I think one of the challenges in the third-third of life is to practice speaking truth. This is hard. We have to first speak truth to ourselves and if we are brave we can learn to speak truth to others also.
I’ve been working on this, using as a scaffolding, the Enneagram, an ancient tool for understanding our true and false selves. I’m not going to try to explain the Enneagram, as it is complex but certainly worthy of study. There are many great books out there to guide you through it, and wonderful websites, too, and it’s especially fun to explore with a group of friends.
But I want to share how the Enneagram is helping me speak truth to myself and how I’m risking speaking truth to others also.
The first thing The Enneagram showed me was my basic personality type, The Helper. When I’m at my best I’m loving, kind and helpful. The hard truth about myself, that I also had to face, is that at my worst I can become “over-helpful.” Other words for this are bossy and controlling. Eeek! I didn’t want to believe that. But letting myself hear and believe that truth about me has allowed me to look more deeply to what is happening when I act in my “helpful” ways. It is usually stress, fear and insecurity that drive these behaviors in me.
Now, when I see myself beginning to get, “over-helpful,” I have two mantras that I say to myself:
- “This is not your responsibility,” and/or,
- “They have not asked you for help.”
I’m learning to catch myself before becoming overbearing and over-helpful toward others.
The Enneagram as a Gift of Understanding
The wonderful news about the Enneagram is that it also shows you the “gifts,” in your true self. What I found is that my true self is creative, and that I had no space in my life for creativity. This awareness allowed me to consciously make room for creativity in my life by setting aside a day a week to explore it and that is when I started writing. What a gift writing has been for me! It feeds my soul.
Speaking truth to myself has been difficult but harder still has been speaking truth to others. I’m a people pleaser by nature and love to have people like me. Speaking the truth in love does not always lead to a happy result, but it is very freeing.
Recently, I wrote a letter to a near relative who had hurt me by cutting off our relationship over a disagreement. I explained, in a letter, my hurt, using, “I was hurt when…,” language and offered forgiveness, and an opportunity to talk further, if he so desired. I assured him that I was not expecting or needing a response but was letting go of the hurt so that I could move on.
I have not heard back from this person, but sending the letter and speaking my truth felt very freeing — and I’m not sitting around watching the mailbox either. Just being honest and letting go was enough for me. If this all leads to a healed relationship, that would be frosting on the cake.
I’m tired of living an inauthentic life, and being truthful, first with myself and then with others, is a new way of being in the world for me. It is not always comfortable, but I think it is a growth edge I am willing to embrace.
Jacci Turner, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is the Director of Bereavement and Spiritual Care for a small community hospice. She is also the author of ten published books for young adult and middle grade children. Her latest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, is available for pre-order from Harper Legend. Jacci enjoys training and supervising spiritual directors and writing blogs about spiritual formation. You can find out more about Jacci at her website: http://www.jacciturner.com/