Have you heard of the Enneagram? It is an old personality test. There are nine personality types with great descriptions of both their strengths and weaknesses. The books describe how one is affected by stress and relates with other Enneagram types and does a good job of suggesting the hidden motivations of the different types.
According to the tests, I am a 3–an Achiever. That wasn’t a surprise to me. I have always been driven to accomplish things. I make lists, plans, etc. The Achiever gets things done. Some people don’t like their Enneagram type. I kind of liked mine.
Until I read more…
There is a great deal out there about the motivations behind the types. It seemed to me that there was more about the unhealthy motivations than the healthy. As I read a few books on the topic, I observed my tendency to only focus on the positive motivations. Actually, I really didn’t make that observation until Lynne and I were having dinner with another couple, and they talked about their Enneagram types and how those types showed up in disruptive ways in their marriage. Both vulnerably talked about how their type had negative effects on the other and how they got more extreme and more unloving under stress.
Interestingly, there was no malice as they talked. Their self-discoveries led them to repentance, then grace. It seemed like they were more aware of how they hurt each other and more gracious in their understanding of why their spouse acted as they did. God used their self-discovery to deepen their dependence on Him and their love for one another.
But the “aha” moment for me was when he started talking about his “3-ness” and his discovery that he achieved things in order to win people over and convince them he had value.
That stopped me.
I didn’t like it. Years ago, I read a book called The Search for Significance by Robert McGee. I have been somewhat aware of my own tendency to find my value in accomplishments rather than Jesus, but this felt a little different. This was saying that I accomplished in order to win approval. If I worked hard enough people would like me, be drawn to me, and affirm my value. So accomplishing didn’t give me value, but was a means to obtain affirmation. And that human affirmation is inevitably fleeting. It is vaporous. It just doesn’t last.
“Aha!” God reminded me that only One person has the kind of love that can truly ground me, give me value, and settle my soul. Only One person’s approval can help me avoid the lifelong unfulfilling pursuit of validation. Only One person has the authority and power to say definitively that I am deeply and perfectly loved.
“Oh yeah!” Only Jesus.
Now I knew that. I’ve taught that. I’ve studied that. And in my head, I believe that. In some ways, it seems so simple. And yet I still need to be reminded. God loves me with an everlasting, definitive, sacrificial, unfaltering, merciful, perfect love.
And He loves you like that too…
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.
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