“You never really understand a person until you…climb into his skin and walk around in it.”


This To Kill a Mockingbird snippet of advice comes from Harper Lee’s fictional character Atticus Finch, a white attorney defending a black man falsely accused of rape in a racist 1930s southern community. Finch is adamant that his own children learn to treat everyone with compassion, regardless of their outward differences and admonishes them to try to see life from another’s perspective.  Image result for atticus finch free photos

Families and friends facing serious illness have differences that are much more than skin deep—very diverse personalities and coping styles, which often are misunderstood or unappreciated.

From my observations ministering to cancer patients and their families for more than 25 years, I can tell you that folks normally cope with cancer the same way they coped with life before cancer. The talkers keep chatting and the quiet ones stay mum. The feelers continue to emote and the thinkers keep on rationalizing. The people-oriented surround themselves with folks to spur them on and the task-oriented gather facts to try and problem-solve.

And guess what? That’s okay…because we need each other.

We need an arsenal of abilities and strengths to fight cancer or any other trial and each person in your inner circle of loved ones brings something different to the table. You will be far better equipped if you can appreciate your differences instead of allowing them to annoy or even divide you.


My husband of nearly 45 years and I are pretty much exact opposites in personality. I’m a task-oriented
extrovert and my mate is a people-oriented introvert. He’s easy-going and I have to plan to be spontaneous. If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs type indicator, I’m an ESTJ and he’s an INFP. Even if you’re not familiar with the traits those 10 letters stand for, you can clearly see none of them matches up![1]


If you have ever taken the Gary Smalley Personality Types Inventory, I’m a lion-beaver and he’s a golden retriever-otter. A lion’s rallying cry is “Let’s get it done!” while an otter delightfully squeals “Don’t worry, it will all work out!” [2]  Image result for lion beaver otter golden retriever

And what I’ve learned from all this alphabet soup and animal labels is that sometimes my hubby needs to tighten up and sometimes I need to lighten up. And I’ve especially learned that at times I need someone like him who is very different than I am to help me hear from God.

Our Creator designed us to need each other and to be able to offer one another our talents, our gifts, our insights, and our special brand of encouragement. Please don’t let those differences become a wedge in your relationships. One of the primary ways Satan has to discourage families and friends facing serious illness is to get us at odds with one another. Don’t let that deceiver win.

Whether you are the patient or the caregiver, go ahead and consider the world from someone else’s point of view.  Take a deep breath, climb into his or her skin and walk around a little. You want and need people with personalities different from yours to help you find peace in the face of illness.

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!…Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:16, 18 NLT

Don’t tear down another person with your words. Instead, keep the peace, and be considerate. Be truly humble toward everyone… Titus 3:2 The Voice Bible

Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright Lynn Eib 2017.

[1]For more info about the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator personality inventory, go tohttp://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/

[2]To take the free animal personality test, go to http://www.smalley.cc/free-personality-test/

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