Seven Types of People. Which One Are You? ~ Laurence Overmire

Via elephant journal
on Aug 17, 2012
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Exclusive excerpt from The One Idea That Saves the World: A Call to Conscience and A Call to Action by Laurence Overmire.

The House is on Fire.

The people in the house are
Sleeping and in great danger

Seven of their neighbors will come along
Each with an opportunity to save them

Person #1
Does not see the fire
Consumed in his own thoughts
He passes by in ignorant oblivion

Person #2
Sees the fire
But, not wanting to get involved
Walks on by

Person #3
Sees the fire
But, shocked and terrified
Is left immobilized in a state of panic

Person #4
Sees the fire
And immediately takes action
First, phoning the fire department
Then, knocking on the door to
Wake up the inhabitants

Person #5
Sees the fire
And, daring what no one else would
Enters the house to try to
Save the inhabitants

Person #6
Sees the fire
Surveys the scene
And discovers an opportunity
To promote his own interests and
Make a buck
(He’s the one handing out
His business card to sell his stuff)

Person #7
Set the fire
And lurks unnoticed
Watching the destruction
Not caring really
About anything at all.


The house is Mother Earth.

Which person are you?

This poem encapsulates the central, overriding issue of our time: our world is on fire and on the verge of collapse; what are each of us willing to do about it? How do we galvanize people to do what is necessary and right?

Of course, very few of us are willing to risk our own lives to do good in this world, though we are eternally grateful to those who do. But let’s try, all of us, to do our best to be number 4’s. Let’s help to put out the fire.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems at this particular point in time is that there are too few people who are working hard to douse the flames. Most people are 1’s, 2’s or 3’s.

The 1’s are the people who don’t even see that the house is on fire. They don’t really understand that there is a problem. They live in ignorance of the situation, consumed with the trials of everyday living. We must wake them up, educate them and ask them politely to help us put out the fire. After all, most of them are decent people. They are your friends and neighbors.

The 2’s are perhaps the most frustrating. There are an awful lot of them out there. Most we would consider good people, but good people don’t always do the right thing. They know that the world is on fire, but they refuse to help in any way to put it out. They just don’t want to make the effort.

Are they lazy? Some perhaps. Apathetic? Yes, some are just too comfortable and want to live their lives in a self-centered kind of way without bothering about the larger community. Some are just too jaded and cynical, believing that there is nothing they can do that will make any difference. Their negative outlooks defeat them before they even make an attempt to rise to the challenge.

These are never the people we look up to. They are not the people who inspire, the people who win our respect. Throughout history, they have won plenty of shame, but no acclaim. These are the people to whom we must say, ultimately, “If you can’t lend a hand, please get out of the way.”

The 3’s are good people, too. They understand the world is in trouble. They have some knowledge of what is happening. Some know too much, perhaps, and are paralyzed with fear, not knowing what to do. Some just don’t have the psychological or emotional fortitude to cope with the enormity of the issues, so they avoid thinking about them or dealing with them in any way. We must help them to overcome their fears and persuade them to join us, as much as they are able, to help save the world.

The 4’s and 5’s, of course, are the people who conscientiously give of themselves to help others. We need more people like this. This book, hopefully, will convince you to become one (if you’re not one already).

The 6’s and 7’s, on the other hand, are the people who are really causing problems for those of us who are working to put out the fire.

The 6’s are the opportunists who take advantage of the injustices of the world to serve their own selfish interests. Usually, they are profiting in some way from the misfortunes of others. Often, these are not the nicest people you will ever meet. Many convince themselves that kindness, compassion, generosity and other human virtues are just silly notions for those who are naive. Thereby, they rationalize their destructive, harmful behavior as being “the way the world works.” Their big, big egos tell them they are superior to everyone else. As such, they are living a lie, not the truth.

The 7’s are the people who are deliberately setting the fire. They may even be throwing gas on it. They are knowingly involved in activities that are harmful to other people, other creatures and the planet itself. The 6’s are often their minions. The 7’s are not nice people either. Some would call them sociopaths. Some would call them evil. I prefer to think of them as spiritually ill. They are not well. They are suffering. They are living in ignorance of the fundamental truth of the One Idea. If we are going to heal them, and in turn ourselves, we must offer them our kindness, love, compassion, understanding and forgiveness, for our own sakes as well as theirs. Why? Because we must be true to the One Idea, the path that will lead us to a healthy place.

You’ve heard the saying, “the world is at sixes and sevens,” meaning the world is in a state of confusion and disarray. Indeed it is. The 6’s and 7’s like it that way, because they are profiting from it. The rest of us, however, are in danger of being consumed by the fire. Ironically, in the end, the 6’s and 7’s will also be consumed. No one wins in this scenario. Everyone loses.

Next installment… The Good People of This Earth.



Relephant Read:

31 Ideas for the Everyday Anyone to Go Greener.

Bonus video: Saving the world starts in our homes. 


Laurence Overmire has had a multi-faceted career as poet, author, actor, director, educator, and genealogist. As an actor, he has appeared on stage, film and television, most notably on Broadway in Amadeus, as well as the network soap operas, All My Children and Loving. His award-winning poetry has been widely published in hundreds of journals, magazines and anthologies worldwide. Known to many for his weekly segments as poet-in-residence on The Jeff Farias Show, Overmire is an advocate for peace, justice, human and animal rights, and the environment. Join his Bucket Brigade at and on facebook.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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32 Responses to “Seven Types of People. Which One Are You? ~ Laurence Overmire”

  1. walkingtree says:

    LMAO… you're selling something??

  2. walkingtree says:

    it would have been moving and persuasive… if it didn't link to an "order now!" button 🙁

  3. muks says:

    What is the one idea that saves the world?

  4. walkingtree says:

    he's trying to talk about perspective… a concept that is easily grasped for free.

  5. Ramani says:

    Yeah, I was down with this until the sales pitch at the end which would put the author in a couple of categories including number six, which also shows the complexity of the world situation at hand making me wish I hadn't wasted my time.

  6. […] This may come as a shock to some—to hear that we are not what what we think we are. […]

  7. Appreciate your comment, Kelly. Have removed the book photo and link.

  8. Thank you for your comment, Ramani. Have removed the book photo/link at the bottom. Glad you were down with it up until that point. Have a great day! ~ Lynn

  9. i hope more people can be #'s 4 and 5, keepin the faith! (:

  10. ann says:

    am i the only one here that doesn't have a problem with the fact that he's trying to sell his book? just because one commits one's life to changing the world doesn't mean one has to live like a monk, for crying out loud! and let me tell ya' – having a solid internet connection and the time and space to work makes all of us better at what we do! so he wants to sell his book – is that so wrong? he probably put a lot of time and energy into writing it! and he could have written about anything – he chose to write about something for the betterment of all of us, with a really interesting perspective on all of it. george monbiot writes for the guardian – should we petition them to stop paying him? jiminy christmas…talk about finger-pointing and blame-laying! a powerful and moving take, mr. overmire – i wish you the best of luck and hope you sell the shit out of that book.

  11. […] re-frame of the Dalai Lama’s proclamation might be helpful here. Perhaps instead of trying to “save the world” we might instead reign in and cultivate our capacity to deeply listen to the world, so that we can […]

  12. […] I believe in humanity. I believe, like Anne Frank, a young girl with so much promise who ultimately died at the hands of the Nazis in World War II, that despite all the evil we see in the world, most people are indeed truly good at heart. This is what gives me hope. […]

  13. […] one of those who still doesn’t believe this is serious business, guess what? You’re one of the number 1’s! One of the deniers who still doesn’t see that the house is on fire! Merrily walking past the […]

  14. […] positively and negatively. Fifty years ago, Friedman and Rosenman first described how people with the now-infamous Type A—marked by hostility, impatience, competitiveness and —were more prone to cardiovascular disease […]

  15. […] people with this pattern simply tell me that the other person clearly doesn’t care about them, so they’re […]

  16. Yvette says:

    I honestly don't have a problem with it either! People are so eager to attack, rather than understand.

  17. Nick says:

    With all due respect, it will take more than just faith to help others become 4’s and 5’s. It is the actions which are subtle enough to be processed/learned yet powerful enough to work.

  18. Heather Kolankowski says:

    Really? What a bunch of hogwash……………….let's just sum up shall we? Ugh!

  19. 8th type who sets the fire

  20. Usman says:

    There is no scientific evidence of whether people have fixed characters. Moral virtues do not come out of a character – rather – we act out of situations. In different situations, each one of us has the capability to become anyone of the 7 types – and reseach shows that we actually do. In the stanford prision experiment, many of the participants were characterized as pacifists but once they became gaurds, there behaviour was quite deplorable.
    Perhaps you should read John Doris (1998, 2002), Gilbert Harman (1999, 2000, 2003) amongst many others before falling for obscurism created by people like this guy.

  21. Melina says:

    I agree Ann!

  22. DB says:

    Nice read. Thanx!

  23. Frequent Browser says:

    Wanting to sell his book isn't wrong. I don't think anyone is arguing with that. It's a general tone of hypocrisy when you criticize others who are attempting to sell things in the middle of a crisis ("Person 6") and then do it yourself.

    The author may have purer intentions than someone who is EAGER for the fire to rage on as an excuse to sell more stuff, but it's still the same basic idea- profiting as a side effect of a disaster.

    If you are going to "sell" a new perspective on an "old" problem, you can't accidentally "condemn" yourself, then pretend you are above it enough to explain the right way to others. I don't think he meant it, but that was the implication of the original order link on the article.

  24. jheelam says:

    this is a wonderful article.

  25. kristina says:

    I highley disagree that the 7's in this world can be healed through kindness,compassion and understanding. Maybe very few can but I get pretty rattled up when someone thinks "evil" people can be healed in that way. I have been up close to evil people and trust me to try and look into their souls is truly horrifc. I understand your beliefs but not all evil can be conquered by peace and love it just cant. Trust me on that. Some evil in this world is simply all there is to it just pure evil and NOTHING else.

  26. Bill D. says:

    My comment has to do with the video ’31 Ideas for the Everyday Anyone to Go Greener’ just below the poem.

    Initially I was excited about this video because I’ve been trying educate my teenage stepdaughter about the horrors of plastic. (She’s attached to using baby plastic plates and crap that she’s had since a toddler.)

    Unfortuantely, I cannot show her this video. Why? Well… ugh… for one, the dude in the video flashes a dildo. Then shortly into it, they bring up masturbation? I am definitely NOT going to share this video to her while my partner stands by watching in horror.

    Seriously folks- it’s unnecessary. Therefore, I’ll be moving onto a more suitable source of education.

  27. Kat says:

    I think the problem a lot of people face is that it is not really clear or easy HOW to help, and then the conflict of family. I would sincerely jump at the opportunity to go help protect wildlife in Africa or Borneo, but the fact is, there is no organiztion willing to take in any joe off the street and train him to be useful. At this point the most useful thing we can do is donate money or go to school to learn skills that can actually help, it isn't as simple as just volunteering for the red cross to go clean up earthquake damage (though that is one little thing people can do that doesn't require a 4 year degree or military experience)

  28. Gingersnaps says:

    Wonderful article! Love it. Don't listen to the haters. Hope your book sales flourish! You're a great writer and thinker! 🙂

  29. Horica21 says:

    This is good article, no doubt about it. But, does someone stop to think how do people end up in type #1 and #2? Maybe the rest of us didn’t do anything to them or didn’t want to deal with them, and as a result, they become ignorant.

    So, why those people should return something when they didn’t received anything, or worse, they receive bad thoughts and insults?

    Maybe the right approach, as mentioned in the article, will be to first acknowledge and integrate them not to give them a single choice option, help us or step away…