by Trisha Nelson
Imagine you’re sitting in a room with a group of women. They’re chatting about the books they’ve been reading, what their kids aren’t eating, and how worried they are about something in the recent news. There are women with big personalities, whose presence seem to fill the space. There are quiet and mysterious women that look at you and make you wonder what they’re really thinking. Then there are the funny ones that are quick to make witty jokes at just the right time. “You’ve never pooped your pants as an adult? Yeah…me either…”
You sit there listening, chatting, and taking it all in. You’re analyzing each one without even really knowing it.
On the way home you think about how the conversation went. “Did I talk too much?” “Not enough?” “Do you think she took that comment wrong?” “Why can’t I seem to connect with her?” “She seemed really distant.” “I should’ve spoke up more.”
You replay different scenarios in you head, over-analyzing and over-thinking everything. Things start to become personal to you because they don’t make sense, you can’t seem to get them off your mind, or you feel the need to figure out the WHY.
“Why do I feel this way when I leave a group of people?” “Why do I have an uneasy feeling about that situation?” “Why does it feel like I’m always the one talking?” “Why am I the only person who can’t seem to connect?” “Why do I have such a different view than everyone else?”
The questions we ask ourselves are examples of personality profiles and how they work.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been attracted to different types of people. I never liked sticking to one circle of friends. I liked diversity and I liked what others brought to the table. Understanding different personalities and traits is something that is ingrained in me and has allowed me to build relationships with a variety of people; it’s a hyper-awareness that is a blessing and sometimes a burden, but also a gift from the Lord.
It didn’t take me very long to figure out that not every one is like me.
There are people who prefer to stay in a familiar environment, and stick to what is comfortable; they could go on with life not really caring about how other minds work. And that’s ok. But, if you desire to build community, fellowship with the body of Christ, and understand people who may not look or act like you, I would encourage you to start with understanding different personality types. There is beauty, healing, and vulnerability that this new knowledge can bring.
At this point you may be reading this thinking, “Perfect, another person talking about stereotyping people into little groups where everyone fits the same mold.”
First, I would respond to that by saying… think deeper than that. Personality profiling is only touching the surface of how intricately you have been designed. We, as humans, are full of unique traits, abilities, talents, imperfections, and passions.
Imagine these profiles, traits, or whatever you want to call them, as resources and tools that can bring us into community with one another.
While we all are unique, we share common experiences. Personality is a way to express ourselves, but when our point of view becomes rigid, we get stuck in automatic habits. When we become aware of others, and ourselves, we can step outside of our limited perspective.
Let’s start with the basics of what personality profiles are. While there are many out there that you can Google, today we are going to talk about my personal favorite, the Enneagram. The Enneagram represents nine distinct strategies for relating to self, others, and the world. Each type has a different pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting that stems from a deeper view of the world. When we use the Enneagram as a map, it can increase the effectiveness of personal growth and healthy relationships.
Now, let’s rewind a little.
I’m somewhere between an Enneagram 3 and 7. What does that mean for you? I am always trying to “achieve” and be a valuable asset. My biggest fear is that I let someone down, wasn’t enough for them, or missed out. I want to do all the things, all the time! I love spontaneity and brainstorming and am optimistic to the core. I am a person of action and not really feeling, (although that is starting to change); I put my feelings in a box on my path to achievement because I want to avoid and discharge pain. I once joked with my best friend (after reading the description) that I was apparently an enthusiastic narcissist and her response was, “But you have empathy!” HA. I guess that helps?
Are you starting to see how understanding me helps you understand how we could have relationship together?
If you recognize that I don’t act on feeling and emotion, but on doing and helping, by giving my time, encouragement and a listening ear, you would know that I’m going to jump into action as soon as you say, “I need help!” You may not see it at first, because I show it in other ways than you.
Recently, I’ve found myself surrounded by a lot of 6’s. When I think of what a 6 could entail, it is literally the opposite of who I am. They can be more cautious and indecisive or need guidance and support. There is nothing wrong with that either. They are some of the most loving, loyal, and empathetic people I know. I’m actually a little jealous of their ability to feel so deeply. But before I knew they were this way, I would think things like, “Well why don’t they just do this and fix that?” or “They always sound so negative!” and it soon became me trying to micromanage their life or make it better because, hello…I’m a 3 and 7!
They didn’t need me to “do” anything for them, they just needed me to support them and feel secure in our relationship. The rest would come in time.
Since diving into the personality profile world, I’ve found myself becoming more compassionate, empathic, understanding, and forgiving. When someone gives me the cold shoulder, I no longer add them to my list of haters, but stop and try to understand them. “She’s not intentionally trying to hurt your feelings; she’s trying to figure out her own.” Could you imagine a community of believers who were aware of others strengths and weaknesses? Not in a “she’s better than her” kind of way, but a “she needs this from me right now” kind of way. How much closer would that bring us together spiritually? Instead of competing or feeling guilty, we could work together in unity and understanding where we reach into those strengths and build up those weaknesses.
Glory hallelujah I believe it for me and for you!
In the end, there is no right or wrong, this way or that way of doing things. Understanding and believing that the Lord designed and created us differently, but with a heart for Him, changes everything. Recognizing and being in tune with that, gives us such a natural bond. We are tied to one another through the cross. And yes, our relationship to Him will be unique to us personally, but how beautiful is it that we can come along side one another and see the attributes of Him through a new lens.