Spiritual Direction for Each Temperament

Ever been too intimidated to try reading the Summa? Or found little, pithy lessons on Proverbs to be “fluff”?  It’s probably just the type of person you are…

Well, I found something genius.  I’ve read so much on the temperaments over the years that I tend to gloss over the details nowadays. But I read that entire file and soaked up every word.  Honing in on the right kind of spiritual path for each person is really an excellent way to grow in virtue.  And what works for a Sanguine will not work for a Phlegmatic necessarily… so knowing the base tendencies we are sort of born with can really help us figure out the best way to stretch our hearts and grow in faith.

If you don’t know your temperament, I recommend this test. I think it is the most credible one you’ll find on the web and the same one found in the excellent book, Temperament God Gave You. Remember, we can’t use our temperaments to excuse bad behavior or make stodgy claims like “Well, that’s just the way I am!” Christ Himself is said to be the perfect embodiment of all the temperaments. And many saints worked on their characters so hard as to mitigate the negative side of their inborn tendencies while simultaneously cultivating characteristics that may not come naturally to them.

Once you’ve got a pretty good idea of what your base tendencies are, you can begin looking at what *type* of spiritual direction is ideal for you… assuming you don’t have a real, live, holy human at your ready.

I used Fr. Christian Kappes’ analysis of the temperaments to make a suggested reading list for each type of person.  I recommend reading the entire analysis to “know thyself” but here are just a few book ideas for each type to get you started:


(“The melancholic needs to experience tenderness and love of her soul created and cherished by God. Thus the melancholic must refrain from literature that exacerbates despair and a sense of guilt that already (for the melancholic) penetrates to the bone.”)

Introduction to the Devout Life
Finding God’s Will for You
I Believe in Love
The Power of Silence
Searching for and Maintaining Peace
In the School of the Holy Spirit
The Reed of God
Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us


(“She needs to hear and acknowledge her defects and pride as personal sins to be attributed to her own volition. The devil is usually the scapegoat for the choleric.”)

The Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation
The Imitation of Christ
Preparation for Death
The Spiritual Combat
The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for our Lives Today
Humility of Heart
The Way, Furrow, the Forge
Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and the Gospel on Prayer


(“…because of her weakness for immediate and gratifying pleasures, short, pithy say- ings and stories will speak to her temperament. Lengthy biographies and tomes on the spiritual life are often lost in distractions and overwhelming spiritual lethargy.”)

Way to Happiness: An Inspiring Guide to Peace, Hope and Contentment
Peace of Soul
Called to Be Holy
Reflections on the Psalms
Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons from Scripture
Anima Christi: Soul of Christ
Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems


(“Recommended are the more passionate and less intellectual and ideational works.”)

The Fulfillment of All Desire
Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas
The Life of Christ
Abandonment to Divine Providence
The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Divine Intimacy
The Joy in Loving: a Guide to Daily Living
Interior Castle



6 thoughts on “Spiritual Direction for Each Temperament

  1. Theresa

    I am happy to have found your blog and look forward to your other articles. This was an excellent post! I had fun doing the tests. I took the Fisheaters test and came up melancholic and then took the longer one you recommended and came up almost 50/50 melancholic/phlegmatic.

    When I read the description of the melancholic, it’s like reading a post about me, myself, and I. When I read the phlegmatic, I see many traits but not all.

    So, should I choose my spiritual reading based on the melancholic temperament?

    Thanks for any help.


    1. Knowloveserve Post author

      Theresa, one of my dearest friends is melancholic/phlegmatic. If it were me, I’d choose from the melancholic list… but I do know that “The Fulfillment of All Desire” is wonderful reading for nearly all types.

      I’m a melancholic/choleric, and I’ve benefitted tremendously from “Abandonment to Divine Providence”, and the parts of “Divine Intimacy” that I did read on the phlegmatic list also.

      But if you only have time for one… choose “I Believe in Love” and anything at all by Jacques Philippe. I’ve read “Interior Freedom” about 4 times now… it’ll never be enough.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Theresa

        Thank you so much for your kind words! I actually have Divine Intimacy and it is a real gem. I spent some time as a secular Carmelite and was introduced to so many great spiritual works. Today I am an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Jacques Phillipe is wonderful. I read about five or six of his books and then my Kindle died so I’m trying to collect them in book form now. he also has some newer ones that I have not had the opportunity to read yet. Hopefully I can update you with what has helped me most.

        Thank you again for your time and your great writing. God bless!

  2. Caitlin

    Thank you for this book list! I really enjoy Fr. Phillipe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace of Heart is incredible, but then again I’m a melancholic. I will look at the others as well!
    Out of the choleric list, which do you think might be good reads for a nearly 12 year old girl? Also, do you know of any resources for examination of conscience guides for the four temperaments?

    1. Knowloveserve Post author

      Hi Caitlin,

      Regarding the 12 year old; that’s a bit young for most of the books I would traditionally want to recommend for a choleric… but I wonder if you might get a lot out of the book “Humility Rules” by Fr. Augustine Wetta. It’s pretty fun and designed for the 13+ demographic.

      I’m not aware of any examinations of conscience for the temperaments but I love that idea!

      All my best,


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