Let us embrace ourselves, and our differences

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I just returned from a weekend at the beach participating in our church’s annual women’s retreat.

This year, we were led in a study of the Enneagram, an ancient spiritual tool that suggests all people are described by one of nine different personality types.

Unlike many personality assessment programs, the Enneagram not only describes the different types, but offers direction into how a person of each type can grow and how they might relate to other kinds of people. The wisdom shared within the weekend was rich.

I’ve studied the Enneagram before, but this time I came away with a few lessons that I hope will stick with me and may be insightful for others, too.

Many of us have parts of our personalities that we struggle with.

For much of my life, I have worried that I was too rigid and too much of a perfectionist. I disliked that part of myself and wished that I were more like others who can let things roll off their backs and be less serious about life.

But, I have come to embrace the gifts of my type: I get things done; I have a strong sense of right and wrong and will work improve things; I can be wise and discerning.

Each of us can use our tendencies in both helpful and harmful ways. The key is for us to be aware of what we are doing and make choices about how we will respond to the situations in which we find ourselves.

I was reminded that it takes all types of people to make the world go around. The world needs people with different gifts, strengths and passions.

The achiever might need the gifts of the perfectionist to get the job done. The deep thinker helps the adventurous sort to stay grounded. The assertive challenger needs the peacemaker to smooth things over and to build relationships so that his or her leadership can make an impact.

There is not one type of person that is best. We all need each other’s gifts and passions.

Even more, while we all have a certain way of being that we lean back on, we all have aspects of each personality type within us.

In order for us to be whole, to be our best selves, we have to seek more balance between these different parts of ourselves.

When we try to develop the parts of ourselves that are less likely to surface, we grow in ways that make us better and healthier people.

Our retreat leader told us that the job of the church, or of the community, is to help direct people to the wholeness of the world, to help others discover that their unique gifts are needed. This is a worthy calling. This is gospel, she said.

How wonderful would our world be if we all embraced the gifts of who we are and offered them to the world? If we embraced the gifts of others who are different from us, knowing that it takes all of us to make our world whole?

Perhaps there would be less violence. Perhaps more laughter and less anxiety. A lot more love and peace. Let it be so, Lord. Let it be so.

The Rev. Julie Long is associate pastor and minister of children and families at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon.