Peace, The Number Nine, and White Knuckles

The Bio on my Twitter profile reads, “Husband, father, ironically narcissistic. Let’s face it, you don’t love me as much as I do.” I’d like to add right here that I am a nine. A nine out of nine to be exact. I’m a real catch, just ask my wife. I know what you’re thinking, typical millennial bro, right? Wrong. Those two statements actually have nothing to do with each other. I just needed a silly quip to start with, because I’m terrible at introductions. Both statements are true, though.

I really have learned to love myself a great deal, and I really am a nine, but not in the way that you’re thinking. I’m talking about the Enneagram. I’m a nine on the Enneagram. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s an ancient self-development tool. It’s rooted in wisdom that’s really old. “Really old” is as exact as I can be. I’m not an expert. I’m new to it, but it has changed my life in the months I have been working with it.  It’s often compared to popular personality tests, though many enneagram teachers don’t put much faith in the tests that are out there. Some therapists and spiritual leaders use it to help people dig into their personalities, in order to understand themselves and the people around them. There are nine types. The numbers don’t denote value. They are just arbitrary placeholders, and most books and teachers of the Enneagram give names to each type. Most call nines the peacemakers. That’s me. I’m a nine. A peacemaker.

Nines are on the high end of the empathy scale and have the blessing and curse of being able too see most situations from many different perspectives. That’s why they are often called peacemakers. Nines tend to live in their heads as well. We day dream often. I heard a nine on a podcast say that if you’re talking to a nine, and it seems like they aren’t listening, it’s because they aren’t. I really wish I could bring my self to insert the cry laughing emoji right there. On the first day of 25 days of peace I mentioned in passing that inner peace has always come easy to me, and the reason is I’m a nine. We’re idealistic. We are always in our heads because we are creating the world we want in there. It’s often not rooted in reality though. Lots of our energy goes into rationalizing the actions of others while simultaneously rearranging our mental furniture to keep the inner sea calm. We’re on guard from the world and our own thoughts. The ability to see from every perspective aids in rationalizing, but it also is the way we can be the calming, peacemaking presence in turbulent situations. That’s what I’d like to talk about today.

I don’t claim to have anything figured out, and I’m not going to try to convince anyone to agree with me on anything except one thing: We don’t see each other. That’s not hard to qualify. This past election made that abundantly clear. Actually, lots of things about the last year have showed us that. Politics, Black Lives Matter, The frustration and misunderstandings between generations, The division over the beginnings of what seems to be a reformation in Evangelical Christianity, and the list goes on. Whichever side you fall on, chances are you don’t understand the other side’s perspective. I’m going to generalize a lot here, so turn down your defenses for a second, and hear me out.

I’m a straight white male, living in America. I cannot speak for people who have had experiences I haven’t had. I’ll start there. It’s common knowledge that Internet comments sections have become the most toxic environment for discussion. Since most of us live a great deal of our days online, we probably carry some of that toxicity with us offline as well. We use those cesspools of wasted energy to vent our frustrations, stereotypes are reinforced, and very few facts are presented.

Worldview and bias are unavoidable in the human experience. We all have them, and we don’t have as much control over them as we think we do. When and where we grow up influence what we believe about the world and other people. Our experiences and relationships mold us whether we like it or not. Our opinions are directly tied to those of the people closest to us, and the media we identify as in line with our biases. Empathy can be lost when we don’t acknowledge our biases. When that happens, when empathy is lost, it’s easy to operate from a place of rightness. When empathy is lost, the hope for peace is lost as well. When empathy is lost, we end up with the polarization that America is steeped in. Don’t steep your tea to long. It gets bitter. I actually think polarization is a good thing, when it’s fringe. Opposing ideas being allowed to coexist is good for society. The caveat is allowing for a healthy middle ground. We don’t do that well.

What do we do? How do we get to a place of peace when no one is listening? I hesitate to be prescriptive because I don’t claim to have all the answers, but this is my space, so I will.

First, shut up. Stop talking. Consider this a slap in the face. That’s not very peaceful is it? Sometimes you have to fight for peace. Sometimes a jarring interruption is necessary. This is your interruption. You are not right. No one is right. Not the right. Not the Left. Not the Christians or the Muslims or the Buddhists or the atheists. And yet, we are all right about some of it. The catch is, we don’t who’s right about what. We don’t know who is wrong about what. Now, I know that some of you identify strongly with a certain worldview, and put your full faith in it. I’m with you, but let’s keep our faith what it is: Belief that something better is possible; that something better is coming. I’m not asking my conservative Christian friends to abandon their faith, and I’m not asking my liberal friends to submit to the authority of any scripture. I’m asking that we all give up our need to be right. I’m asking that we all carry our beliefs with an open hand. An open mind. An open heart. I know this is possible because I’ve done it.

I used to be extremely conservative in my Christian faith. I actually had the thought during that time in my life that I couldn’t believe I ever thought any different, and I would follow this way for the rest of my life. How short sighted I was. I wasn’t looking for anything else. I had the answers I was looking for. Life made sense. Then I read a book. It’s funny how a few questions asked by a person who thinks just a little differently than you can open up possibilities in things you thought were pretty solid. I wasn’t looking, but I saw something I couldn’t unsee. My faith is in tact, it’s just radically different. It’s vibrant. It’s alive. It’s ever changing. I’m comfortable being a heretic to some, and I’m comfortable with my opinion that fundamentalism is my version of heresy. I trust my experience of God. As I eluded to in my post titled Start, I don’t have much peace in my life because of my faith and worldview change. That unrest has nothing to do with God. I have found peace and rest in Him. He never changed, I just kept my heart open to where I was being led, and my belief and understanding changed. It’s fine. I’m fine. So are you in.

I used to be right, and they used to be wrong. Now it’s much more convoluted. I’ve just learned to be comfortable in that space. That’s my prescription for peace. Be comfortable with the possibility that you could be wrong about something, and someone you disagree with could be right about some things. Why are your knuckles so white? This is an invitation to open your fists, take the hand of the other and let’s do this together. Digging in just puts us deeper in our own holes. There are good things in those holes, but let’s keep a ladder up to the surface and not be afraid to climb out once in a while to share the lush green scenery that lies between us. That’s the garden. That’s too many metaphors in one paragraph.  Peace out.

-Adam

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