Confusing “What” We Do with “Who” We Are

August 31, 2017
Life purpose, Why Understand

What we are as a being is not who we are as a person. Our identity is not our occupation, family status, ministry, or anything else we have or do.

God has endowed us with a combination of components: a body from the natural realm, a touch of His eternal Spirit, and a soul (consciousness). However, we are so much more than our individual components. God created each of us as a functioning unit, as beings that radiate with expression.

When parts are assembled and function as a unit, they create something that adds tremendous value. As our collective parts function together they produce the added value of expression. Scripture speaks of this added value as our expressive heart.

Our Heart Expression

Thus, it is our heart that truly represents who we are. God defines our heart, not as an organ in our body but as the expression that springs from our whole being—body, soul, and spirit. We tend to visualize our heart as something in us; however, we want to see it as the expression that emanates from us. Our heart expression is what provides a context for defining our real self.

Our heart expression truly represents who we are.

Persona is another way to describe our expressive heart. Our persona demonstrates our values as the person we have become and illustrates the quality of our heart. This is why after some dramatic situation happens, we sometimes hear, “I didn’t realize he/she was that kind of person.”

Three quite different features of our heart make up our relational persona: Character, Attitude, and Personality (CAP). I refer to these CAP features in my blog, “The ‘Real’ You – Defined By Heart.” We’ll dig deeper into these significant components here.

Expressive Countenance

Everyone responds to situations and circumstances with a countenance, an appearance that displays our heart for all to see. When someone says, “I see God in you,” the eye of their spirit is observing a character, attitude, or personality (CAP) trait of God that we are reflectively resembling.

The quality of our expressions can identify us as having the heart of a father or mother, having either a caring or calculating heart, or having either a servant’s or a selfish heart. The quality of our countenance can be an indicator that we are, or are not, living as a godly person.

To illustrate our expressive heart as our persona, relating who we are as a person to what we are as a being, it could look like this:
Confusing "What" We Do with "Who" We Are

We can visually see the relationship between our what components of body, soul, and spirit with the expressive features that project who we are as a person—described as character, attitude, and personality (CAP).

Expressive Value of Heart

When we flip the triangle to envision CAP as the expressive features of our heart, we may be able to better understand.
Confusing "What" We Do With "Who" We Are

However, as you observe this diagram, it’s necessary to realize that attitude is our heart’s crowning feature even though it appears at the bottom. Attitude is also referred to as “temperament,” and we’ll soon learn why it carries such uppermost significance.

I trust these explanations and visuals help you grasp and hold onto this crucial Scriptural truth: What we are as a being is not who we are as a person. It is the function of our “what” components that produces the added expressive value of heart. Our heart expression illustrates who we are as a person, providing a context for defining our real self.

What we are as a being is not who we are as a person.

The way we relate to one another is based on the values and qualities of our CAP expressions. As explained in greater detail in my book, Created To Relate, God created us to become reflections and resemblances of His heart. Our expressions are what glorify or dishonor God.

The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart and those defile the man (Matthew 15:18).

CAP Expressions Define Us

Remember, we want to visualize our heart not so much as something that is in us, but as the expression that emanates from us as character, attitude, and personality. These brief definitions provide a foundational understanding of our heart’s three features. Each feature of our CAP, our relational persona, is quite different so we’ll look into each one individually.

Character traits speak of our dominant moral fiber—such as: honest or deceitful, kind or mean, loyal or shifty, charitable or selfish.

Attitude traits speak of our temperament—such as: loving or hateful, humble or proud, flexible or rigid.

Personality traits speak of our social behavior—such as: analytical, supportive, organized, or outgoing.

Character – Moral Fiber

Character is the expression of our heart that demonstrates our moral fiber. The dictionary defines character as: “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of a person; moral or ethical quality; qualities of honesty, courage, or the like… integrity.”

Although most people’s moral character fails to be good or bad all the time and in every situation, we do tend to be more one than the other. We all lean toward being respectful, trustworthy, responsible, kind, fair, and caring, or not. Most everyone has a few good characteristics; although they are not always the most dominant.

Take for example one heart expression—kindheartedness—and see how it can be manifested. This was vividly depicted by the patriarch of the Walton family in an old TV series called “The Walton’s,” which was based on the book, Spencer’s Mountain. John Walton Sr. was characterized as consistently being kindhearted.

Whether helping John’s own TV family or neighbor families through a difficult situation; his expression of kindheartedness came through again and again. During the nine-year run of the series John remained true to his persona, his heart expression. As with untold numbers of real-life people like John, these are folks you know you can count on. They are recognized for their kindheartedness.

Our Heart’s Moral Fiber

Expressions of our character demonstrate our moral fiber. Jesus spoke of the heart’s moral fiber when he said the expressions of some illustrate they are children of the devil (one who opposes) John 8:42-44.

We want to examine our personal expressions to see if our character reflectively resembles the character of God, which is defined in the following verses.

So that… you may become partakers of the divine nature… applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence…knowledge…self-control… perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4-8).

Our heart’s character traits speak of our dominant moral fiber—such as: honest or deceitful, kind or mean, loyal or shifty, charitable or selfish.

Personality – Social Behavior

Personality is the expression of our heart that demonstrates our social behavior. The dictionary defines personality as: “the visible aspect of one’s persona as it impresses others: ‘He has a pleasing personality’…”

A personality trait is the expressive heart feature that illustrates social behavior. We all tend to express ourselves, mainly but not exclusively, as one of four personality types. Two types tend to be introverts: Melancholic (analytical, perfectionist) and Phlegmatic (amiable, peaceful); while two tend to be extroverts: Choleric (driver, powerful) and Sanguine (expressive, popular).

How Personality Affects Expression

Let’s look at a real life example of how our personality affects our expression and life’s work. In this story there are three siblings: two brothers and a sister. Each demonstrates one of the four general personality types.

The eldest brother is very outgoing—you’d say he’s a people person. Some would call him a sanguine. He’s definitely a leader and functions in a pastoral role. He’s very comfortable speaking to groups of people.

The next oldest of the siblings is his sister. A somewhat shy person, she is also very compassionate. She founded a home for orphans and has helped many kids to not only survive but learn to thrive. While she isn’t comfortable speaking to groups, her one-on-one skills are very effective. She has a melancholic personality.

The youngest of the three siblings is very laid back. He’s rock steady and unflappable. When everything around him is up for grabs, he’s calm and peaceful. Some see him as uncaring, but underneath, his mind is always working. He has a head for business and uses his prosperity to bless others wherever he sees a need. His personality type is phlegmatic.

All three of these siblings come from a solid godly home. They love the Lord with all their hearts, and yet they are all very different. Their personalities have led each of them down differing life paths.

Personality traits of our heart speak of our social behavior—such as: analytical, supportive, organized, or outgoing.

Attitude – Temperament

Attitude is the expression of our heart that demonstrates our temperament. The dictionary defines attitude as: “manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person; tendency or orientation.”

There are three categories of attitude: positive, negative, and neutral.

1. People with positive attitudes notice the good rather than the bad and tend to be optimistic, cheerful, confident and flexible.

2. A person with a negative attitude notices the bad, complains about change, blames others for failure, and tends to be doubtful, jealous, angry, and frustrated.

3. People with a neutral attitude don’t pay much attention, generally ignore problems, and tend to feel discontented, indifferent, and apathetic.

Our dominant attitude towards people, places, and things or situations determines the choices we make. While it is rare for someone to always be positive or negative, we generally bounce between different attitudes in various situations with a strong inclination toward one or the other.

Our dominant attitude determines the choices we make.

A Positive Attitude Example

What type of temperaments might we express? We can determine to have a positive attitude, as you will see in the following whimsical story:

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. “Well,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and realized she had only two hairs on her head. “Hmm,” she said, “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.” So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said, “Today I’m going to wear my hair in a ponytail.” So she did and she had a fun, fun day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Yea!” she exclaimed, “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”

Attitude Affects Everything

When we determine to enjoy each day with a positive and overcoming attitude, our life can be a joyful expression. No matter what we may go through, our attitude can be either sour or a sweet aroma.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Our attitude is not everything, but it does affect everything about us. The attitude we entertain in any given moment, affects how we think, feel, and understand (our conscious soul), and in turn, influences what we say and do. Attitude is our most important heart feature! I elaborate on the power of attitude in my blog, “Attitude Rules.”

Attitude is our most important heart feature!

What is our attitude about our circumstances? Do we think or say, “Good God, it’s morning!” or “Good morning, God!” We want to examine our expressions to see if our attitudes reflect and resemble God’s heart.

Attitude traits speak of our temperament—such as: loving or hateful, humble or proud, flexible or rigid, etc.

Who We Are

By understanding our own personality type, moral character and dominant attitude, we can better recognize both our strong points and our weak ones. While distinctively different in the ways we’ve noted, God creates and equips each of us as expressive beings, to be relational. Learning to capitalize on our strengths and deal with our weaknesses will help us better reflect and resemble God’s heart.

Every person is born with a heart that is ready to develop. We initially inherit our CAP qualities from our parents. Then the natural and spiritual environments we are raised in stimulate the development of our CAP. That said, our conscious assessment of our experiences and the choices we make strongly affect our heart’s ongoing improvement or deterioration.

God values our heart, who we are becoming as a person.

God values our heart, who we are becoming as a person over what we are as a being. The Spirit of God already dwells in each of us as a life-giving part of what we are (body, soul, and spirit). Is our expressive heart emitting blessings or curses? We can all receive and learn from God’s expressions, especially from His expression in Jesus Christ.

We Are Expressive Persons

Our soul’s conscious perceptions tend to develop into understandings—what we believe. Our belief, in turn, tends to highly influence our lives and have an influencing effect on our heart’s expressions. Whatever our soul believes about God, ourselves, and others affects the quality of our heart CAP.

When we understand “what we are as a body, soul, and spirit being,” it helps us focus on “who we are as expressive persons.” Then we are less likely to confuse the two. In spite of our uniqueness, we are all offspring of God. Through the tutoring fellowship of our heavenly Father, we mature as children into better reflections of Him.

If you’re anxious to know more, I encourage you to get a copy of my books. The understanding God has given me concerning CAP is woven through both of them. Within The Christ Culture, Chapter 1 – The Way of Life Develops Us, I pose the question, “Whose CAP do we wear?” noting our heavenly Father desires that our character, attitude, and personality reflect and resemble His own heart expression. However, in Created To Relate, Chapter 4, you will find the most detailed explanation.

Keith Carroll, Relational Gospel Founder


More resources about our relational God:

Confusing "What" We Do with "Who" We AreConfusing "What" We Do with "Who" We Are

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