I’ve been listening to a new podcast, Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron’s “The Road Back to You: Looking at Life through the Lens of the Enneagram.” In one episode Suzanne talks about an observation her daughter made: the Golden Rule doesn’t seem to work for my number – I treat people exactly how I want to be treated and it doesn’t always go well.

I can really relate to that. We’re all different, and different things make us feel loved, respected, safe, threatened, and afraid. There are times when a friend’s reactions leave me baffled. There are times when I feel like I’ve utterly missed something.

Tools like the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs can be wrongly used to categorize and dismiss people, but I’ve found they can also help me have compassion for those whose experience of the world is very different from my own. It’s too easy to expect others to see what I see; to understand what I understand; to feel as I do.

Some of the hardest relational challenges of my life have come when a friend decided to tell me what was going on in my heart and was at least mostly, if not entirely, wrong. It’s impossible to argue with – anything I say is going to be heard in the paradigm they’ve decided applies.

We tell ourselves a story about what’s happening and why before we even realize it, and then we respond to that story rather than the real person. At our rarest best, we’re at least somewhat wrong. It’s hard to be on either side of that equation.

There have also been times that friends have spoken into my life with deep insight, helping me see something in myself I’d missed. And sometimes the misjudgment can come from the same person who another time spoke with great perception.

It’s hardest when it does. And I’ve come to see that it’s often the relationships in which we can have the clearest insight that most tempt us to presume upon that insight.

The best insights – the truest ones, in my experience – come more provisionally, ready to be corrected. Ready to hear. They are an invitation to engage.

Tools like The Enneagram are the same. Appropriately applied, they reveal more than define or even describe. They invite us to recognize ourselves, to know ourselves more deeply, and to grow in our awareness of the various dynamics that drive us.

They also invite us to delight in the variety of ways we live in the world. We see with different eyes, hear with different ears, feel with different hearts. It’s a diversity than can isolate us, making us feel alien to one another.

Or it can expand our hearts and lives, gifting us with communities of a vast potential for creating a more just and generous world.

A world that grows as we learn to listen better to each other. To reach out to each other in ways that connect. To love each other, not only as we love ourselves, but as the one who created each of us uniquely loves each.


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