Saturday, March 17, 2007

Trinity & Triangles

Theologians use the Greek word perichoresis (perry-chor-eesis) to express the paradoxical existence of three divine Persons existing within one another. The term literally means rotation or envelopment. Perichoresis suggests a kind of mutual indwelling or intra-penetration that takes the form of an indescribable intimacy. It’s how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit engage in unique fellowship. While there’s much mystery around intra-Trinitarian relations, Scripture affirms that love is, perhaps, the tie that binds. An indescribable form of agape love.

While love of divine scope and magnitude is wildly beyond us, it does serve as our ultimate model. When we ask the question: “What would Jesus do?” we are seeking to understand and echo the example of Christ. So what if we chased after a higher form of Trinitarian love in our dealings with others?

Our Faulty Triangle

Satan must love the caricatures of the goofy goateed creature in a red cape with a pitchfork and the stereotypical B-movie images that give him a creepy, bump-in-the-night persona. Because when we’re looking for something silly or ghoulish, he can do what he does best right before our eyes. Satan is patient and cunning. Just like in the Garden, he continues to cleverly take a truth and twist it. As it relates to love amongst family and friends, we can aspire to the selfless love the Scripture describes in Trinity. Unfortunately, sometimes we go the other direction into the domain of something called “triangulation.”

Triangulation in the realm of psychology describes dysfunctional relations involving three persons. The term is a corrupted view of a theological framework in which you have a “victim,” “savior,” and “persecutor.” Triangulation was first used to describe unhealthy family alliances where sister “Sally” might slip into the role of always running to brother “Robby” to rescue her from sister “Mary.” Or “Mom” might lean on daughter “Jill” to vent about “Dad” behind his back. Rather than dealing directly with the perceived “persecutor,” those who triangulate slip behind people’s backs because they are fearful of honest dialogue that could lead to open conflict.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Triangulation isn’t just a family affair. It can also be a ruinous tendency amongst friends when the roles of “victim,” “savior,” and “persecutor” play out. Triangulation leads to gossip and very often degenerates into a Machiavellian-like character assassination that attempts a shift and upset of alliances.

In any relationship, there are periods of stagnancy or disagreement and conflict. Even best of friends occasionally fall out. But what happens in the aftermath of the conflict will determine whether or not the rupture in the relationship can heal. Too often, there is “triangulation” amongst friends that short circuits the process of resolution and healing. “Paula” does something to annoy me. Rather than directly telling “Paula” what’s bothering me, I run to “Suzy” and complain about “Paula.” If “Suzy” doesn’t lovingly send me straight to “Paula” to resolve the matter directly, we have just successfully triangulated. And at this point, all sides of the triangle are at risk of relational breakage that just might be beyond repair.

Coming Next Week: Deconstructing the Triangle

Have You Heard It? More mainstream medical research findings released last week that suggest a link for some between excessive red meat consumption and both breast and colon cancers.

(Photo by Mark Lawrence used by permission only. See more of Mark's incredible artwork at

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