Are You One? Are You Two?

culture personal growth Oct 19, 2021

 Numbers may very well be the world’s rulers. (Pun intended.) Consider:

  • Musicians compose scales and chords, beats and measures based on numerals.
  • Sociologists employ statistics to identify cultural and demographic trends and outliers.
  • Architects design based on the Golden Ratio.
  • Economists calculate market value, inflation rates, and stock prices down to the decimal.
  • Flora taxonomists measure not only the shape and size but also the count of leaves, roots, stems, flowers, fruits, and seeds.
  • Physicians examine the digits on lab test reports to diagnose disease or pronounce health.
  • Geologists mine the Mohs Hardness Scale to identify minerals.
  • Biologists track wildlife populations using integers.
  • Politicians invent figures…oh, never mind.

We measure our lives in decades, months, and days. Minutes tick by; hours drag on; years fly by. We’d be lost without our numbers. Why? Because the universe – including us mortals – is orderly. With its quirks and quarks, anomalies and atoms, constants and constellations, creation is mathematical.

We, like the spiral shape of a seashell or the triune leaves of a tree, are creatures of patterns.

We like to think of ourselves as being special. And we are. In the same way. When we understand our similarities do not lessen our uniqueness but accentuate it, we are not threatened by recognizing patterns exist in people as much as they do in plants, animals, and planets. Our cultural assigning of “psychology” – the study of the mind and behavior – to an elitist or egghead category has cost us dearly. In addition, our human bent to resist being labeled – a good tendency until it is not – conspires to keep us living ill-fitted with knowledge of ourselves and others. But this needn’t be the sum of our life.

Like all power tools, the Enneagram (in-e-uh-gram) can and has and will be misused. Like all popular trends, it will be followed by many with just enough understanding to make them simultaneously confident and dangerous. Yet we don’t toss out a hammer because someone strikes us on the thumb while we hold the nail, and we needn’t eschew the Enneagram because people use it to whack, excuse, blame, justify, leave, fire, discount, or esteem others. We are made “in His image,” and He delights in patterns, systems, and order – and our discovery of them -- with just enough deviations we can’t claim mastery of all or yawn with boredom by the predictability of everything.

We are each exceptional. But we are not exceptions.

Correctly understood and rightly used, the Enneagram is a powerful microscope into the human soul, revealing mysteries and complexities of extraordinary beauty. Incorrectly employed, it’s labels slapped onto individuals as if they are boxes to be warehoused. Or a saber to stab people's souls. Some roll their eyes, declaring it ballyhoo. Others learn just enough to inoculate themselves against genuine insight. A few denounce it as evil.

While there are tales of those who’ve been hurt by its misuse, there are far more stories of marriages saved and relationships rescued. On a less dramatic scale, the possibility of sizeable growth in understanding oneself and others justifies investigating this guidebook to personality patterns. I sympathize with those who question the value of growing in self-understanding. Isn’t this self-promoting? Heavens no!

There is an exponential difference between self-awareness and self-absorption.

The most self-absorbed folks are, paradoxically, the least self-aware. Another pattern there!

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile co-authored an accessible introduction to the Enneagram, titled The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, and Ian hosts the “Typology” podcast. Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage by Jeff and Beth McCord is a good marriage resource, and you can check out their website. Giving specific recommendations always presents a risk and warrants my disclaimer I don’t agree with everything written or said and can’t personally attest to the character of any of the authors. However, I view this the same as if asked for advice on a physician. I don’t have to know everything about my doctor as a person to share about my experience as a patient. If you’d like to increase your understanding of yourself and others, add the Enneagram to your resources. You might just solve some problems!

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