Type 2 | The Helper

TYPE 2

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Sin-Virtue Journey: Pride to Humility

Belief: I belong because I work harder, am a team player, help wherever I can, and earn it.

Deepest Fear: Being seen as or realizing I am worthless.

Deepest Desire: To add value to the world around me.

How they see/justify their sin: With all I do, appreciation and acknowledgement are the least of what I am entitled to as a human being.

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Overview

The 2 Types are the quintessential sidekicks. They are LeFou, Beauty and the Beast; Kenneth Parcel, 30Rock; and Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings. They are the relentless optimists, hardest workers, and willing to do anything to be of service to the world around them. Their conclusion is that being “helpful” is the greatest good, in fact, more people should just be… helpful.

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Their sin of Pride isn’t what you might think. It’s not arrogance. It’s a belief that with all the work they’ve done, they deserve their spot at the table, acknowledgement from the person they serve, and appreciation that any social convention would demand when someone has sweat blood to make an enterprise or other individual successful. Their belief is “I deserve to be thanked” and “my hard work has earned me my place here.” Their value, thus, is what they do. So they are intent listeners, frantic servants, and loyal companions.

Their journey is toward humility. And their integration lines help with that immensely.

2 wing 1 | Wonder Woman

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The smash superhero hit Wonder Woman shows a mindset that might not be completely in synch with the original character or the animated kids show representation, but Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is an excellent example of a 2w1.

We find her an optimistic young girl who just wants to be a part of the tribe. She learns of the story of their origin and their responsibility as Amazons (to protect the world from Ares, the God of War). It’s from that moment on she trains so she can contribute to the cause. And she becomes amazing.

Throughout the story, however, she displays an incredulity at both why people would ever engage in war (she’s convinced there’s no other explanation than that “mankind” has been brainwashed by Ares) and why the people with power refuse to act quickly or decisively.

Diana’s first trip to the front lines is overwhelming to her. She sees animals trapped in mud, a soldier with a leg blown off, and a mother holding a crying baby and she feels compelled to help them all (demands it even).

What’s interesting about Diana is that you have a 2 (the compulsive “helper”) with almost unlimited power. What you may not know is that Wonder Woman has been a challenge for writers. It’s taken years to find a director who would take the Wonder Woman story. The complaint has been “she’s unrelatable.” She’s almost invincible, has no iconic nemesis, and was raised in a totally foreign manner to the common person. To have a compelling protagonist they have to fall at some point, they have to face life or death, have to overcome their greatest weakness and face their greatest fears.

What the Wonder Woman story did was to give a “2” too many people to “help.” It was brilliant. It worked because it was relatable. With all her power she couldn’t accomplish what she wanted. At the same time, she proved she could eventually make people stop fighting but then faced the deeper issue: running away from the disintegration to the Lust-for-Power 8 and choosing to stay compassionate.

We see her 1 wing in her constant mantra for justice. 2w1’s have a distinct trigger when the situation is unfair or when people are bullied. Diana’s explosion at the British Intelligence meeting is a perfect example of a 2w1 tapping into their righteous motivations.

2 wing 3 | Leslie Knope, Parks and Rec

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Amy Pohler’s hit show Parks and Rec follows the adventures of a small town governmental office overseeing the city’s parks and community events. I’ve gone back and forth on if Leslie is a 2w3 or a 3w2. She certainly has the ambition and obsession with achievement and success to support the 3 theory. What I believe makes her a 2, however, is her self-policing. She often will say an aggressive or critical remark in the midst of a debate and then almost immediately correct herself and state the truth (which almost always fails to support her stance). For example, she’ll say “Ann, you are so stubborn!” and then immediately “That’s not true, you’re a beautiful warrior princess and I love you.” This isn’t typical of a 3 who would value winning above helping and would rather use psychological savvy rather than blatant debate.

At some level, though, Leslie does care about what people think of her. She’s dedicated to the people of her small town of Pawnee and loyal to a fault to her team of employees. The entire series begins (and carries through for the first couple seasons) with her desire to help Ann with her problem of a pit next to her house. She never rests until it’s done and she can fulfill her promise.

Where we see the 2 most clearly though is when she gets the briefest of affirmation from her stubborn boss Ron Swanson or later, the annoyingly perky Chris Trager. Where we love to see Leslie best are the moments when she realizes that her value isn’t in what she does but in who she is. That’s the healthy integration to the 4: my value is inherent and not tied to my actions.

2w1’s help the people they love (and they have huge hearts) because they believe it’s the right thing to do. 2w3’s by contrast help others because of who they believe it means they are (they’re “good people” and just as successful as those they help).

Integration Lines

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The 2 type is journeying from pride to humility. Their need for appreciation, acknowledgement, or affirmation is relinquished as they move toward their virtue of humility and begin to also live into the virtues of their integrated 4: equanimity. Healthy 2’s migrate from the need for validation because of what they do and instead find value inside. They don’t need others to see their worth, they embrace it themselves. They matter because… they do. They’re just as special as everyone else and completely unique just the way they are.

At their worst, 2’s live into the betrayal of those who have failed to see them as worthwhile and begin to take that power for themselves by living into the sin of the 8: Lust. Not a sexual lust, mind you, but a lust for power. 2’s instinctively go above and beyond to be recognized for their contributions, in their mind it’s undeniable that they matter. But given enough rejection, oppression, being taken advantage of, or bullied and 2’s will flip. They’ll break rules, get vengeful, and end up bitter.

Character Coaching

2’s are notoriously support characters. They’re lovable, often the comic relief, and loyal to a fault. The challenge with making a 2 a protagonist is in separating them from the rest of the herd so we can watch their story. That being said, 2’s are the iconic underdogs. They are easy targets for bullying (because it’s not often important to them to get on the level playing field with other types, many of whom are more selfish, self-absorbed, or competitive). We want the 2’s to win because everyone can see some of themselves in the 2.

For antagonists, consider that the storyline for a 2 villain is a character who has been hurt. Bullied victims who work to regain some kind of power or a character who spends time planning or enacting some revenge are good places to start. Just remember: a 2 has been rejected in some form to turn them to the dark side.

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Consider Rowan North from the Ghostbusters remake (with Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig). Here you have a janitor at a hotel who is constantly taken for granted, ordered around, and spoken to like a second-class citizen. He begins to put things in motion to release ghosts into the world as a way of punishing those who have hurt him. We want him to take the advice of the ghostbusters and realize that he’s worth being treated with respect and dignity. He doesn’t and we get an epic interdimensional battle.

Considerations

Andi Sachs from the movie The Devil Wears Prada is a great example of a 2’s victory. At the end of the movie she walks away from her controlling boss, throws her phone in a fountain and never looks back. She bravely walks away from the source of her (albeit limited) affirmation and reclaims her individuality and lives into her 4.

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2’s are idealists. They live into utopian fantasies about life, about how people should act, about how close the world is to perfection, and tend to believe the best about people. A broken 2 will be uncharacteristically skeptical about people, hesitant, and vigilant about boundaries. They want to believe the world is a wonderful place and may live on a perpetual roller coaster of hope and disappointment.

Additional Examples

Elphaba, Wicked (Broadway)

Edmund Dantes, The Count of Monte Cristo

Kimmy Schmidt, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (TV)

Wormtail/Peter Pettigrew, Harry Potter (series)

Dory, Finding Nemo/Finding Dory

Mia Thermopolis, The Princess Diaries

Type 1 | The Reformer

TYPE 1

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Sin-Virtue Journey: Anger to Serenity

Belief: There’s something wrong with the world and it starts with me.

Deepest Fear: Discovering or realizing they are “bad.”

Deepest Desire: Integrity and holiness.

How they see/justify their sin: Nothing is more important than pursuing righteousness.

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Overview

The 1 Type is known as the “Reformer.” This type sees the world through a lens of “right and wrong” or “black and white.” There’s a right way to do things and they discipline themselves to embody that righteousness. They inherently believe they are the chiefest of sinners and thus live with perpetual regret, self-condemnation, and a strict code of lifelong penance. “Anger” in this context isn’t necessarily a temper problem. Instead, the 1’s I’ve met in real life have an undertone of perpetual frustration with themselves and the world around them. The journey, thus, is toward serenity.

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An interesting observation about the 1 Type: they don’t necessarily live by an objective moral code. It’s not necessarily a religious fanaticism (although that can certainly be a part of it, especially if your character is a villain or anti-hero) but it is an adherence to a worldview that makes sense to them. 1’s can be difficult to manipulate because they’re so busy “catching up” on their own sense of righteousness, but should the character’s sage gain enough influence, your “1” can become an extremist who can also be turned martyr should their conviction go deep enough.

1 wing 9 | Bruce Banner / The Incredible Hulk

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Bruce Banner is a great example of a 1w9 character. His inner demon (which actually becomes an outer demon all too frequently) causes him incredible pain and regret. He can’t contain it. There’s a literal “sin” inside him that forces him to act outside of his control. He’s constantly living in a state of regret and (at least in the Avenger movies) is reasoned with to help atone for his sins by helping right the bigger wrongs.

An iconic Bruce Banner exchange: “Don’t you have to get angry?” “That’s my secret… I’m always angry.” Bruce has a 9 wing because his response to his sin is to withdraw. 9’s want peace and Bruce believes his isolation will protect himself and others from his uncontrollable… issues. In the first Avenger movie he’s sequestered away in India. In the second, he leaves the group in a stealth plane. He doesn’t move toward people, he moves away from them to protect them from himself.

1 wing 2 | Princess Leia, Star Wars

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One of my all-time favorite movie sagas. While Leia isn’t the central protagonist, she is an archetypal 1w2. She has an unwavering commitment to her mission, her duty, her people, and to the peace of the galaxy. She rarely gives herself the luxury of a break, can get frustrated when people don’t take the matter at hand seriously, works relentless hard and doesn’t seem to mind life-threatening danger in the name of her cause. What distinguishes her as a 1w2 is the fact that when challenged by her crusade, she moves toward people. She believes helping, supporting, and fighting for others is the expression of her sense of justice and duty. She values people, listens to them, places herself between those she’s protecting and the danger at hand. She never once considers abandoning her quest or her post (a 1w9 would likely be more prone to isolation and withdrawal). She’s (arguably) an unsung hero in this saga being one of the few characters to never really be dominated by, seduced by, or broken by “the dark side” (something to consider when crafting a 1 character: their biggest demons are almost always internal).

Integration Lines

For your 1 character you should consider the spectrum of unhealthy to healthy.

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1’s at their worst exhibit the negative sin of the 4 type: envy. This sin is the belief that “everyone has something figured out that I don’t.” That can cause them to become depressive, reclusive, feel rejected and isolated, or potentially make them even angrier or bitter. There’s an inner monologue of betrayal: I’m working so hard to be good but no one else agrees or is making an effort to address all that’s wrong with the world. What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with them?

1’s at their best lighten up and take on the virtue of the 7 Type. They let their hair down a bit, give themselves a break (and the others around them) and find their serenity by indulging in a few luxuries. This is so easy to illustrate and what makes 1’s great protagonists. We all want the relief of watching this character calm the hell down and smile.

Character Coaching

Hero 1’s are easier to write in ensemble because the buffer of more lighthearted characters can help pull readers/viewers away from what can come off as irritable and judgmental personas. Stand alone 1’s would work well with a peppy best friend or some kind of comic relief in their lives. They need people who care about them to help pull them out of their swirl of despair. But ultimately it’s their inner demons they have to face.

Villain 1’s are pretty iconic. Javert from Les Miserables is a good example of a villain 1. He’s doing the right thing but feels terrible about it. He complains that to resent justice simply doesn’t make sense to him (even though that’s exactly how he feels). You sin: you pay the price. The worst position he finds himself in is at the mercy of the “sinner” who’s acted with more nobility than himself. He finds himself in conflict over what the “right” thing to do is and it eventually overwhelms him.

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1’s can also be great foils for protagonists who have a hard time staying on task (7’s and 5’s maybe) but also can be good motivators for paralyzed or depressive 9’s or 4’s. They can be great competitors or dispassionate judges especially in storylines where meticulously following the rules is the environmental/situational villain (where the moral of the story is: lighten up.)

Considerations

I’ve heard it said that 1’s are notoriously optimistic about what they can accomplish in a given time frame. Thus 1’s (for all their striving for perfection) tend to be late to everything, apologize often, and can have lives that feel “out of their control.” It’s primarily an internal issue, the striving for perfection. Thus, exaggerated character 1’s may have messy living conditions, not worry much about their personal appearance, have addictive healthy regimens (like push themselves to exercise quite a bit too much), have personal crusades and often be found on soapboxes, and even pushing their penance onto others (especially 1w2’s) by invading their personal space or independence in an effort to “do the right thing.”

1’s can often get confused with 8’s. Here’s a fundamental difference I’ve found: both types say “something’s wrong with the world” but 1’s say: “I’m part of the problem.” 8’s believe “all of you are part of the problem.” 1’s tend to stand alone, 8’s tend to command a crowd and constantly be recruiting followers to their righteous causes. If your character is too worried about getting people to do the right thing, you may be working with an 8 instead of a 1.

Remember that 1’s may have their own “moral code” they’re following, not something objective. Their “gut” or “instinct” is driving the car and many just say “because it’s the right thing to do” without a lot of reference. 1’s also are almost never the perfectionists they claim to be. They’re not showy (like 3’s who actually do want to be perfect). They often betray their sensibilities but never without determining the punishment/penance required for such transgressions in advance. Thus, a common theme is: there is always something to regret.

Healthy 1’s are incredible assets to a team. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to incorporate their relentlessly hard working attitudes or fail to cash in on their willingness to be martyrs for a cause.

Additional Examples

Spock, Star Trek

Britta Perry, Community (TV)

Jon Snow, Game of Thrones

Frollo, Hunchback of Notre Dame (villain)

Ronan, Guardians of the Galaxy (villain)

Elsa, Frozen

 

Enneagram Basics | Three Basic Elements

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Enneagram | The 3 Basic Elements

The Enneagram is in one sense a very simple concept, but in another the most complicated, sophisticated, adaptable, and potentially subjective profile tool out there. I’ve been using it for a couple years now and still feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what’s truly available to me with this tool. It’s absolutely brilliant and with the various complexities it contains, has an infinite number of possibilities (which is great for storytelling as you tailor your characters).

There are so many layers and nuance to the Enneagram but for a primer level discussion I believe there are 3 elements to understand:

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The 9 Enneagram “Types.”

I’ll be honest, I hate the term “type.” The Enneagram is intriguing to be because unlike many of its counterparts (such as DISC or Myers Briggs) it is not a personality profile. I want to make that clear. The Enneagram isn’t describing if you like to be around people or if you get details or if you’re artistic or live according to some objective moral code. The Enneagram is something entirely different.

I wish that difference was easy to summarize, but that’s what makes it beautifully philosophical. The Enneagram is rooted in an Eastern philosophy outlining the “9 fragments of the soul.” Each point on the Enneagram is a tension between a sin and virtue combination (anger and serenity; pride and humility; fear and courage; gluttony and sobriety, etc.). We Westerners love to take these ideas and say “what’s your type?” “I’m a ___.” That’s not exactly how it works. Every sin and virtue combination should be cultivated in one’s life. Every human on earth will have moments of anger or greed or envy.

It’s not about ever experiencing that emotion, it’s about the primary lens through which you evaluate the world around you. It’s how you react to your fears and insecurities (and more importantly WHY you choose to respond the way you do). It’s about what you need and how you’re likely to respond if you don’t get it. It’s about how we interact with people and what we believe about our potential, our future, and our survival.

Your “type” is the place on the circle you tend to sit at, much like King Arthur’s round table and that “type” probably makes sense to you, probably reflects how you see the world, and probably reveals the primary challenges you face in the deepest part of who you are.

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The 18 “Wings”

As you can see, the Enneagram is drawn in a circle. While each type is numbered, they’re not a hierarchy, they’re just… seats at the table. One of the fascinating elements of the Enneagram and how it’s laid out is that each type is influenced (maybe strongly, maybe subtly) by the two types on either side (the “wings”). It’s an important distinction because it can affect the flavor of the expression of the primary type or put another way, it can explain how it makes sense to you to address the sin of your primary type.

For example, the “1” type tends to be focused on the right and wrong, black and white of the world. There’s a “right way to do things,” but for the “1” they believe the failure to live righteously starts with them. 1’s tend to be hard on themselves, live with regrets, frustrations that they haven’t been good enough, and put their greatest efforts into disciplining and punishing themselves into right living.

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But a 1 with a 9 wing is pretty distinct from a 1 with a 2 wing. A 1w9 is likely to withdraw as they work out themselves striving for the serenity (the 1’s signature virtue) in peacemaking and even isolation.

The 1w2 however is much more likely to press into relationships. This type is more likely to see their penance played out in making the people in their world better (because helping people is the “right thing to do.”)

1w9’s pull away, 1w2’s press in. It’s a big distinction but at the core of it all is still a soul angry at itself and the world for falling short of ideal and striving for serenity in the midst of the darkness.

One last thought to consider, the wings are a great place to start in cultivating a healthy character. (A humanitarian superstar 3w2 would actually benefit a lot from having some of the artistic, creative 4 wing nurtured in their lives.)

The Paths of Integration

Once you’ve identified a type and the influencing wings, the last primary element to consider is how healthy is your character. The unique geometric figure (the “enneagram”) is more than an icon, it’s actually a traced path between the numbers connecting them in a web of unhealthy to healthy.

The Enneagram suggests that the primary type (in tension between its sin and virtue) is not the only journey the soul can take. The integration lines are the two numbers connected to the primary type and illustrate the sin observed when the character is in a dark, unhealthy emotional state and the virtue added when reaching a point of health.

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For example, the 3 type is about masks. Vanity or deceit are the signature sins and the battle for authenticity is the soul’s task for the 3. This type is inherently ambitious, wants the spotlight, tends to scoff at obstacles to achievement, success, or getting what they want. They’re the golden children, the perfectionists, or maybe even the dog-eat-dog business superstars. They can be the most inspiring of figureheads or the most offensively competitive of opponents.

The disintegration of a 3 is the 9 type. What that means is that 3’s rarely accept defeat, but when they do, they can go depressive and withdraw. They begin to take on the sin of the 9 which is “sloth.” 3’s who feel like there’s no hope, no way around an obstacle, or no way to win can shut down and escape. It’s the loss of ambition, a numbing, overwhelming sense of failure, and the sheer devastation that they simply cannot finish the journey even with the use of their best “masks.”

A healthy three, however, integrates to the 6 Type and begins to express the virtue of “courage.” They come out of the limelight they crave as a 3 and join the equality and community of the group as an average participant. They bravely begin to shed the masks (the persona’s they present to get what they want or to win people over) and let people start to see the real them (their real quirks, fears, weaknesses, insecurities, etc.) and wait to see if they will be accepted or rejected for those authentic attributes of who they are.

Summary

There are other elements of the Enneagram to consider that can affect the expression of a character or person’s make up, but these are the basics. Start with questions like: who is this character? What do they want? What will they do to get it? What will they do if they don’t get it? How do they see the world? And most importantly: who will this character become through the journey?

By using these evaluative tools you can begin to see the world through your character’s eyes. When something happens, how are they likely to react? How does it support or devastate their values? How does it prey on their fears? How does the event, challenge, or quest give or take away what this character wants most? Ask these questions to let your characters lead your story instead of having them react to the circumstances you hope to create.

Make your characters believable, then we can see a bit of us in them and go on the journey ourselves.

If you’re a nerd like me, here’s some more complex descriptions you could study:

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Storytelling | Enneagram-ing Your Characters | Intro

Welcome to my little project. This and the posts that follow are 100% my opinion, 100% because I’m a nerd at heart, and 100% because I just wanted to do something creative. The Enneagram has become one of the most fascinating tools in my arsenal of learning to understand people better and the most sophisticated resource I’ve come across. So read ahead accordingly. It’s all just a bit of fun.

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I’ve done a bit of creative writing over the years. It’s so much harder than I thought it’d be because a) I struggle with imagination, b) writing has never been my strong suit, and c) I tend to tackle it logically, clinically, and in a somewhat formulaic manner. Learning the artistry side of writing stretches me (probably a healthy move for a 3w2 to cultivate my 4 wing a bit more). But one thing I think does help me is my ability to craft character profiles. It’s why I think this is worth considering. I think the strongest stories are the ones with characters who are consistent, who lead the story instead of react to it. So without further or do, here’s an intro as to why I think it matters.

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In storytelling, the characters we follow are representations of who we are at our very core. They go on the adventures we could only hope to have. They face the horrors we fear to face, the victories we dream to prevail over, and become the people we wonder if we’ll ever become. What makes a character great is when they suffer in a way that’s closely or distantly familiar to us, when they face loss, experience pain, confront insurmountable obstacles, face demons, confront bullies, or even endure the dispassionate natural disasters or threats i

n the world around us. It’s who they come out as on the other side that’s the big mystery, the big reveal. We hold our breath to wonder if it’s truly possible to weather the storms, to come out on the other side more or less… okay. We are scared of scars, fear trauma, and are fundamentally terrified of the unknown. Stories help us consider the possibilities and give us a chance to ask: in a similar circumstance, would I make it?

Life and death are the most fundamental realities we comprehend. And by taking our characters to the brink of life and death, we explore that basic primal reality and determine how we will live accordingly.

I say all this because stories that touch us deeply have to be at some level relatable (we may not understand what it’s like to be a Hobbit but we can understand the need to come out of comfort and move into bravery) but also believable. While the complexity of the human soul is far too sophisticated to fully catalog, a tool like the Enneagram can help make a character make sense. Not everyone is identical, we know that. We’re not creating robots and merely changing their programming. We’re crafting beings with ideals, personalities, hopes, fears, norms, pain, and at some fundamental level we understand as both writers and readers that any given character has limitations based on their make up.

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Bilbo Baggins was happy, like many of his Hobbit brethren, before being whisked away into his journey “There and Back Again.” A 9 on the Enneagram, his desire was for peace, for stability, and to more or less be left alone to live out the serenity of his nice little life. We’d expect him to get agitated or anxious when that stability was threatened (a disintegrated 6) but we also celebrate when he begins to find his own purpose and start to live into it (an integrated 3). We hope he’d make the move from sloth, laziness, or disengagement toward engagement, purpose, and productivity. That’s a character we understand, even when he acted outside that, he followed the basic philosophies of the Enneagram.

What we would have been confused to see is for him to get sidetracked by all the beautiful elf maidens and forget his quest in a brothel (more of a 7 move, maybe like Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek). Or for him to get depressed and lament “no one understands me” maybe giving up entirely that someone more qualified should probably take on the quest (much like his 4 nephew Frodo). That just isn’t Bilbo Baggins. He’s the optimist, he rallies the troops, supports the angsty Thorin Oakenshield when he loses his mind to entitlement and dark withdrawal. He’s not the character we need if he’s a dominating 8, a skittish 6, or an image-obsessed or vain 3.

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One of the biggest mistakes a storyteller can make is to craft a character that in essence betrays who they are by becoming what the story needs instead of acting as they would according to their personality and make up. Older cinema, for example, is hard to Enneagram because they were often one dimensional, reactionary, and idealist. Their journeys were mostly external. Consider Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I find her Enneagram far more difficult to define than the great supporting cast around her (the Scarecrow 5, the Tin Man 4, the Cowardly Lion 9 (who lived a lot in his disintegrated 6), the Deceitful Wizard 3). Many of these iconic characters acted according to where the story teller wanted to go instead of considering what this character needed, how they’d respond, what they’d do in the face of their fears, and who they’d ultimately become through the course of their journey.

Storytellers don’t have to sacrifice a great plot, give up an innovative concept, or forego a complex world. But they will find a great deal more depth in their finished product by considering who they’ve sent on these journeys by considering the personalities of who their characters are.

This goes for heroes/protagonists, villains, supporting characters, sages, even anti-heroes. Everyone has a motivation. Villains, especially, become far more compelling when they act according to their Enneagram. A villain might actually be “healthy” on their Enneagram but might merely have a conflicting ideal with our protagonist or even a competitive goal. More often than not, though, a villain will be operating out of their sin or disintegration and understanding their motivations, dysfunctions, and general unhealthiness can make them far more compelling, interesting, even sympathetic. Gone are the days when storytelling was compelling as merely good defeating evil. Characters who are relatable, even villains and anti-heroes, are deeper and more engaging. And those are the characters with whom we journey best.

Next post we’ll break down exactly what the Enneagram gives us/tell us and then we’ll start tackling each Enneagram type in more detail.

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The four adventures I could have had… and didn’t.

Regret isn’t a hard thing for me.  I think back to conversations and opportunities all the time and rehearse them.  What would I have done differently, said differently, how would I have reacted.  Risk is almost never a regret for me.   No matter how amazing it sounds, risk is always something I take to prove to myself I can take it…I rarely get the coveted “rush” from taking a chance.

However, there are a few things I just really wish would have happened.  These were viable options, legitimate opportunities and in hind sight, would have been amazing adventures.  One day I’ll make up for it.  Believe me.

The south island of New Zealand

For any of you who have seen Lord of the Rings, many of the landscapes in the movie are taken from the south island of New Zealand.  I was fortunate enough to have a dream come true and make it to New Zealand back in 2010 but only visited the north island.

Belize’s famous Blue Hole

One of the natural wonders of central America, coastal Belize has a phenomena called the Blue Hole.  In the middle of rather shallow waters you find this perfectly round hole that goes miles into the earth.  You can even tell from the picture that the depth changes dramatically.  I don’t get weird about swimming in deep water, but we’re talking deep here!

Vietnam

I had the choice between a boat ride up the Mekong river (which was incredible) and a visit to Vietnam.  While I wouldn’t have traded my awesome boat ride, everything I hear about Vietnam makes me want to go.  The famous Black Kat burger (it’s like 10 lbs of meat people…) the boats, the culture, the history and the food.  All of it sounds incredible.

Skydiving

For my sister Joy’s 18th birthday I reserved us a jump.  We got half way to the launch site and a torrential rainstorm began.  We called and they ended up cancelling the jump.  That was almost 10 years ago and I’ve never made up for it.

Any other adventures you had the chance to take but didnt?

The four things I never, ever want to do again

Adventures are exhilarating and the adrenaline rushes can be memorable, but there are just a few things, let’s be honest, that we all would never do again.  I picked up a little life lesson from an old mentor of mine: “I’ll try anything once.”  I want to be the kind of person who tries new things (because honestly, I’m not that person, I have almost no curiosity to speak of).  I do things because I want to say I’ve done them and it’s more distasteful for me to be ignorant than for me to experience something I don’t end up enjoying.

So here’s my list of “never again’s”:

Eat balut

For those of you who don’t know, balut is a delicacy in Asia.  They are sold for pennies on the street and eaten as snacks.  It doesn’t taste as bad as it looks, but hard boiled, fertilized duck egg is just a hard thing to … well swallow.  The egg I tried had been fertilized for 21 days before it was prepared, the best ones are hard boiled at 18 days.  The additional days meant that the inside had a body cavity I couldn’t bite through, a small beak beginning to form and little feathers… yeah… never again.

Ride in an African bus for 22 hours

Friends, I know many of you have had worse, and longer, and more horrific experiences and I do not discount those, but for my personal experience, the hellish journey, the heat, the smell and the claustrophobia were just a once in a lifetime deal for me.  Twenty. Two. Hours.

Brush my teeth with Guatemalan tap water

Guatemala and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love Guatemala and Guatemala’s intestinal parasites love me.   Enough said.

Touch the floor in China

Sometimes you just stick with what you’re best at.  China does walls but not floors.  The country and culture (and food) have some incredible things to rave about…the hygiene and sanitation is not one of them (at least in the places I personally visited…grain of salt).  Squatty potty water should not be used to mop the carpet…the c.a.r.p.e.t.  But maybe that’s just me.

What else you got?  Anything you’d never do again?

The four coolest things made by humankind

I’ve been fortunate to see quite a few of humanity’s accomplishments in my travels. There are many that I’d like to add to that list but just haven’t made it there yet (I’m coming for you Pyramids of Giza…).

Machu Picchu, Peru

It’s not just an impressive structure, it’s an impressive structure built at 12,000 feet! The thought of having to get all of the materials up to that altitude is incredible. The llamas are pretty cool too (unless they’re alpacas…doh!)

The Great Wall of China

It’s the one man-made structure that can be seen from space. It’s not just long, but it did the job. Getting up and over would be impossible if defended by an army. Crazy idea but simple!

The Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Ever since I was little I was fascinated by the idea of Ancient Greece. The gods of Olympus, the legends and myths, the heroes and villains. They were all mesmerizing to me.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, France

So it may not compare in size to the other three, but Notre Dame was one of the coolest sites I’ve visited. To the casual viewer, it’s just another beautiful, old European church, but if you look closely, the detail in the construction and the stories that are told in every nook and cranny are awe-inspiring! I could have spent days in and around there!

What else you got folks? What other man-made structures or places have inspired you?

The four scariest things I’ve ever done

I liked this theme of cataloging my enterprises.  After seeing amazing sights in nature, I immediately started thinking about the moments of courage that I relished.  There is still an apprehension in hindsight about the moments of impending sheer irrational stupidity that I now call “courageous acts.”  But in any event, here they are:

Cliff Jumping in Manila, Philippines

I’m a fan of back flips, but the 40-45 foot plummet kept me definitively straight up and down for this one.  It’s strange the moment of truth that you hit when you’re about to jump.  The longer you wait, the worse it is.  I’m a fan of the “jump and deal with it” method.

Caving in southeast Tennessee

One of the coolest/strangest things I’ve done.  We went on a four hour caving excursion.  Took us several hundred feet underground.  We all had miner’s hats with lights and battery packs.  We reached the half way point in this huge cavern and all turned our lights off.  The guide explained that if you wave your hand in front of your face you THINK you can see your hand because your mind knows it’s there.  But the reality is that without light, your brain is just putting the pieces together, your eyes aren’t offering anything to the equation.  Crazy!

Skiing down a Black Diamond in North Carolina

I’m not a great skier but I believe that I have progressed in my skills over the times I’ve been skiing.  However, my first time looking down my first black diamond was genuinely terrifying.  Terror for me is preemptive regret.  Especially if there’s a chance I could get hurt, I have no problem throwing an internal temper tantrum about doing the thing I now absolutely don’t want to do.  And just for the record, totally biffed it on my first turn and lost a ski…but it wasn’t nearly as humiliated as riding the lift back down.

The “Big Swing” in Graskop, South Africa

It was not a bungee jump, but might as well have been.  Someone had died on it 4 months before we went (which makes the adventure that much more incredible).  4 seconds of free fall gives you time to scream, take a breath and scream again before you catch.  You fall off backwards and look up the waterfall as you plummet.  Takes your breath away.  Scary, but fun.

What you got?  I know some of you have swam with sharks, sky dived, and a host of other things.  What are some of your courageous moments?

The four most amazing things I’ve ever seen

I had a new experience last week that I have to add to my “done that” list.

I hope you keep a “done that” list. I used to be super irritated that I’d always win those games of “Never have I ever” because…well, I hadn’t done anything. That’s a really stupid game to win by the way…

But I can say with pride that I’ve made an effort to expand my horizons and have had some unbelievable experiences to date.

If you can’t already tell, I’m a compartmentalizer (don’t know if that’s a word…the dotted red underline just popped up). So this isn’t about all the amazing things I’ve done, this list is specifically things in nature. (Many of these pictures are borrowed, but you’ll just have to trust me: been there, done that.)

Top 4: here you go:

Snorkeling off the Two Mile Reef off the coast of Vilanculous, Mozambique

Seriously people, schools of “dory’s” and “marlin’s” but on steroids. The water was hazy the day we went both because a storm was coming but also because the reef stirs up all sorts of microscopic bacteria that feed and fuel the reef. I’ve never been so close to octopi, eels, schools of fish nearly half my size, 8-10 legged starfish and turtles. Mezmerizing…can’t even tell you.

Swimming in a Bio-luminescent Bay in Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Just happened last week. Take a close look at that picture. Those are people in the water. That light you see is the bacteria IN THE WATER. It glows when it’s moved. Fish swimming by look like streaks of lightning. I’ve never been in such a magical place before. Pictures can’t do it justice. You just gotta go.

The stars in Southern Africa

Light pollution is officially NOT overrated. When you are out in the middle of nowhere, and the moon is dark, the stars are more brilliant than you can possibly imagine. After spending two months in southern Africa, I could look up and literally get lost for hours considering how many stars there are, how bright and far away they exist and the fact that God created each one.

Rafting the Nile in Jinja, Uganda

Even our Scottish guide said that the Nile was the best rapids in the world. Seeing a class six rapid (which are so dangerous it’s illegal and unwise to even attempt rafting) was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life. Sheer power thundering around you is a moment I’ll never forget.

I know many of you have had some unbelievable adventures as well. What are some sites/sounds/experiences in nature that have inspired or awed you? Pass it along!

How to be Insignificant

While there’s a wit to this series, I’ll admit, it’s actually kind of hard to write…

I’ve chosen particular topics that hit deep to the core of myself and the areas through which God has been walking with me to freedom.

I’m taking next week off of blogging while I travel. I hope to bring some new direction and inspiration when I return.

I was asked once “what’s so wrong with wanting a nice, stable, comfortable life? why can’t I just live my life, make money, buy a house, have a family and just be happy?”

It was an intriguing question.

My response was this: “what if that’s all some people have the potential for? what if other people had the potential to make a legitimate difference in the world… is it their responsibility, if they can, to do something that matters?”

And in that case…which type of person are you?

Living a life of insignificance is absolutely more comfortable than living a life with a contribution that matters. If you find yourself deficient in the “potential” category or simply don’t want to do any more work than what it takes to fulfill yourself in blissful hedonism, here are a few guidelines for you to stay passive, benched and insignificant.

1) Stand firmly in the conviction that ignorance is bliss. You’re responsible for what you’re aware of so a great way to live a distanced, insignificant life is to remain uneducated and unaware of the realities of the world. Don’t think about starving children, poverty-stricken areas, refugees from war-torn areas, displaced people from natural disasters, disease, death or even the simple ills of life like relational challenges or other people like yourself who are riddled with self-obsessed narcissism.

2) Keep a low opinion of your abilities, competencies and passions. If you don’t think you have anything to offer: YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT. Empowerment is a devastating blow to insignificance. Remember: perception is reality, if you BELIEVE you’re worthless, you’ll ACT like you’re worthless.

3) Pick a side. Apathy is for the indecisive. True insignificance is when you are aware but decide to stay firmly out of the game. Pack out your schedule with so many things that making any kind of selfless contribution would be out of the question. If you get really good at this, you’ll find “noble” things to distract you from these contributions such as working for a ministry (so you “put in your time” at work and can dismiss needs during your off hours).

4) Choose a life of voluntary poverty. Many do this to relate to those to whom they minister. When you lack resources, it will always be a challenge to be generous and you’ll often spend your time figuring out how to make money instead of being free to give your time to things that matter.

5) Justify living tight-fisted with your resources. Take all that wonderful advice you got growing up to save your money, plan for the future, make wise investments and manage your resources to the penny. Tithing, generosity and financially blessing others can still be your “first-fruits” without ever requiring sacrifice or compassion. The Good Samaritan was an anomaly and should be treated as merely an inspiring story (he was probably rich anyway).

6) Let your emotions to the decision making. If you get moved by that commercial on TV that says to feed the kids in Africa or save the abused puppies go ahead and give, but if the pitch doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy: your indifference is releasing you from participating.

7) Assume God’s got it taken care of. He’s in control and there are so many people out there doing good things (even humanitarians). Operate under the premise that God will make it undeniably clear when he has an assignment for you. Otherwise, stay passively out of the way until the opportunities come to you.

Leaving the world a better place than when we found it is an inspiring thought… but you can go your entire life surfing on the contributions made by others. As long as your life is comfy and pleasant you can die happy… right?