On Sunday at Mass, I started thinking about the same thing that has been on my mind for months now: how could people who I loved so much and who said they loved me treat me the way that they did? Even though I know the answer is simple (they were using me), I am still stumped at the thought of what would lead someone to treat another person like this. I mean, it was serious stuff. They encouraged me to kill myself. Humans don’t do that.
But I’m trying not to be angry—or at least not to be bitter. I’ve forgiven them, I’m praying for them.
But such brokenness—how do we get so broken?
Well, I started thinking about something that my good friend and mentor, Mike Brooks, always said when I was in high school. He phrased it as a lesson (or a warning) about boys for us girls in youth group, but in all honesty I think we all know it’s true about all humans. And certainly I have learned that we sometimes need to be warned (or at least reminded) about other humans.
So, Mike would tell us that there are three types of people. And in order to understand the three types, there’s something you need to know about humans (or, as he would say, boys): we’re all defective. Call it broken, sinful, fallen, human, etc., but it all comes down to the fact that we’re defective. Mike used to talk about the “defective male chromosome,” but in reality it’s the defective human tendency to sin, to harm others or ourselves or to act against the greater good in our own selfishness. It’s that darn original sin getting to us, and there’s no way to escape it. We’re just defective. As we grow in life, we can choose to become more like Christ, but we’ll never escape our humanity.
So, of us defective humans, there are three different types. Mike refers to them simply as the ones, the twos, and the threes.
Ones are the people who are defective but they don’t know they’re defective. A one can become a two or a three or just stay a one for life. These are the emotionally immature people who are like a bull in a china shop with other people’s emotions without even realizing it. We’ve all met a one. Heck, we’ve all been a one. As Mike used to say, “You can date a one, but you can’t marry them.” A one is never going to be mature enough to make commitments or to be a good partner or friend. They have to grow up first.
Ones are like the classic C. S. Lewis example in Mere Christianity where he talks about the child who plays in the mud, making mud pies, not knowing that there is a feast set for him by a king. They don’t know. This means that there’s always hope that they will someday leave the mud pies behind and sit in their rightful place at the feast.
This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” There is the opportunity still to know fully the goodness of God.
Then, there are twos. Twos, unlike ones, know they are defective. They relish their defectiveness, enjoying every minute. Now, here’s the thing: a two will never become anything other than a two. You can’t change them. This was something Mike used to stress (as a high school teacher, principal, and youth minister, he saw a lot of this): “Girls, you can’t save a two and make him a three. You can’t stay in a relationship hoping to change them.” As obvious as it sounds, I had the same conversation with a 29 year old maybe three days ago. We want to believe that we can change people. We see their potential. But we can’t. That’s not in our power.
Twos are like a child making mud pies knowing that there’s a feast and preferring the mud. Even a pig will choose to be clean over lying in the mud, but a two will stay defiantly (even happily) in the mire.
I’m sure we’ve all met people like this. There are the gossipy girls whose greatest pleasure is in tearing down another—not because of insecurity (a one), but because they really think it’s fun. They’re the people who plot and scheme for no real personal benefit other than the satisfaction of hurting another person. I think some people want to see the good in them, want to believe that these people aren’t really a two. How many times have I heard someone say, “Maybe they’re just a one and they’re insecure and I can fix them.”?
No, you can’t. You can’t fix a two. They are happy broken. They do not want to be whole. Maybe the Lord can heal them, but remember: they know the Lord. They just don’t want him. They have already turned against Him. And while it’s easy to see twos as being these evil archetypes and scary monsters, the best image is probably Satan in Dante—perpetually frozen in tears being turned to ice by the beating of his own wings.
Twos are the kind of people who others will make excuses about them being “only human,” but in reality they are the least human people you will meet. To be human is to be what we were meant to be—to go against that humanity, that’s what makes us broken. Twos are happy to go against their humanity. They’re pitiable, but you shouldn’t waste your time trying to change them or endanger yourself trying to love them. I made that mistake.
Lastly, there are the threes. I think we all want to be a three, but I wonder sometimes if people who think they’re threes are really just ones. It’s a solid question, but I’m afraid I’ll have to be enjoying the beatific vision to find the answer. Then I might not care.
A three is someone who, like the two, knows they are defective, but a three will spend the rest of their life trying to overcome their defectiveness. Whether they realize it or not, they are seeking to become fully human, fully like God, fully in imitation of Christ. A three can never become perfect or overcome their defectiveness, so sometimes they will sin. But they will try, each and every day, to get as close to perfection as they can.
Now, Mike never told me this, but as I was thinking about this on Sunday it occurred to me that it’s sort of like a spectrum. I think threes sometimes forget and slide back towards being a one. That's sin. But the farther you go on the spectrum towards being a two, the more lost you are and the less able to approach the three end. It’s like there’s a point of no return. I even drew a picture to show what I mean.
So, those are the three types of people. And I think that, as much as I feel anger towards the people who hurt me, only one was a two. She took pleasure in it. The others are all ones. They’re just too easily manipulated. Maybe it’s the aspie in me or maybe it’s because my primary strength is context, but being able to label it, being able to classify the difference, it helps. I hope it helps you.