Growing up in my family of origin, it was normal to discuss how absurd other people’s choices were. I heard (and eventually said) things such as, “Who does that?!” and “Iwould NEVER act like that!” We pretty much had the corner on the market when it came to how to parent, how to behave in public and just generally how to do everything and how to be at all times.
I carried on this tradition with my own family for longer than I care to admit. At some point I realized in the midst of utter shame that I was the leader of my “judgmental & gossipy pack,” so I began praying a bunch and worked toward not criticizing almost everyone we encountered on the regular. It was clear to me that, while I believed almost every “normal” family did this on their way home from gatherings, it was not healthy, nor very Christlike, and I wanted better for my children. I wanted better for myself and my character.
Several years ago, after I had been intentionally working on extinguishing this ugly behavior, I felt very convicted and decided I didn’t want to participate in it with my family of origin any longer. This is when I realized that what we were doing was gossiping and I could put a name to my sin. Up to this point, it had honestly not dawned on me that what we were doing was judgmental gossiping. The next time I was on the phone and my family member began to criticize another family member’s parenting and marital choices, I calmly said, “I feel like what we’re doing is gossiping and I don’t want our conversations to be about this kind of stuff. I would prefer to talk about you or something else because…” And at that point the other person began screaming at me a bit maniacally, hung up on me, and then did not speak to me for almost 4 months. This was not how I envisioned this scene. I was certain that after I had poured so much prayer into it and was speaking out of my own shame and love that it would be received in kind.
I’d like to tell you that I never get in the car with my family and begin to chat it up about how so-and-so spoke to so-and-so very rudely or how much so-and-so bragged about his whatever, but that would be a lie. The good news is that since we’ve been working on this as a family for years, I can usually count on someone to guide me back to Jesus in love.
It’s not unusual for my husband, our three youngest children and I to occasionally discuss what we believe is gossip. Because while we believe that our family is a safe place to vomit without judgement, we also, now and then, cross the line into the realm of gossip and/or judgement. It is a fine line, and sometimes, when our emotions are high or our egos are bruised or someone’s heart has been broken, my mama-bear comes out in all of her ferocious “glory,” instead of my faithful daughter in her beautiful humility. Sometimes because we are all reeling from the unfair blow one of us received, we forget Who has us and we don’t pull each other back into His will, or toward the faith that He’s working it all out for a minute.
Now, let me just say that the only thing worse than not being gently pulled away from the ledge of judging and gossip is a confidant who immediately throws anecdotal christianity all over my pain, so that I don’t feel seen or heard, but I do feel as if I’ve been served a big old judgement sandwich. I know that people think that they are helping and pointing me back toward Jesus, but before doing that, a wounded person needs to feel safe, heard and not judged. (and if you ask my kiddos they will tell you I’ve done this a time or two)… Just the other day, one of my precious children was sharing the anxiety he was experiencing, and I immediately began wrapping it all up in a nice little b.s. Jesus package to which he replied, “I know all of that, Mom, I just need to express my feelings in a safe place before I can get there. Please don’t shame me.” I thought I was making him feel better, but, really, he just needed to be heard without judgement and without me trying to fix everything. – Like I could do that in a million years, anyway!
So, initially I joined right in to the sin of my family of origin. As an adult and especially, as a mama I realized this sin was wrong. Years after that I could name the sins – Judgement and Gossip. All the while, I have been praying about this, feeling shame off and on as I stumble, and then I heard about something called the enneagram. I’ve done plenty of personality tests, many of which have been extremely helpful and had a positive effect of my life such as MBTI, StrengthsFinder, love languages, and spiritual gifts tests. The enneagram, however, has definitely had the biggest impact on my life. In the evolution of this particular sin, it has been a game-changer. Your enneagram number is not a personality test, but it is more about determining the essence of who God made you to be.
I’ve been studying the enneagram for almost three years and my whole family is very into it. It has helped me see how I behave in unhealth and understand why I have been and done SO many of the things I’ve done and been since forever. Partnered with the other personality tests I’ve taken, I’ve been able to walk more fully in my daughter identity than ever before. It has also helped me understand more fully the people I love most in the world – and often other people who may offend or hurt me. As a 2, I listen to and read anything I can get my hands on that explains my husband and our children so that I can meet their needs in just the way they need them met. I’m all about meeting the needs of people before they even know that they have that need. As I’ve taken in this knowledge about other people’s essences/enneagram strengths, I feel as if my eyes have been opened anew and I am understanding how others view, react and behave in a way I never did before – especially considering my family of origin and the fundamental belief we cultivated that our way was the only and right way.
Which brings me to the next stage of the evolution of my sin… As I’ve learned more about others and their essences, I’ve realized how arrogant I’ve been in judging people through the years. Of course, I realized years ago I was gossiping and in that I was being judgmental, but now I also realize how arrogant it is to believe that the way I am motivated is the only correct way to be motivated – and that, of course, we all think the way we believe is the correct way or we wouldn’t behave the way we do. This may seem very obvious to most of you, but it has been revolutionary for this girl. In learning about each number of the enneagram, I’ve learned more about the lenses we each look through because of childhood wounds and what motivates us at our core.
There are times when I wish I would’ve known about the enneagram before I had married or had children, so that I could’ve been a better wife and mama, or just before I made SO MANY MISTAKES, not because I would not have made any, but because I would’ve made less and had more grace for myself and everyone who crossed my path. I’m more than thankful that my children have this tool at such a young age and that they understand it isn’t just a narcissistic information source so that they can talk about themselves or make excuses for their personality flaws, but a rich source of information about how they can work (hard) toward growing into the person God is calling them to be.
I’m thankful for the evolution that God has enriched my life with. I won’t lie to you and say it’s been a joyful journey… not even most of the time. It’s always been worth it, though, and the alternative is not even worth considering for this girl.