Hello, friends! I’m writing from the couch, eating cheddar cheese Combos from a ramekin in order to ensure portion control. By the time I’m finished with this post, I will have refilled the ramekin at least thrice.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others by studying a personality system called the Enneagram. The Enneagram draws from many ancient wisdom traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Greek philosophy, etc.), but the system as we know it was synthesized in the 1960s by a teacher named Oscar Ichazo. (For a lovely, detailed description of this history, you can go to https://tinyurl.com/ufx7253.)
The Enneagram sorts human nature out into nine distinct personality types. We are all born with a dominant type, and within those nine types, “each has unique capacities” and “each has different limitations” (https://tinyurl.com/v283hdk). There are no good or bad personality types. When we’re at our best, each of us has something special to bring to the table.
The chart below is taken from the Enneagram Institute’s website, which is a terrific starting point for learning about the nine types. (If you’re interested in learning your type, I recommend coughing up $12 and taking an inventory called the RHETI, which you can access here. I guarantee it’s a better use of your time than ‘Tiger King’.)
As I took my walk tonight, it occurred to me that this global crisis requires assistance from every personality type. This is, in many ways, an unprecedented challenge, but like any challenge, it gives us an opportunity to reveal and draw upon the best in ourselves. The more I think about how all nine types have crucial roles to play, the prouder I am to be a human bean.
Let’s walk through it type by type.
We need our ONES, our Reformers, to speak out about actions that must be taken by leaders and citizens and businesses. We need Ones to sound the alarm when we stray from our ideals, when we begin to calculate the worth of human lives based upon age and make decisions based on fear of government intrusion, rather than on data and common sense.
We need our TWOS, our Helpers, on the battlefield in hospitals and medical tents, selflessly giving care to our loved ones even as they worry about their own families. God, do we need them, and let’s pray that when this is all over, we find a way to thank them for their sacrifice. And we need Twos on the computer screens in front of our children, teachers inventing new ways to reach their students each day without a roadmap.
We need our THREES, our Achievers, our proven leaders in the private sector, to keep adapting, to keep doing whatever it takes to meet the equipment needs of our Helpers. However, we need some Threes, our image-driven folks, to rise above type. We need our hospital administrators to allow their Helpers to speak out about their need for PPE, even if they believe it will make the hospital look bad. We need our politicians to be frank about the situation we face, even if they believe doing so will damage their re-electability.
We need our FOURS, our Individualists, to remind us of what is beautiful and worth celebrating in this dark period of our lives. We need their poetry recitations, their virtual band performances, their thoughtful essays and visual art to connect to our humanity. We need their unique perspective, their way of making life more special and meaningful. And when we emerge from this, we’ll need our Fours to help our spirits make sense of what we experienced.
We need our FIVES, our Investigators, working around the clock to find a cure, to develop a vaccine, to create new and better tests for coronavirus. We need our Fives collaborating with faculty members and public health experts to synthesize data and make projections, to help us understand the path that this pandemic will likely take.
We need our SIXES, our Loyalists, whose deep sense of commitment to family, friends, and community results in small miracles everywhere. We need our Sixes who continue to honor their promise to deliver Meals on Wheels, to check on their neighbors, to serve on the front lines in the police force, to drive food across the country, and to inspect buildings–even if doing so makes them anxious.
We need our SEVENS, our Enthusiasts, to enliven our economy as we move through the coming months. Their ability to think creatively and pursue new avenues will give rise to entrepreneurship and innovation, pulling others up as they move in different directions and take risks. And we need our Sevens to help us find humor in this situation, to be silly and free and forget about our troubles for awhile.
We need our EIGHTS, our Challengers, our Andrew Cuomos, to be leaders, to take decisive action and move quickly. We need our Challengers fighting for their cities and their states, procuring what they need and making lots of noise when they don’t get it. Our healthy Eights are leaders who make decisions based on what’s right for the people they serve, not on what’s popular.
And finally, we need our NINES, our Peacemakers, to help us take our gloves off. We need our Nines to remind us that this virus did not enter our country with a partisan agenda and that viewing a pandemic through a partisan lens severely limits our ability to see the whole picture. Nines rub our backs and remind us to breathe. Nines ground us as our world becomes unrecognizable.
I do hope you’ll click on the links to learn more about the Enneagram. (Here’s a tidbit: The fact that I’m strongly encouraging you to go learn something that I think you should know is a classic One move. We are very big on shoulds.)
Stay inside (because you should). Stay sane. I’ll be back soon.
*Note: It seems that there’s a problem with the server on the Enneagram Institute site. If it doesn’t work for you, you should check back later.)