I have often wondered why so many things in history, our world and in spirituality seem to revolve around the number three.
This is not a discussion of theology, simply a series of analogous citations for emphasis. Neither am I a numerologist, I just came to a deeper understanding of human nature through a series of questions that brought me to this conclusion. So with an open spirit, indulge me and I believe you will find some truth of your own.
>> God’s attributes are three: omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.
>> God sent three messengers to Abraham.
>> Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
>> Jesus Christ was resurrected on the third day.
>> The Holy Trinity: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
>> In Muslim devotional rites, certain formulas are repeated three times.
>>A devout Muslim tries to make a pilgrimage to all three holy cities in Islam: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.
Moving away from religion we find its significance elsewhere in the natural world, science and math, language, even how we quantify our own time and lifespan with the number of three.
>> Thought, word, and deed, complete the sum of human capability.
>> Three propositions are necessary to complete the simplest form of argument—the major premise, the minor and the conclusion.
>> Three kingdoms embrace our ideas of matter—mineral, vegetable, and animal.
>> Time is divided into three portions: The past, the present and the future.
>> We designate three phases of our existence: Birth, Life and Death.
So I found it interesting one day when I learned that a three-legged chair, or stool, is more stable than a four-legged chair. A three-legged chair is guaranteed not to wobble, because the ends of its legs always form a plane. But why is that?
In geometry, a plane may be considered as an infinite set of points forming a connected flat surface extending infinitely far in all directions. A plane has infinite length and infinite width. I know, I know, boring nerdy stuff, but immensely important because it deals with love!
In this number we have quite a new set of phenomena. We come to the first geometrical figure. Two straight lines cannot possibly enclose any space, or form a plane figure; neither can two plan surfaces form a solid. Three lines are necessary to form a plan figure; and three dimensions of length, breadth, and height, are necessary to form a solid. Hence three is the symbol of the cube–the simplest form of solid figure. As two is the symbol of the square, or plane contents (x2), so three is the symbol of the cube, or solid contents (x3).
Three, therefore, stands for that which is solid, real, substantial, complete and entire.
I tell you this so you will understand there are quantifiable mathematical reasons for the “stability” or “completeness” of the number three, as well as ancient mysticism, spirituality and religion.
So, you ask, who cares? There is a very good reason. Do you want to have a better relationship with your spouse, partner, friends or coworkers? Then understand the importance of three. We are made up of three: our body, mind and spirit. And without any one of those being whole, we are incomplete.
In our relationships, when we bond with others in all three areas, with these main areas being of common ground and goals, there is a much greater chance of success.
Body: Enjoy similar types of lifestyle, whether it be active or sedentary, staying at home or traveling, going for walks/bike rides or sitting inside watching movies.
Mind: Politically, socially compatible. This doesn’t mean agreeing on everything or believing exactly the same way, just that if it’s important to one it’s important to the other.
Spirit: Common faith or following. A similar set of values, principles or core belief structure.
When any one of these, or more, are sacrificed for the purpose of being in the company of another, the relationship, no matter how serious, will most likely fail.
In my life there have been moments where I so longed for the affection of another I would sacrifice one of these components.
In one instance, I gave up all hope of having a spiritual connection with my girlfriend because she had no belief in a higher power. At no point growing up was she encouraged to seek out a divine of any kind. To the contrary, her mother told her it was for fools. So eventually, this lack of faith became our downfall. It’s in those trying times that we of faith tend to lean most heavily upon it, and when my significant other had none, we had no place to turn for support. The result was an utter collapse.
In another attempt for loving companionship, I gave up all of my own personal goals and ambitions to support hers.
I got her though nursing college, had her on her way to a masters program, and then when I expressed my desire, even made plans to move forward with it, she called at two a.m. from the hospital she worked and said, “I’m not going to help you get your masters degree. I don’t love you anymore and I want a divorce.” It was clear afterword that she probably never really loved me, just used me to get what she wanted and when I no longer was willing to serve her purpose, I was discarded.
That being said, I’m not saying that opposites can’t attract. I have an amazing example of a lifelong love, 54 years to be exact, of two people who couldn’t have been more different. He was 36, she was 18 when they married. He was a yellow-dog democrat, she a diehard republican. He was career military, having served in the Army Air Corps, then the Air Force through WWII, Korea and as a Civilian Aid stateside during the Vietnam War. She was a bit of a rebel for her day, having had a child out of wedlock before my grandaddy came along. Scandalous for its time!
The end result was a marriage that lasted until my grandaddy passed at the age of 90. While they had their share of arguments, disagreements and outright fights (nothing physical mind you, only verbal), the one constant was their love for each other and all of us kids. Three girls, plus the girl my granny had before, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. We have more now, but that was our family population total at grandaddy’s funeral. And they showed us that love through self-sacrifice, setting an example of a positive work ethic and a never ending reminder to love one another.
The one thing I heard my grandaddy say over and over and over was to make sure to love your brothers and sisters, your cousins, aunts and uncles, and take care of each other, because one day that’s all you’ll have.
That’s why we have the family bond we do today, and the relationships we have as well. That’s not to say there haven’t been some trial and error along the way. But when we had a misstep, they were right there to help pick us up, dust us off and see us on our way again. As he often said, there’s no harm in failing, only failing to try.
They loved their yard work, they were both up at the crack of dawn and early to bed. While politically polarized, they taught us the ability to debate your position while listening to what the other had to say. They both had a devout belief in an almighty and practiced not with lofty prayers and donations that added wings to church buildings. No, they built in their faith within each and every one of the hearts of their children.
That is what I meant about having those three common grounds. The real stuff. The meat of the relationship. And they had that down pat. They had ideological differences but their ideals were the same. Their main goal was the same—to raise a loving family. And that didn’t mean we always got along, but in the end, even in moments when we didn’t necessarily like each other, we always loved each other. And that’s the key.
To have that love, maintain that love and never quit on it. Quitting is easy, fighting for what’s good is challenging. But so worth it.
So work on something we get from a combination of ancient Greek philosophers and William Shakespeare, “Know thyself….and to thine own-self be true, thou canst then not be false to any man.” Once you do this you will find yourself in a position of stability, to truly know and love another. And then don’t quit when it gets tough. Use the example of my grandparents. What they had was solid, real, substantial, complete, and lasted their entire lives. They must have been doing something right!
Originally appeared at The Good Men Project.
As the Executive Director of Together We Heal, David Pittman works to educate the public through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness and expose the sexual predator’s methods. TWH now works with therapists, counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta