories and began to use these personality types as basic templates for the characters in my novels.
I have found this seven types (or hearts) concept to be a useful character development tool for my writing. It helps me get inside the head of a character whose personality is different from my own and write them as realistically as possible. However, this is still a work in progress, so please feel free to send me your suggestions on how I can improve this concept.
I describe each personality in four ways:
1. By the job I think best fits this type (especially as it pertains to my fantasy novels).
2. The element or object I use in my novels as a symbol for this type.
3. Famous people with this personality.
4. Their chief motivators or personality traits.
As you read my list of famous people who fit each type, you will notice that there is no correlation between personality type and the person’s politics: i.e. not all soft hearted people are Liberals and not all wise people are Conservatives (although it helps 🙂 The Seven Hearts idea is more about the natural personality that a person has at birth, and not the environment that the person grows up in. It should also be noted that modern psychology lists anywhere from five to sixteen basic personality types, but I find the seven based on the Romans 12 list of gifts works well for a writer like myself to build my characters around.
At the end of this article, I’ve included my observations on which personality type seems to do best in marriage when matched with the right complementary type.
The names of the seven personality types I use in my novels are: Warrior/Fire. Leader/Iron. Teacher/Earth. Merchant/Gold. Physician/Water. Helper/Wind. Scribe/Paper.
THE 7 HEARTS:
1. Warrior/Fire: (This is the gift of Prophecy in Romans 12)
John the Baptist and Samson are both good examples in the Bible. In history we find Theodore Roosevelt, General George S. Patton and Winston Churchill. In more modern times we find Muhammad Ali and many pro boxers and MMA fighters. In politics we see both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Prime examples from Hollywood are John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Samuel L. Jackson and R. Lee Ermey. (Most movie stars seem to be either this personality type or the Physician/Water type). In literature Edmund Rostand’s character Cyrano de Bergerac is an excellent example of this type. Most prophets in the Bible were probably of this type (especially the ones who were killed for their blunt speaking of the truth).
Warrior/Fire people are strong willed, aggressive, outspoken, stubborn, courageous and disciplined. They have a desire to dominate and be the boss. They often have a real need to be the center of attention and/or tell people their opinions on things. Warriors have little or no filter between their heart and their mouth. They are quick to anger, but quick to cool off. They can be abrasive and dogmatic, and are often not well liked by people not in their inner circle; but they are the ones you want on your side in a fight. You often hear their family say that they would make a good drill sergeant, whether they are in the service or not. One of the reasons R. Lee Ermey did such a convincing job in Full Metal Jacket; (besides being a former Marine drill instructor himself) was a personality well suited for the job. While Warrior types are capable of getting the troops in shape, they usually are not the ones you want deciding if we should go to war in the first place; as they are better at executing policies than they are at developing wise ones. However, they can do well in leadership positions if they learn how to delegate authority and to listen to those with more experience in a specific area. Once they are taught what the “right” way to do something is though, it is nearly impossible to change their mind.
People with a Warrior personality often have a commanding voice and a persistence that demands your attention (whether you wish to give it or not :-). While they may not appear to care, this is partially due to their ability to bottle up their “softer” emotions when they need to get a tough job done. However, many do scale low on the empathy scale. Think of this as a talent they need to be effective warriors and survive the psychological aftermath of war. It would not surprise me to learn that this personality type has the lowest incidence of PTSD in combat veterans and while the Physician types have the highest.
A common phrase from the Warriors I know is, “This is just the way I am. Deal with it.”
In my Sword of Fire (SOF) novels the following characters are Warrior/Fire types:
Moor, the Etruscan swordmaster and Gath, eldest of the Anakim.
2. Leader/Iron: (This is the gift of Ruling in Romans 12)
Joshua and Nehemiah in the Bible. George Washington. Ronald Reagan. Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.
Leader/Iron people have natural leadership skills and inspire confidence in those they lead. They are capable of making quick decisions based on gut instinct and still manage to get it right. Leaders are by nature very respectful of authority and often spend a good percentage of their careers as second in command, learning their craft. King Arthur in the 1981 movie Excalibur was a good example of this type, as is Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings novels. (Not so much in the LOTR films though. Jackson’s Aragorn was not the same decisive decision maker as was Tolkien’s original writing of that character). Two good books to understand this personality are Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore’s We Were Soldiers Once and Young and Hal Moore on Leadership: Winning when Outgunned and Outmanned. (There are also good videos of Moore on Youtube that will help you understand this personality type).
While the Warrior/Fire type makes a good drill sergeant, the Leader makes a good commanding officer, president or, in fantasy novels like my own, king. Their strength lies in knowing how to rally and inspire the troops. They lead from the front and by setting a good example, but they won’t take your load from you as a Helper/Wind personality would.
Because they have such a high respect for authority, the leader can take it personally when their own authority is questioned. Leaders should guard against taking care of those loyal to them a little too well and to treat everyone by the same rules. In my experience, leaders often look like leaders. They often have good looking, yet strong faces. In a word, they look noble.
SOF characters: Argeus, father of Daniel. Eleazar, second eldest of the Anakim.
3. Teacher/Earth: (This is the gift of Exhortation in Romans 12)
King Solomon, the Apostle Paul and St. Luke in the Bible. Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln in history. Author C.S. Lewis.
A Teacher desires wisdom, loves learning and enjoys teaching. This type is called the Gift of Exhortation in Romans 12, as they enjoy encouraging others. Teachers would rather prevent a problem before it occurs than try to solve it after it has grown large. They are capable of making wise decisions, if enough time is taken to analyze a problem and get good counsel from other personality types who can see things from other angles or perspectives. The saying “A fool learned from his own mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others,” was probably written with teachers in mind.
While a Warrior/Fire person can be a great orator and make you believe something, a Teacher can be a great communicator and help you understand it.
When giving advice, a Teacher will often show a practical, real life example of the principle they are talking about. However, they are often the absent-minded professor type and may get so focused on solving the problems of tomorrow that they forget about the needs of today.
That nerdy science teacher or history professor you had in school who really enjoyed teaching and made the class both fun and interesting was probably this personality type.
SOF characters: Daniel, prince of Asulon. Isolde’, Daniel’s mother. Dvorah, wife of Nathan. Abishai, third eldest of the Anakim. (And, if you haven’t already guessed, me).
4. Merchant/Gold: * (This is the gift of Giving in Romans 12)
In the Bible, Joseph, the son of Isaac. In modern times we find Bill Gates, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and many self-made millionaires and billionaires; especially if they are true philanthropists.
Just as the Leader knows the right time to put men into battle, the Merchant knows the right time to buy and sell and how best to use his money as his troops. Put into any environment, the Merchant will find a way to make a successful business no matter what.
While this type has the skills to make a business succeed, they also have a real desire to do good works with their money. A Merchant must remember though not to get so focused on their business that they neglect their family. Sam Walton is said to have taken a six week vacation each year with his family to help make up for the time he spent away from them while focused on his business. A good book to help understand this type is The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley.
SOF character: Benaiah, fifth eldest of the Anakim.
5. Physician/Water: (This is the gift of Mercy in Romans 12)
Abraham and Moses in the Bible. Comedian Robin Williams. President Jimmy Carter, Author J.R.R. Tolkien. Singer Paul McCartney.
Physician types are merciful, softhearted, and empathetic. Diplomatic to a fault, they are slow to anger, (but once angered, look out!). They hate conflict and will avoid making a tough decision if they can. They are usually a “people person” and feel a strong need to be liked by those around them. They usually start out shy when young, but often have interesting ways of managing this (I find that many comedians and actors are of this type). Their moods can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride though and they can be susceptible to bouts of melancholy. Their high empathy levels mean that they can not bear to see anything suffer and most of my family and friends who have been vegetarians are of this personality type.
Physicians will often have some level of artistic ability and most Physicians I know can draw well or have some other creative ability. On a side note: I have a theory that much of the ugliest of the modern art we see today is caused by visually “tone deaf” Warrior types looking for attention; not the naturally artistic Physicians, whose empathy and humility help them understand and emulate what is beautiful.
Physician types are often physically attractive (when an actor/actress is not a Warrior, the odds are very good that they are a Physician). Physicians are capable of being very skilled and intelligent in their professions and, at the same time, are often not very wise when it comes to their personal relationships (more on this in the marriage section below).
When you meet someone in the medical field who is both very competent and truly kind hearted, they are usually a Physician/Water type.
SOF characters: Simon the priest. Nathan, brother of Rachel. Shammah, youngest of the Anakim.
6. Helper/Wind: (This is the gift of Ministry in Romans 12)
Mary, the mother of Jesus. Laura Bush, wife of George W. Bush.
(I don’t have many famous people to list here. Helpers tend to stay away from center stage and get things done behind the scenes).
This type wants to help others in practical ways. Helpers like to keep their hands busy and see to the needs of today. A good worker. Helpers are often not very exiting, but have a steady, even-tempered, affectionate and cheerful personality. The default setting on their face is a smile. Scout leaders, the moms who make all the kids costumes for the school play, the dads who repair all the kids bikes in the neighborhood, are often this type of personality. The nicest, most helpful of your elementary school teachers was probably this personality type. Helpers have a hard time saying no to requests and can get overworked or taken for granted. The ones I’ve known tend to be a bit on the plump side, but have an amazing long term endurance when it comes to work, if it helps others. I choose the term “Wind” to describe them in my novels, not thinking of a tornado, but more like a gentle, pleasant breeze. The character of Sue Heck on the TV show The Middle, is written as a Wind person.
SOF characters: Rachel, princess of Eretzel. Uriah, fourth eldest of the Anakim.
7. Scribe. Paper: * (This is the gift of Teaching in Romans 12. Note: the word “teacher” here infers a “teacher of the Law” ie a teacher of the Laws of Moses, as Paul was writing to Jewish converts to Christianity who lived in Rome).
Those with this personality like order and things put neatly in their place. As the name implies, Scribes can make a good recorder of information, such as a file clerk, proofreader or a librarian. However, they often get so focused on details that they forget the big picture. Scribes usually don’t make good supervisors, as they can make dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in their paperwork a priority over the primary needs of the job. They can become legalistic, capable of telling you what the letter of the law is, but not its spirit. Think of them as a human reference book. However, they can do very well working long hours putting things in order in a way that would bore everyone else.
SOF charater: Asahel, the sixth oldest of the Anakim.
*Note: You may notice that I am a bit thin in describing the Merchant/Gold and Scribe/Paper types, since I know very few librarians and no self-made millionaires. If you recognize yourself among these types (especially if you are a self-made millionaire 🙂 and find that I have gotten something wrong, or at least given an incomplete picture of this type, please feel free to email me with your corrections.
RESPECTING THE TYPES:
The one common trait among most of these personality types is that if you ask each of them what one thing humans need more of to improve society, they would each say that it is the attribute that they either have or desire most. So if you ask each type to complete the sentence, “The world would be a better place, if people would…”
The Warrior would say “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
The Leader would say “Inspire those around them to do their best.”
The Teacher would say “Take the time to research what causes a problem, so they can understand how to prevent it.”
The Merchant would say “Be more generous with what they have.”
The Physician would say “Have more compassion for one and other and all living things.”
The Helper would say “Help each other with daily burdens.”
The Scribe would say “Have more order in their lives.”
In my experience, the stronger personalities often have a tendency to look down on the other types (or at least their attributes) while the softer types will say they just can’t understand why everyone doesn’t share their priorities. The exception to this are the wise Teachers. We (insert modesty emoji here) understand that it takes different tools to do different jobs well.
OPPOSITES ATTRACT (usually):
I have a set of seven brothers in my novels who are attracted to seven sisters. Each of the brothers and each of the sisters have one of the seven personalities. Here’s how I play matchmaker in my novels between the personality types.
Leader with Physician.
Teacher with Helper.
Merchant with Scribe.
Warrior with Warrior.
In the first three matchups I have a “harder” personality matched up with a “softer” type, but in truth each personality complements the other as each is strong where the other is weak.
Is the Leader inspiring and disciplined? Then match them up with a Physician who can feel sad at all the pain in the world and needs an emotional lift from someone they can admire. Does the Leader harbor deep emotional wounds in the aftermath of a battle in which they lost troops? Feelings that they can’t show to those they lead, lest the remaining troops loose courage? Then pair them up with an empathetic healer like a Physician. (If on a real battlefield far from home, then talking to a counsellor or confessor who is a Physician type can also bring healing for the Leader).
Can the Teacher be forgetful of day to day tasks? Then pair them up with a Helper, who will focus on these things and allow them to study and work. Does the Helper have a hard time saying no to requests? Then pair them up with a Teacher, who likes to think an action through to its logical conclusion and then nip the problem in the bud while still small and easily dealt with.
Can the Merchant spend so much time on growing their business that they neglect day to day expenses or go too far out on a limb with their investments? Then pair them up with a Scribe, who is a natural inventory person, accountant and all around bean counter. Does the Scribe have a tendency to be a hoarder of things or a miser with money? Then partner them with a Merchant who knows how to make investments grow and whose generosity will rechannel the Scribe’s instinct to keep things in order into one that researches where their charitable giving will do the most good.
The exception to this paring of opposites in my novels is the Warrior/Fire personality.
In real life, it seems that Warrior/Fire person usually marries a Physician/Water person (believing that this personality is the only one patient enough to put up with them-and they may be right!). However, the Warrior type usually ends up bullying the softer personality to some extent, if not physically, then emotionally. From my experience with family, friends and acquaintances with this personality, the Warrior is the type whose marriage most often ends in divorce. When a Warrior marriage does work, it seems that the most successful matches have been Warrior with Warrior. If they can survive the early days of the marriage, then a mutual respect develops into a functional and equal partnership.
(You can read more on how these personalities interact in a courtship setting in my second novel, Eretzel).
Note: I should remind you that all of this is just my theory of what the most compatible personalities are in marriage. This is not written in stone and I have seen many good and successful marriages that don’t fit these parameters. Keep in mind there are many other factors that effect compatibility that are missing here, such as a person’s religion, their politics, their family culture, their I.Q. and even their birth order among their siblings. These will all have an effect and are not addressed here. Even if I am right with these recommendations, it only means that these are potentially the smoothest roads, not the most interesting to travel on. If you are not in a relationship that matches these parameters, you can still use these guidelines to help your relationship by understanding what are the strengths of what type your partner is “ideally” compatible with and try to develop those strengths and use them when needed to help your relationship.
So, what are your thoughts on these different personalities? Do you recognize yourself in any of these seven archetypes? What did I get right and (more importantly) what did I get wrong? Please contact me though this page and let me know what you think.
© 2009 William R. McGrath
(1)Note: Romans 12:6-8 King James Version (KJV)
6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.