The Way The World Works: Enneagram Twos
At our core, we all fear we might be too little, too frail, or too powerless, so we inflate our sense of self to make ourselves appear more than we are. We fear our own inadequacy, but we hope that if we appear more than adequate to others, they will believe the act and affirm we are indeed enough. We are like a roadside reflector, who hopes one day a passing headlight will give us our own internal source of illumination.
Twos fear they are unworthy of love, so they project the image of being an extraordinarily helpful, self-effacing, and nurturing person—one worthy of love. They take pride in this self-image, hoping others will see their caring nature and their good deeds and love them in return. The two becomes so convinced of the worthiness of their good deeds, they believe they should be loved for their service.
The two’s caring persona can only be achieved by eliminating their own needs. Functionally speaking, you cannot serve others if you are burdened by your own needs. Emotionally speaking, acknowledging one’s own needs is tantamount to admitting they aren’t worthy of love. Twos intuit others’ needs and habitually move to meet them. They tend to think others are wired the same way. If others do not meet their needs without their asking, then their unmet needs becomes evidence of their lack of self-worth.
Pride, for the two, is not only an inflated sense that they have no needs but also a sense that the objects of their help and nurture are so dependent on their efforts that their dependents would fall apart if they ceased to be of service. Twos’ caring and gentle persona doesn’t appear prideful, but their inflated sense of the important role they play in caring for others demonstrates a subtle, deeply compelling sense of pride.
Twos manipulate reality in an effort to earn the love they desire. They have lost touch with the reality that before they had done anything right or anything wrong, God chose them (Romans 9:11).
At an early age, we learn about love through boundaries. At their core, twos must recover their appreciation for boundaries in order to discover their true nature as beloved. Boundaries tell us we are special, and specialness is the first vehicle for God’s love. God’s love is first mediated to young children through the loving gaze of a parent who messages specialness to their child through stories of their extraordinary nature. “When you were born, you were lifting your head in the delivery room. You know most babies can’t lift their heads for weeks. You’re special.” Imagine Hebrew mothers and fathers showering specialness and love on their children saying:
Do you remember the story of your great grandfather Abraham? Your grandfather was chosen by YHWH. He was promised land, and now, that land is our homeland. Our home is special. Your grandfather was given a new name…a new identity… Abraham. His name… and now your name… is special. YHWH promised Abraham he would have many children… special children like you. We are a special people.
In short, boundaries allow for a set-apartness that leads to specialness; Young children first find love in their special identities.
Of course, we all struggle and fail to fully realize our identity as God’s chosen ones. Jacob, the Hebrew patriarch, was no different. The name Jacob comes from a Hebrew verb meaning to cheat. This unlikely hero was the younger twin of his brother Esau.[i] Jacob, as the son of Abraham, was already chosen by God, but he, like each of us, was estranged from his true identity. We see this from the very beginning as Jacob grasps at Esau’s heel (Gen. 25:26). Grasping is a sign of Jacob’s greedy and manipulative actions to come.
Like twos, the world over, Jacob grasps and manipulates his way to blessing. A blessing is the pronouncement of your true identity as the special, and beloved one of God. Jacob manipulated others into obtaining a specialness he already possessed, much in the same way Enneagram twos seek to conjure love from others through good deeds.
Jacob first seizes the opportunity to manipulate his brother Esau to give him his birthright when, in a moment of great hunger and fatigue, Esau agrees to turn over his status as the oldest son to his younger brother in exchange for soup. Jacob having obtained the special status of being the oldest, goes on to cloak himself in his brother’s clothes and trick his father, blind with old age, into believing he is Esau. It works, and Isaac blesses him saying, “Let peoples serve you/and nations bow down to you.” (Gen. 27:29)
However, Jacob’s ill-gotten birthright and blessing doesn’t register on an emotional level. He knows his status is the product of manipulation, much as the two suspects affection given to them is conditional to their helpful behavior. Neither one has internalized their identity as the beloved, and they know their efforts are a sham. Consequently, Jacob must push on to receive his blessing. Finally, he wrestles God and demands God bless him (Gen. 32:22-32).
Jacob explodes into eight and finally demands the desires of his heart. Finally, after a lifetime of lies and manipulation, Jacob has pinned God—the only one who can love him into wholeness. With tears of tenderness and passion, Jacob blurts out “Bless me! Bless me, damnit!” God blesses him, asking him his name and giving him his true blessing... speaking his true identity over him. Jacob, the cheat, becomes Israel—the one who wrestles with God. Finally, Jacob’s lifetime of lies, manipulations, and struggles has led him to the moment when God would look him in the eyes and call him the chosen one of God, the beloved.
[i]Provan, Iain. Discovering Genesis: Content, Interpretation, Reception, 152.