“Enneagram: Helper”

July 15, 2018


Robin McGonigle
University Congregational Church
July 15, 2018

“Enneagram: Helper”
Mark 28-34a

Last week, I kicked off our new sermon series about the Enneagram – a spiritual and psychological resource to better understand our personalities and our spiritual needs. I talked about number Ones – often called “perfectionists” or “reformers”. As I suspected, we have a large number of people at UCC who are Ones. I was inundated in Fellowship Hall with spouses who couldn’t wait to tell me about their dishwasher Nazi spouse! (For those of you who weren’t here, one telltale sign of a perfectionist is that they will re-load the dishes in the dishwasher after someone else has done it).

With all the responses and the interest we had after last week, I was on a high and ready to dig in to this sermon. On number Twos – the helpers. After all, this is my dominate number. That is until I re-read the books on which I’m basing these sermons! But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

Twos are often called the “lover”, “giver”, “pleaser”, or “helper”. Twos are very committed to helping and serving others. Unlike other personality types, Twos employ their gifts for the needs of others and care for their health, nourishment, education, and welfare. Twos are often seen as generous and are willing to give sacrificially to help others around them. They are some of the more caring, kind, supportive, upbeat and tenderhearted people on God’s green earth. Twos will accept you just as you are; they aren’t judgmental, and they create a space both physically and emotionally in which people can speak from their hearts and experience. Twos are so attuned and responsive to other people’s pain that they seem almost psychic.

At their best, a Two is “deeply unselfish, humble and altruistic, giving unconditional love to self and others. The feel it is a privilege to be in others’ lives. They are radiantly joyful and gracious.” However, Twos desperately want to be liked and have a deep need for validation. That means that at their worst, Twos can be prideful, can think themselves better than others because of all they do, and even use their actions to manipulate those around them. Twos are the most sensitive to criticism of all the personality types.

When Eric and I were dating, I often drove to Lawrence and later Manhattan, where he lived. I planned it so that I arrived before he got home. I would let myself in to his apartment, hands full of groceries, and cook a special meal for him. I set the table with linens, fabric napkins, a centerpiece, wine glasses – the whole bit. And then I would make something special, including homemade bread or a scrumptious dessert. My anticipation of his reaction was palpable. When he came in the door, I wanted him to be delighted that I was there and I wanted his undivided attention.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized he might have had a bad day at work and needed time to relax before engaging in my fantasy of a romantic candlelight dinner. If he had other plans or didn’t want his apartment messed up from my elaborate cooking, I was crushed. It took me a long time to realize that my self-esteem was tied to the way Eric and others responded to my being a Helper.

Twos can walk into a party and intuit which couple had a fight on the way over, who would rather be home watching TV and what person is worried about losing his/her job. They can sense what other people are feeling without asking.

Some famous Twos are: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Bush, Luchiano Pavarotti, Barry Manilow, Sammy David Jr., Ann Landers, and Florence Nightingale.

Twos are more likely to be women than men, and they are often deeply committed to their faith. Twos think of love in terms of taking care of others and self-sacrifice. Twos are doers – often giving all they have to others and hoping that their acts of love will be reciprocated and that others will love them in return. Twos need to be needed. In fact, Twos tend to focus all their attention and energy on meeting the needs of others and often give the impression they have no needs of their own.

Remember, though, that the Enneagram doesn’t end with defining and affirming the personality traits we each have. There is a spiritual dynamic to the Enneagram. Each personality is affirmed but each has spiritual work to do. For number Twos, it is this: On the surface, Twos seem to be offering love, but on a deeper level they are really searching for it. Twos can fall into the trap of thinking that if they directly ask someone to fulfill their needs, it will lead to rejection. They believe they live in a world where you have to be needed before you can be loved, and where you have to give in order to get. And that brings us to our traditional word today from the Gospel of Mark…

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 28-34a

In this text, Jesus recites Deuteronomy 6:4, which is famous because it summarizes the first part of the 10 commandments. But Jesus expands that verse to what is often called the Golden Rule. Jesus did not want the idea of love to only be associated with action. He wanted love to be given and shared unconditionally. That’s why he agreed with the Scribe who said that these two laws were more important than all of the elaborate offerings of the people.

This is a key message to Twos on the Enneagram. Jesus taught that regardless of our actions, our shortcomings, and our desires to be accepted, Gods love us. Twos need to be reminded that they are fully and unconditionally loved by God. Period. No one has to earn it.

Relationships mean everything to a type Two. They are the most interpersonal, warm and tactile people. They feel things deeply, and they easily express emotions. But some of the time, what they may not even realize is that they feel what others are feeling. They get their identity by seeing themselves through the lens of their relationships.

My mom called the other night. I could tell immediately that she had been crying. She had been over at my brothers’ house because they were out of town and needed her to take care of something. While she was there, she went up to his daughters’ bedrooms. Lauren just graduated from college and Hannah is a sophomore at K-State. Mom hadn’t been in their rooms for a few years and was struck by the changes of color and decoration made. She remembered painting a storybook mural on the wall in Hannah’s room when Hannah was in her early childhood and loved to hear fairytales and stories of knights and ladies. But the mural was gone. In its place are a desk and a computer and college text books. Mom remembered when Hannah was a little girl and wore her yellow galoshes and purposely splashed in every puddle and held her umbrella upside down. And she started to cry that those days are over.

In Lauren’s room, the bright middle school colors reminiscent of the 1960’s flowers were all gone. The girlish toys and fun teenage clothes were replaced with adult clothes for work. Lauren is continuing into graduate school as a speech pathologist and has been working in a facility with patients who have brain injuries. Mom cried harder for days gone by.

When she left my brother’s house, she decided to take a trip down memory lane and she took a driving tour of all the houses she’s lived in – the apartment where she lived when she was pregnant with me … and the first house she lived in as an adult….and her parent’s house. She remembered her husband carrying her through a hallway and almost dropping her. She remembered her first neighbors (also a young couple with no money) and how they helped each other paint various rooms in both houses. And she cried harder.

When she called me, she said, “I loved being a mom and I stretched it out as long as I could. But you’ve all grown up. I loved being a grandma and playing with the kids. I loved going to their games and their programs. Now most of the grandkids are grown. What am I now? Who needs me? Most of the good times I will share with all of you are in the past.”

I asked her permission to share this story and she immediately said “yes”. Then she added, “because there will be people in your church who feel the same way and it will help them to know they are not alone.” I already knew mom is a type Two. This confirmed it. She has built her life around teaching sixth graders – for 31 years and then college students for 8 more years – and being a mom and a grandma – for 55 years. She’s been a helper all her life. And now she has to be more creative about who to nurture. She has to ask herself the ultimate question for all number Twos: Who am I when no one needs me?

On the Enneagram chart, the color for Twos is red. It is the color of love and martyrdom; a symbol of unconditional devotion to people and to God. But Twos (and other types as well) have to learn to say no and free themselves from gossip, flattery, and the continual need for reinforcement.

The great news is that anyone who has the good fortune to be loved by a mature, integrated Two has a generous and giving person, an enviable friend, and an intuitively loving spouse. Twos love their lovers, their friends and their neighbors extremely well. But as Jesus said, we need to love others as we love ourselves. Loving ourselves is the key to being a healthy Two… and it probably is a good lesson for all of us!

Resources Used:
Cron, Ian Morgan and Stabile, Suzanne. “The Road Back to You; An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.” InterVarsity Press. 2016.
Heuertz, Christopher L. “The Sacred Enneagram; Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth.” Zondervan. 2017
Rohr, Richard. “Discovering the Enneagram; An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey.” Crossroad. 1992.
www.kirkofbonniebrae.org. “Abundant Love. #2 on the Enneagram”. July 2, 2017.