Some evil in the best of us

October 11, 2020

Sometimes people talk about places having enneagram numbers. Like most people seem to agree that Portland is a 4 city, which seems about right to me.

I’ve heard it said that the United States is a 3 country. And maybe that’s true. But in an election year, 6+ months into the covid era, 4+ months into protests, it doesn’t feel that simple.

In general, I don’t read comments on social media or news articles on principle. But I’ve gone down the rabbit hole a few times in the last couple of weeks, following the death of RBG and the presidential debate. And I don’t know if movements or ideologies can have enneagram numbers, but in reading those comments it sure felt like the left is a 3 movement and the right is a 6 movement.

That isn’t to say that every individual on the left is a 3, or that 6s always identify with the right — rather that the qualities (positive and negative) of 3 are represented in the rhetoric of the left, and likewise the qualities of 6 in the rhetoric of the right.

Of course, 3 and 6 share a line on the central triangle of the enneagram, which reminds me of a quote I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.

So often the things that bother me most in others are things that are also true of me. Instead of the evil within inspiring empathy, it inspires derision. I condemn other people when I’m actually condemning myself.

Could that also be true of our political alignments? We label the other as evil because of the evil we feel in our selves. Instead of acknowledging and surrendering that evil in humility, we suppress and deny and project it onto others.

If it’s questionable whether movements can even have numbers, I certainly don’t know if they can take on the qualities of numbers with which they share a line — but if they can, both of these movements have access to the equanimity of 9. And if there was ever a time for the 9 gift of seeing all sides, this is it.