Twelve is often considered the “perfect” number. Some of that stems from the Judeo-Christian tradition. For many it’s symbolic of God’s authority and perfection. There are also “twelves” in other religions, the human body, feng shui, and science. For example:
In The Bible there are 187 references to the number twelve.
Jacob had twelve sons who are the ancestors of Israel’s twelve tribes.
Jesus had twelve disciples.
Twelve is widely considered the perfect foundation for government.
There are typically twelve members of a jury.
There are twelve days of Christmas (Christmas until the Epiphany).
There are twelve months in a year.
There are twelve signs (constellations) of the zodiac.
Twelve is the number of time.
The human body has twelve cranial nerves.
The heart chakra is represented by a lotus flower with twelve petals.
In Buddhism, there are twelve causes/stages of existence (Nidanas).
It takes twelve lines to draw a cube.
Twelve is the result of four- the number of the material earth (4 elements, 4 cardinal points, etc.) times the number three- the sacred number of God/Divinity.
There are so many more “twelves” but I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.
I’ve been thinking about the number twelve in our personal relationships; the people we share our lives with.
Many of us go too fast, too often (myself included). We’re constantly performing a circus-worthy juggling act with so many plates in the air that if we stop to breathe for a moment, they could all come crashing down on us. The “juggling” seems like it happens a lot with our relationships too. You may plan and arrange and schedule with so many different people that you never REALLY get to know anyone.
That’s where “the twelve” comes in. Let’s look at “life with others” in concentric circles. You and God are the common center. From there the next circle would be your “twelve”. There can, and for many people may, be less than twelve. For some, there might be only one or two people in the first circle. That’s fine, of course, but can be challenging at times if your “one person” is not able to be with you when you need him or her. If you’re completely dependant on only one person for companionship, when that person is not available it can get pretty lonely. For me, human beings are the best part of life. For others, it may be nature or animals or something totally different, because we’re all different, and I honor that.
So, back to “The Twelve”. Take a few minutes and make three lists.
- List the people you spend the most time with, that you also want to be with.
- List the people who, after spending time with them, you leave feeling better about yourself and your life.
- List anyone still living who is no longer part of your life but whom you miss and think about in a positive way.
In list 1, “want” is underlined because we often spend a lot more time with coworkers, or folks in organizations that we’re involved with, then with those we WANT to spend time with. Unfortunately, coworkers that you’re “stuck” with are simply a reality in most lives. In addition, many folks also live with people they really don’t want to be with but, because of a multitude of possible reasons, aren’t able or willing to make a change.
In list 2, I’m asking about how you FEEL after being with a person because many people spend time with someone who they think they WANT to be with only to end up feeling bad about their lives or situations. In that case, you need to reevaluate why you want to be in that person’s company. Ideally, the first two lists would have people in common.
The third list is to open your mind. Even if it’s not practical to reconnect with someone from your past, I want you to think about what it was about that person that makes you miss him or her. Then as you move forward in life, you can seek out those characteristics in others.
Now that you have those lists in front of you, narrow down the choices to the twelve whose impact on your life is most awesome. (remember there doesn’t have to be twelve)
Those twelve are your inner circle family– not in the way that many of us grew up thinking about “family”, but in the way that you walk through life feeling loved and cared for. Traditionally “family” has been seen as the people you live with or grew up with. They were typically those that you shared day-to-day life with, or were connected with because of family of origin or marriage. I don’t believe biology or marriage dictates family. I believe family is the people with whom you share love, care and concern. Your inner circle- your “twelve” may very well consist of traditional family members: parents, spouses, children, in-laws. Your inner circle may include only friends you’ve made in the past year. For many of us it will be a combination. My “twelve” includes my daughters, grandchildren, husband and closest friends.
I talked to a woman not long ago who told me about her life. She spends most of her free time with her “family”. They’re the people related to her by birth and marriages. In this family, she’s always sad. She feels unloved, unappreciated and unheard.. She doesn’t feel like she can extricate herself from the situation because “that’s her family and it is what it is”. That’s very sad to me. She’s missing out on filling her life with joy because she doesn’t have the courage of conviction to stand up for herself and create a new life where she is loved and appreciated and honored. She doesn’t believe she has anyone in her inner circle.
“The twelve” will change as you change. Some will be really important and then naturally fade away. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some relationships will last for life. If you have that you are indeed blessed. There have been people who I assumed would always be there for me and would always love me. Some of them ended up hurting me. Of course, there’s pain in that, but it’s part of our humanness. There may be relationships that have fallen short of what you had hoped for. That’s okay. There are many, many relationships that are peripheral- they are lovely and fun and definitely add to your life. You don’t want to lose them but they’re not “the twelve” either. That’s okay too. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” here. This is not meant to be exclusionary. It’s simply understanding who is most important to you so that you can honor those relationships. It doesn’t mean that the forty people in your dinner club or golf league or dance group aren’t very important people who you have deep care and concern for, and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re not your friends.
The Twelve will be those with whom you have meaningful conversations, trust, laughter, and maybe even unbridled joy. They are the people who KNOW you and LOVE you. They are the people YOU know and love. There may be people who are in your twelve even though you’re not in their twelve. Again, that’s fine. We’re all looking at the world through a different lens.
After “the twelve”, the next circle will include another twenty-four people; those who you love and care about as well. Like “the twelve” they may have been in your life forever or may be new friends. From there the concentric circles continue. A circle of life and love.
Do you ever feel like you’re simply spread too thin? Or, conversely, do you ever feel like you’re all alone even in a crowd of people? Maybe it’s time to reevaluate your circles. Honor the most important relationships.
Spread joy. Love big,
©2015 PeaceFullHome/Intentional Living
p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”: #21. Pray (for peace, for those you love, for yourself); pray especially, this week, for YOUR “twelve”.
p.p.s. “The Twelve” is not a scientifically backed philosophy, but simply one concept from my way of looking at life and love. K