Spiritual Directors International

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Embracing Differences

Guest Author: 
Katherine Hampton

In this season of gratitude, it is often easy to come up with the right answer to the question: What are you thankful for? Things like family, health, stability, and community quickly come to mind as classic answers. But what if we dug a little deeper? What gratitude can we find in the growing—often painful—parts of our lives?

I have recently had the opportunity to explore the Enneagram with both my coworkers and my family. It has been a profound learning experience, and I have been thankful for the opportunity to understand myself better, as well as the people I hold dear. More than that, I have been surprisingly thankful for our differences.

I have often been called the black sheep of my family—a classic youngest amongst first-borns; highly emotional in a group of practical people. I never saw life quite the same as my parents or siblings. For quite a while, all I wanted was to fit. To see the world like they did. To react in similar ways. To be the same. As I have settled into adulthood, I have grown to embrace our differences and I think they have, too.

The Enneagram has been a new tool to me to see those differences in a fresh way. Through the recent SDI Webinar and a workshop I attended with Fr. William Meninger, I have found new joy in the differences amongst us. There is beauty and wholeness in embracing each different worldview. A two on the Enneagram shouldn’t spend their whole lives trying to be a six; their worldview is just as valuable as another. The Enneagram has helped me shed light on the “outsider” feelings I have had, and helped me name it as the distinctive in the way I was created. I am grateful to still be learning, growing, and pushing boundaries in myself and in those around me.

I am also thankful for the diversity of this inclusive, global learning community. Our SDI community is different in countless ways: faith tradition, country of origin, gender, and age, just to name a few. We are different but together we contribute to a unique and common mission—to further spiritual direction around the world and across traditions. We hold the tension of our differences and know that there is strength in embracing the whole. At our best, we are a community of people with different points of view and different beliefs, who come together for the commonality of spiritual direction and connecting with the Divine.

Despite differences feeling uncomfortable or challenging much of the time, they are what I am most grateful for this year. Differences amongst us highlight the imagination of our Creator. How strange and boring our lives would be if everyone was the same! I am so grateful for the contributions those who are different from me can bring, and I am refreshingly aware of how my differences can contribute to the greater whole.

What growing or painful edge are you grateful for this year? How can you see gratitude in the areas you are being stretched.


Bonnie Burton Nalley's picture

Thanks for sharing this Katherine. I, too, found the Enneagram to be an extremely helpful tool in my spiritual growth and understanding of my view of the world. It gave me permission to explore what I already was feeling, a little deeper, and without the sense of being so "different" from those around me. In my work in spiritual direction, it feels easy to affirm others in their individuality and ways of being. I am amazed that it is still a challenge for me sometimes. Recently, my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. leading up to this time, we were both struggling with issues of space and how differently we occupied space, that is, our home. He is more quiet and single-task oriented, enjoying conversation, but in small doses. I am more apt to be verbal and doing more than one thing at a time, enjoying some music while cooking etc. I like to have people over. He finds it difficult. We live in a small home - less than 700 sq ft - we have two teenagers - sharing the attic as their room. Needless to say, it's been a challenge over the years, although it has brought us closer. We have shared many tears knowing that change was coming, but joy as well, at wanting to embrace our differences and loving each other enough to explore what each of us needed. From this place of pain and struggle, I have now purchased a small house - 100 sq ft bigger than this one. It will serve as another space where I can cook, paint, garden, have friends over, host retreats and eventually see some of my directees. I could never have imagined making this decision from such a loving place, both for myself and for my partner in life. I agree with your statement "There is beauty and wholeness in embracing each different worldview." - perhaps beginning at home and moving outward from there.

office's picture
Submitted by office on

I am thankful for a voice is that the Blessed Mother has given me. I now can state when things are unfair  for people what is fair. When I have been wronged and I can now say no you have wronged me. I have always excepted all I do not see color I'm very thankful for my life I'm very thankful learning how to deal with the hardships in my life. Thank you!

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