When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Job 1:11
It will probably not surprise anyone who knows me that my enneagram types are achiever and helper. There’s another one, but at the moment, I cannot remember what it is. I will have to take the on line test again! What’s an enneagram? It is a group of nine personality types that sometimes overlap into “wings.” You generally have one main type and two others called “wings” that identify your character. The enneagram is a different way of looking at your God given nature and can reflect the way you that you work, build relationships and serve others. The Achiever personality is defined as “The Success- Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious.” The Helper personality is defined as “The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive.” Yup, that’s me. Striving for success while stretching as much as I can to take care of everyone around me. The nurturing, driven, people pleasing giver. A recipe for disaster if allowed to run wild without boundaries because I want to fix things and I want to fix them RIGHT. Including you if you have a problem. But, I am learning, with the help of the young woman I mentored, who is now mentoring me, that stuff might need to be fixed, but people don’t. People just want need to be recognized and have their feelings validated. She’s been through a tough time and experienced some tragedy. She noted that what she needs is just people who will sit with her in her pain. She doesn’t need suggestions of how to get over her grief or platitudes about how God will use her situation to make her stronger or better. I’m reading a book called One Breath At A Time: A Skeptic’s Guide to Christian Meditation by J. Dana Trent. Trent opens the book by saying, “Instead of responding to my pain with, ‘How awful. I’m so sorry,’ my lunch mates propose a barrage of suggestions because they know it will be ‘just the thing’ … to cure me forever.” Talking to my young friend and reading this book convicted me of the many times that someone has been hurt or in pain and I have acted the same way. My “I can fix this” attitude and the “wisdom” I espouse simply kicks a person when they are already on the ground. While I try to offer a hand up, what they really need is for me to lie down beside them and bring comfort with my company. It’s a common human trait; even Job’s story in the Old Testament illustrates this principle. Job’s friends showed up, but they didn’t know enough to keep their mouths shut. They gave Job a lot of bad advice and succeeded only in making him feel worse. I am trying to remember Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar when I encounter others’ grief. I do not want to be like them. Instead, I say, “That is awful. I am so sorry” and sit in silence with them.