The Gospel According to an Enneagram Nine

“Can we all get along?” —Rodney King (during a press conference following the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, which sparked after King was recorded being severely beaten by police)

The loving parents I was gifted with fought incessantly for the nearly 50 years they were married. The only solution to their problem was the ultimate solution. My mother died in 1990 at the age of 75 from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mom was the dominant person in the relationship between the two of them. She was a bit of a bully toward my father, but she was loving and supportive of me. Dad was ruled over by his mother but as an adult he bullied her. Dad bullied me as a child, but my older siblings had already fought those battles and by their example I knew how to fight back.

From the time I was a child all I wanted was some peace. I swore to myself all through my childhood and teen years that my relationship with my future wife and children would be centered in peace. No fighting! Blessed are the peacemakers. I was down with that.

I love peace. My mother grew up in rural South Carolina in the village of McClellanville. She was a McClellan, as were the six generations of McClellans before her who lived in what became McClellanville. The census of 1790 shows my fifth great-grandfather was the holder of 11 enslaved people. He probably was not the last. The property which held the slave quarters was eventually donated to the Methodists and is the location of McClellanville’s Methodist Church.

Even as a child I hated my heritage. It wasn’t just a heritage, it was present in the attitudes in the ‘60s and ‘70s that showed only minimal progress had been made. I hated the racism I saw everywhere across the South and beyond. As an adult, I have had to acknowledge the racism that even exists in me.

In August of 2017 my wife, two of my grandkids, and I went back to McClellanville to view the solar eclipse. McClellanville was the westernmost place in the U.S. that totality was visible. The eclipse was a beautiful picture of death and rebirth. I experienced some of my own rebirth during that trip.

The rebirth was in two parts. Part one occurred on Sunday when my oldest granddaughter and I sang a duet at the Methodist Church. The pastor preached on racism, giving a testimony about experiencing the racism that existed in himself during his college years. In talking with the black women who were a part of his class, he realized he was racist. It wasn’t just his own making. It was in his family and community, passed down generation to generation. He wanted it gone from his life, but like all deeply engrained sin, it’s not so easily disposed of.

Part two came during a visit with my cousin, Jimmy. He is the oldest cousin of my generation and now well into his eighties. He grew up in McClellanville, out on Hwy 17 where his family owned a grocery store. When Jimmy came home in the afternoons from school, his playmates were all black. Not necessarily by choice. That’s just who lived in the area. When you grow up in that kind of close communion, differences are either ignored or given less importance. Jimmy told me that, even in his eighties, he’s still close to many of his childhood friends. He attends weddings and funerals in their families. He lived a markedly different life than what I imagined for someone who grew up in McClellanville. My cousin, Mary Lou, who hosted our visit, told similar stories of people she worked with and loved who were African American. Both cousins showed a glimmer of racial peace amidst the tragedy that has been at the core of our country for hundreds of years.

My own life has been full of conflict. At my core I desire peace for our world but find it difficult to achieve even here at home. As a Nine of the Enneagram it’s in my nature to empathize with all different types of people. I love everyone! I understand what it means to look at life from a variety of viewpoints. Being a Nine means being accepting of others.

But my wing number is One. It’s the less dominant side of my nature, the perfectionist. Sure, it makes me a great piano tuner. I turn that perfectionist attitude on a piano and eventually it sounds terrific. But when I turn my perfectionism on my wife, the results aren’t so great. She never does anything right, at least by my standards. And when she does do something to perfection, I can still criticize. The One part of my personality says perfection isn’t really possible.

Blessed are the peacemakers…. I believe Jesus. Most of us know the rules of peacemaking: listen, empathize, bridge the gap to the other person.

Jesus’ presence in my life makes peacemaking a possibility. His Spirit in me reminds me to close my mouth and open my ears. He lets me know when my humor is hurtful. I grew up celebrating teasing. The TV comedies and siblings I adored were all eager practitioners. As a man of the Way I’ve had to acknowledge teasing isn’t adorable to the recipient, it’s abominable! I’m learning to practice my four favorite words, “thank you,” and “I’m sorry.”

Lord, make me your instrument.

Stanley Ford is a husband to Mona, father of Sarah Tjarks & Dr. Paul Ford, and proud grandfather to Alexis, Samantha, and Kayleigh. His other passions include bicycling, photography, singing in Chancel Choir, and being a part of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. His photography is primarily available for viewing on Facebook.

Stan tunes pianos to help pay the bills. His piano tuning website is fordpianotuning.com and his marginally functional photography website is stanleyfordphotography.com.

Find other posts in this series here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

*