Situational Chameleons

 In All Church of God, Columns

Logo: For Leaven's Sake

By Sam Collins

According to the birth records of Jefferson County, Kentucky, my mother was blessed with but one child. There were times, however, when the poor woman must have felt that she was parenting a litter of caffeine-fueled octuplets.

It was not that I was such a bad kid; I just had a smidgen of mischief oozing out of my pours. For one thing, unlike my adult self, I liked to talk a little bit—which is like saying that, in the course of a year, a drop or two of water dribbles over Niagara Falls.

So you can imagine my parents’ reaction when they met with my grade school teacher and she observed that I was the quietest, most docile child she had encountered in over thirty years of teaching. They were as shocked as the Hitlers might have been had they been informed that little Adolf just loved to share his blocks with the other children down at the Greater European Day Care Center.

My parents should not have been all that surprised to find that the same child who rattled like a machine gun could also be as silent as the Sphinx after a radical laryngectomy. For while there are definite patterns to individual human personalities, most of us alter our behavior—even if ever so slightly—depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Most people are, to some extent, situational chameleons. Take Simon Peter as a case in point. When the solders came to arrest Jesus, Peter was full of sword-swinging swagger. Later that evening, when it became clear that Jesus was in danger of summary execution, Peter’s bravado suddenly declared bankruptcy; he denied even knowing the man from Nazareth.

Personality fluctuations are not necessarily sinister symptoms of duplicity or a character disorder. It is only natural that we feel confident, chatty, and brave on some occasions and insecure, reticent, and as chicken as a Rhode Island Red on others. The problem comes when, in a calculated way, we “dress up” in differing, deceptive personas the way a Paris jewel thief might don a variety of disguises to elude the Inspector General.

It behooves the Christian to be self-aware enough to recognize the diverse cast of characters that make up his or her personality. Perhaps a lack of internal awareness was part of Peter’s problem early on. For when we truly know all the selves that populate our psyche, we can more readily ask God to help us become increasingly steady, consistent, integrated, and guileless in the ways we act and react to life.

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Church of God Ministries or, at points, even the writer, but are written with tongue firmly planted in cheek to hopefully provoke a leavening bit of laughter and a smidgen of thought.

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