“This is not who we are” has been spoken numerous times since the attack on the Capitol.  In fact, what happened on January 6 is part of who we are as a nation.  This is important because we can only understand and change what is acknowledged.  My anger at what had taken place turned to compassion when I read an interview of a rioter who stated his reason for participating: “I wanted to be noticed, to be seen.”  Hidden in his words I recognized suffering.

The rioter’s words reminded me of a story I had heard at a workshop highlighting the Enneagram Prison Project, a non-profit organization that sends trained teachers into prisons to help “free people from prisons of our own making.”  A former gang member shared how his inner prison was rooted in the need for belonging, to be seen, to be protected, to escape the pain of his childhood experiences. The gang became his family, his place of belonging and protection.

In the rioter’s response and the former gang member’s story, I clearly see that I am like them. At our core we all long to be seen, to be loved, to be valued, to belong, to be safe.  We all long to be healed.  For this former inmate, the Enneagram offered a map toward healing that drew him to his true self and a recognition of his essential goodness that had been hidden by patterns and habits meant to protect him from suffering.  Making the connection between the trauma of his early life and the destructive harmful decisions that landed him in prison opened the way for him to hold the circumstances of his life with self-compassion.  In this compassionate space he discovered the possibility for change and hope for a better life.

 A holy invitation is written in the story of this former gang member and the rioter’s response to the question of why participate.  It is an invitation to approach ourselves as God approaches us—with compassion and mercy, the place where healing begins.


To learn more about the Enneagram join us for an online workshop:  Introduction to the Enneagram: Waking Up to Your True Self.  Learn more HERE.

Learn more about the Enneagram Prison Project at  https://enneagramprisonproject.org