I’m a dyed in the wool optimist (BTW, where exactly does that saying come from?). While I’ve generally loved this character trait about myself, it’s irritated some people, often rightly so. What I mean by that is I prefer my positivity to be undiluted by pain, sorrow, hurt, grief, and the like. In short, I DON’T want to feel all the feels. On my bad days my hope lacks realism.
Another way to say this is I’m a glutton, which, on its positive side means I’m an enthusiast. How exactly are optimism and gluttony related you might be wondering? Great question! Have you ever taken a personality test? You know, like the Myers-Briggs test, where you find out you’re say an ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) or one of the other 15 combinations the test gives? Well, last year I dove into a different sort of personality “test”, the Enneagram, wherein I discovered I’m a 7, which means I’m an Enthusiast.
While much could be and has been said about the Enneagram, I’d like to focus on what I see as its defining and most life-giving trait. The Enneagram helps you see both your best and worst traits, your good and bad, your light and shadow selves … and realize they’re actually interrelated, interconnected, and flip sides of the same coin. This means, embracing your deadly sin is a key for finding wholeness. So, these last few months I’ve been working on incorporating my gluttony. I’m growing to LOVE how I want to do all the fun things, pack my days full of goodness, experience lots of joy, stay super positive, and NOT be sad, hurting, or in pain.
Hmm, you might be thinking: That doesn’t sound particularly healthy, feeling all the feels is GOOD, being ALL happy ALL the time isn’t realistic, and packing days full of fun doesn’t leave time for rest, unwinding, and feeling. YES! That’s absolutely true! My point is, loving and embracing my gluttony has been and will be ESSENTIAL for my ongoing transformation of it. As Richard Rohr said: “Jesus and Saint Francis had a genius for not eliminating or punishing the so-called negative side of the world, but incorporating and using it. … Your task is to find the good, the true, and the beautiful in everything, even and most especially the problematic. The bad is never strong enough to counteract the good.” As I mentioned before, I’m an Enthusiast and the flip side of this coin is Gluttony. This means if I simply threw away my tendency toward excess when it comes to pleasure, and avoidance when it comes to pain, I’d ALSO be tossing out my positivity and hope. Either the WHOLE coin stays or the ENTIRE thing goes.
In the Enneagram’s school of thought, we all have a deadly sin (note, the Enneagram adds deceit and fear to the seven traditional cardinal sins), and health is NOT found by throwing it away or ignoring it, wholeness comes only when we see it, embrace it, and REDEEM it. Redemption is restoration. It means finding, naming, fostering, and growing the beauty that’s been marred, defaced, or hidden.
I’m convinced pretty much EVERYTHING comes from/has a kernel of goodness (as I understand it, philosophy backs this up by saying evil has no generative power. Evil CANNOT create, it can only twist and warp, which means EVERYTHING created comes from Good.) This means my deadly sin, gluttony, comes from something positive, its root is enthusiasm, or positivity and hope. Gluttony is NOT realistic, it takes all the good and none of the bad, meaning its redemption lies in reality.
The real world is a messy and complex place. It’s beautiful and broken. There’s pain, hurt, starvation, disease, abuse, oppression, and violence ALL AROUND and WITHIN US. I’m convinced Love is the most powerful force in the world and CANNOT be overcome by any evil … however, it doesn’t ignore or exclude said Evil, but “overcomes” it by INCLUDING it. Likewise, when I include the pain in my positivity, it makes it both realistic and all the more powerful.
I have multiple beautiful friends who’ve gone through hell in the last year. It’s not my place to go into details about their lives and tragedies, so I’ll just paint a broad picture. People dear to me have gone through devastating breakups, possible divorce, divorce, severe injuries and/or illnesses, and the death of people close to them. My impulse (i.e. my unredeemed gluttony) is to tell them everything’s going to be great, point out all the good things in their lives, and/or mostly ignore his or her suffering.
YET, embracing my deadly sin has allowed me to see this temptation in myself, which allows me to often face and overcome it. Instead of avoiding, I feel, meaning I cry, I rant, I rage, I grieve, and so on. And in that space I’m able to live and speak hope, positivity, and Love in a realistic manner that can impact people (please note, I don’t AT ALL always do this, I’m not a hero or anything, I’m talking about my good days in hopes of encouraging us ALL to have MORE good days 🙂
I’ve found the Enneagram to be super helpful, and I think it might be able to aid you too. It’s allowed me to realize my gift is bringing realistic Light and Love to others (and myself) in the midst of the messiness of life. What I mean is, when I’m mindful of my tendency toward gluttony, my positivity/hope doesn’t ignore hurt, pain, sorrow, trauma, etc. but instead includes it and thus brings more heaven into the specifics of that situation and person/people. What’s a dark part of your personality? What might your cardinal/deadly sin be? What kernel of good do you think it might contain/come from? How can seeing this and embracing it lead you to greater health, wholeness, and Love?
If learning more about the Enneagram and what it has to say about your personality and light/dark sides sounds interesting, here’s a couple of good websites: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enneagram_of_Personality (the table partway down on this one is especially helpful I think).
If you enjoyed this blog you can sign up for email notifications of future ones on the right. Additionally, I have a Facebook page where I regularly post articles, blogs, quotes, meditations, etc. to encourage us to more Light and Love. Again, to the right there’s a link for you to “Like” the page. ❤
Grace and peace,