Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Reformer.

My Uncle works at a community center that serves the homeless. He's a retired minister (as was his father and my father) and is given the opportunity to teach classes on various interests. The past few times I've seen him he's talked most about his class on The Enneagram. The what? The Enneagram. (, check it.) It's a personality test that assesses a dominant personality-type that describes how we see the world, or really, react to the world. The test is accompanied by a logo that resembles a sweet-super-hero-emblem-looking-pentagram with 9 points on its star; The 9 points represent these dominant personality types: The Helper, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Investigator, The Loyalist, The Enthusiast, The Peacemaker, The Reformer, and The Challenger.

The Enneagram system believes that we are born with a dominant personality type which is determined by "inborn temperament" and "pre-natal factors." As the system explains, we all have various pieces of each of the 9 types, but one is always dominant, and this dominant type does not change. If it's determined I'm a Helper I cannot suddenly be a Challenger, even though I may start feeling more like the description of The Challenger.

As my Aunt and Uncle were discussing their types my Uncle said: "I generally feel like I'm doing things the best way and want everyone else to do them my way too." I can't remember positively, but based on the description below, I think he's The Reformer.

The Reformer: Reformers are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

Something clicked: This is exactly the way I think!

Fatherhood has been a strange journey toward finding methods that work for me when Candice is not around. Our household is Mommy-centric by design. Candy bravely accepted the havoc that pregnancy wreaked upon her body and spent 30 hours in the labyrinth of labor as Franny begrudgingly required us to surgically-extract her. She's willingly given her time and body, since day one, so Franny can eat, sleep, and cuddle as she needs to. I do my best to hold her hand and support her so she can do these things and still keep her sanity. I take an immense amount of pride in the times when I'm able to keep Franny engaged enough that she forgets Candy is gone. But when Mommy returns and does something differently than I have, or think I would-have, that pride turns me into a scum-bag who creates the air of "I told you so." Really supportive Aaron, really supportive. And how easily I forget the incalculable amounts of times when my wonderful wife saves the day by doing exactly what our baby needs at the exact time she needs it, evading all complications.

A question weaseling its way into my mind: What are the potential reasons that influence why people make the decisions they make?

If there is one thing that my folks are good at complaining about, it's other drivers. Without her being in the car I still hear my mom's classic "Get it rollin' Duuuude!" every time someone is unaware that the light turned green. It's become a household favorite for us as I imitate it with a vibrato-warble in the "Duuuude!" Makes me laugh every time! A buddy of mine once told me he read a study where a survey concluded that something like 93% of drivers think they're better at driving than everyone else. Nowadays, I think righteous-road-rage is a little more understandable as the youngsters text and Facebook their ways to-and-fro while their knees hold the wheel. But I'm guessing, for as mad as we get at those obvious hazards, most of the time people are probably just distracted for the moment: lost in thought, or conversation, or a story on NPR. Innocent reasons.

A few months ago I had a run-in with a coworker, whom I actually love dearly, about something that was left in his way. He had a decently narrow path to traverse and someone placed something in the way, preventing him to get by. Rather than move it to wherever he'd deem a better spot and carry on, he proceeded to berate the theoretical "moron" who made the decision to leave the obstacle where they did. I was having a short-on-patience kind of day, and this was the straw that broke me. I tore into him for what I saw as his sheer arrogance at thinking someone intentionally tried to screw him over. With vitriol, I sarcastically spewed forth: "Yeah, of course, if everyone did everything the way you do it everything would run perfectly!" There's no way anyone could have had any other reason to put that there than to fuck-you-up right?!?" After I was done raging, I explained why I got so riled up, and asked his forgiveness. He obliged.

Really, the source of this explosion was the mirror my buddy was pointing at me. He was saying things that I hate, but I used to be right there, damning "culprits" for being "morons who are doing everything wrong." In the past couple years I've worked hard to embrace what should be obvious: people think and do things differently than I do. This inclination towards judgement is a demon I wrestle with regularly.

The grace within the Enneagram system is that it explains no personality type is inherently positive or negative, and none of them are better than others, they just are. They have strengths and weaknesses, room for growth, and each hopes to present opportunities for introspection about how we think and react. I've not taken the test, who knows, maybe The Reformer wouldn't encapsulate me after all. But the mere title of it, The Reformer, struck a cord, for good and for bad.

If I am to be a reformer, let it be me who is the subject of the reformation.

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