Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Kind of Friend Are You?

As I reflect on the power of relationships, I see that there are different ways that people approach friendship.  I'm just making this stuff up, and my list is far from complete, but I hope it provides some insight.

The Hider avoids relationships at every turn.  He enters every conversation looking for a way to end it.  He may fear being exposed, or may feel inadequate.  The hider wants to be discovered, but doesn’t feel worthy.  He wants to see the other person make the effort, because only then can he tell if that person truly wants to be friends.

The Diver jumps right in.  She has never met a stranger.  She tells you her life story in the grocery line.  Everyone is interested in her life, or so she thinks.  The diver gets in too deep too fast in nearly every relationship, and often gets hurt.  The diver shares so much information, that it overwhelms her friends.  Others may find themselves avoiding divers.

The Runner runs from relationship.  It’s hard to catch a runner.  He will avoid commitment, and cancel plans with flimsy excuses.  Runners are content to be alone, and don’t believe that Jesus wants to bless them through friendships.  Friendship is valuable, but he would rather observe it than experience it.

The Stonewaller is an easy person to get to know—at first.  This person makes friends easily, but only allows people to get so close.  When the relationship reaches a certain point, the stonewaller refuses to go deeper.  Such people have experienced hurt with too much vulnerability, and they don’t want to go there again.  They may have lots of shallow friends, and constantly see people go in and out of their lives.

The Climber goes into relationship slowly.  She gradually gains trust and earns respect.  The climber counts the cost of friendship very carefully.  She wants deep friendships, but finds it difficult to open up.  When she feels betrayed or let down by someone, she removes that person from the deep friendship track in her life.  She may have lots of friends, but only a few close friends. 

The Clinger constantly looks for one person to escort him through life.  This is a needy person who will use up anyone who openly befriends him.  The clinger may turn on someone who begins pulling away. He leaves a trail of former friends as he moves through life.

We have to remember that friendship is not optional, not if we want to be obedient to Jesus.  He calls us to live life together in fellowship.  We actually need each other, so that we can become all that God wants us to be.

By the way, I’m a hider.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stability and North Korea

North Korea is rattling a nuclear saber.  The U.S. is engaged in war games around the Korean peninsula.  It makes the stability of the Cold War look appealing.

Something is provoking North Korea to challenge the U.S., although no one in the West seems to understand it.  Most likely, the pain of poverty under communism is causing civil unrest in North Korea, and the government there needs to distract its people from the pain of daily life.

We are not used to instability in our culture.  And that has spiritual ramifications.  We may think we can get along without God.  When trials come, we quickly remember that He's in charge. 

Jesus is in charge, no matter what happens in Korea.  Only in Him do we find true stability.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Soul Insights

Since antiquity people have worked to unlock the mysteries of personality.  The ancient Greeks noted four personality types:  sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholy.  These types correspond to the dominant bodily fluids, they believed.  With my allergies, I’m sure Hippocrates would have labeled me phlegmatic.

Many counselors, life coaches and personnel departments use personality assessments to help clients and employees understand themselves and others.  Twice I have taken the test for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which labels me (and my wife) as ENTJ.  (I used to be an INTJ until I became less introverted.)   Then with the DiSC profile, I am an “I,”  which stands for Initiator, or Integrator, or something.  I never found DiSC very helpful.

In all these personality models, there seem to be some preferred types.  Some are born leaders, while others are destined to follow compliantly.  I’m waiting for the profile that labels people Loser, Sucker, Whiner, Coward; and then Winner, Mover-Shaker, Lucky.

A friend recently pointed me to another personality assessment tool.  He found it through a mutual friend, Jerome Daley, who wrote about the insights he gained through the Enneagram.  I checked out the on-line resource he suggested and took the free inventory test.  I don’t intend here to give a full explanation of this system, but I do hope to spark your interest and encourage you to learn more about yourself.

To me, the symbol for the Enneagram looks rather creepy, and the name sounds like an incantation.  As I studied the system, I learned that the name comes from ennea for “nine,” and refers to the nine-pointed star.  The paradigm suggests that there are nine basic personality types, and people tend to identify with one or two of these types.  Each type has a characteristic virtue, and a trademark sin.  The sins exposed with the Enneagram include all of the Seven Deadly Sins (anger, pride, envy, avarice, gluttony, lust, sloth), and two others (deceit, fear).  A person lives into her virtue by growing in integrity.  One falls into his sin by using destructive coping mechanisms. 

As Daley says, the beauty of this framework is that no personality type looks like the paragon of perfection.  And no type looks like the ultimate loser, destined to be chosen last by the team captains of life.  Further, the Enneagram clearly shows that  my wife and I have very different personality types.  I already knew that, but neither Myers nor Briggs could make the distinction. 

I devoured Richard Rohr’s book, The Enneagram:  A Christian Perspective. He and coauthor Andreas Ebert show the ancient roots of the system, and the Christian influence in its development.  The Enneagram helps Christians discern spirits, as 1 John 4:1 encourages.  From ancient times, counselors from other religions have also found that the Enneagram sheds light on the human condition.

The Enneagram shows how certain personality traits tend to cluster together in individuals.  For example, people of Type One are perfectionists and tend toward anger.  When they are integrated, they live in serenity.  My type, Type Five, withdraw from the world and tend toward stinginess.  When integrated, we bring thoughtful objectivity to the world and openly share insights.

This model encourages the disciple to become the person God created him or her to be.  The Enneagram recognizes our flaws, and forces us to come to grips with them.  Then it shows us a path to wholeness and integration.  As we do so, we become more like Christ.  Only Jesus lived in perfect wholeness.  In him we see all nine personality types at their best.

Most importantly, the Enneagram gives us insights into ourselves.  We can see our fatal flaws, our habitual destructive patterns.  We can change our thinking and experience freedom in our souls.  Only then can we responsibly understand others.

I can maximize my “Fiveness” and enjoy the life of integration.  I can recognize my tendency to dwell in the theoretical realm, and push myself to action.  I can see my tendency to be stingy, and push myself to be generous.  Through the power of Jesus, I can be myself, and be a better version of myself.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Just My Type of Motivation

At our Real Ryder bike exercise class this morning, our group had a new instructor.  She put us through the paces, and I worked harder than ever.  About the only thing I remember is her saying, “Add more tension!” and  “Keep going.”  She had us visualize a bike race in which we tried to catch up to the leader.  We rode up generic hills and mountains.

Although I was not inspired particularly with the workout, I did push myself harder than ever.  Then I wondered what a workout would be like if the instructor tailored the talk to motivate me.  Catching the lead biker is not that important to me.  I would rather imagine beating my earlier time.

What if there was a whole class of people who shared my exact motivational bent?  What if the instructor really knew what makes me work hard?  That would be a cool, fun workout.

Then it dawned on me that God tailors his motivation exactly to suit me.  He does know what makes me dig deep down and give it all I’ve got.  He delights in meeting me right where I am.  He has put me in a place where I can thrive.

So, here’s the big “aha!”  When I don’t feel motivated, I must be listening to the wrong voice.  When God speaks to me, he’s speaking exactly my language.