The pyramid shape represents the groups of people who surround us, from our family members to work colleagues or school friends, to people we go to church with to the doctors we see regularly.
The pyramid represents who we are with in life.
There are two places you can be – either in the centre of the pyramid or on the outside of someone else’s pyramid. Ideally, you’ll be both. It is important that you both have people surrounding you who are supportive, and that yourself are a support to others.
God is at the pinnacle of the pyramid regardless of whether a person is a Christian or not. Non-Christians often benefit from common grace that is available to everyone, but for Christians who acknowledge God as being the pinnacle of the pyramid, we can receive a ceaseless flow of grace, mercy, love and joy.
While the pyramid literally looks like a building, we prefer the metaphor of the “body”. This is really about the church body as a community.
There are three major purposes for the pyramid.
1. The Middle of the Pyramid
The first one is about being in the middle of the pyramid, and being supported. If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler, you’ll know how dependent on adults they are. As we mature, we gain an understanding of complex relationships between ourselves and others. We become more independant and more willing to support others.
2. The Outside of the Pyramid
This is the second purpose of the pyramid. You are an outside person for other people in your life, whether it’s your spouse, your children, your family, your friends and your church.
3. The Whole Pyramid
The third purpose is to be able to link with others in our serving of someone in the middle. In terms of being part of support network, we might fulfill the role of a friend, linking with the middle person’s spouse, general practitioner, other friends, work colleagues and church members. This becomes a stable structure. We know that in engineering terms, multiple triangles create a very strong structure. The same is true for this shape. It represents a stable, supported life – with God breathing life into us from the top, and whom we are ultimately focused on.
The floor and the sides of the pyramid are made up of the 5 steps – walking the steps with each other, God and ourselves.
What Happens if We are Too Supported or Too Serving?
As mentioned, when we are children, we are the centre of the pyramid but as we grow and mature, we move towards the outside of the pyramid. If we remain in our childhood state, we become a couch potato (self-centered). However, moving too far to the outside of this shape can be excessive – serving others to the detriment of yourself. This is what happens when people experience burn out, which is accompanied by thoughts like I’ve got to do it all myself and I’m the only person who can help. Like the cabin crew always remind us, we must put the oxygen masks on ourselves before we can help others.
Who Makes Up a Pyramid?
The people who make up a pyramid include family, friends, the church, people helpers (including books and courses), work and school, and professional helpers (like GPs or counsellors.
What Happens If You Don’t Have a Pyramid Around You?
If your pyramid lacks a stable base – if you have few people around you that you trust and can support you – you are at a higher risk of experiencing loneliness, isolation, instability, and fragility. You may find that don’t feel very resilient and that life is a difficult struggle.
We don’t believe that human beings were created to be alone, but rather to be in community with each other. That’s why the Bible talks about being in the body of Christ, which is another way of saying that we belong to a community, a family of fellow believers. The Bible is equally clear that none of us can say that we don’t need each other. It is not Biblical to think either that nobody can serve you or that you won’t serve another. Everyone has the capacity to serve, even children. You can see this ability develop as children maintain friendships with their peers. That’s why we encourage young people to serve at their capacity.
What is Our Part in Other People’s Pyramids?
As we mature, we learn that we also support others – so it becomes reciprocal. The closer the relationship, the more important it is to be reciprocal. In marriage, there needs to be capacity for support both ways. In marriage, we can be Jesus to our spouses in a proactive and intentional way. The ideal is both people serving each other to such an extent that one doesn’t have to focus on their own needs. In this way, serving someone else allows them to serve others.
One of the major purposes of the pyramid is to link with others to support someone so that you’re not doing it all yourself. This is a great way to avoid burning yourself out. You might enlist the help of others in your friendship group or small group, or offer a helpful book, or go along to a doctor’s appointment with the person you’re supporting. This fulfills the third purpose of the pyramid – to link with others to help support someone.
In the various pyramids we’re part of, we wear lots of different hats – professional, parent, spouse, small group leader, friend. One person can have many roles. The challenge is that we have too many hats and the hats eventually fall off.
The ideal is the whole body of Christ – or community of Christ – working together to help and support each other.
How to Engage Other Help When Supporting Someone Else
You might be unsure about how to engage other help when you’re supporting someone. You could use engaging help questions like: ‘who else do you need?’ ‘who else can help?’ ‘who else could you have?’
They may not know, but it’s important to offer them a choice. If they’re not sure, you can make suggestions. ‘How would you feel about seeing your GP?’ ‘What about your church?’ ‘What about going along to Playtime/Playgroup?’ ‘Would you like a book on the subject?’
Of course, engaging other help doesn’t mean dropping that person in someone else’s lap! You can be supportive as you engage other help – going along to an appointment, reading the Bible together, even something simple as an email introduction or phone call.
The Pyramid is Not Static
The pyramid will vary in size as you go through life. At certain parts of life, your pyramid will be large and at other times, will be small. If you move locations, your pyramid might shrink in size. Money might reduce your ability to access certain parts of the pyramid. Age may also shrink the pyramid. The size of the pyramid is fluid throughout our lives. The bigger and more linked, the better.
Even Jesus Had a Pyramid!
Jesus most famously had twelve disciples – all of whom formed part of his pyramid, but he also had two or three with whom he had a closer relationship. He also had his family (parents and brothers) in his pyramid. Most importantly, he had a close and perfect relationship with his Father.
It is his example that Christians strive to follow.
Christian Wholeness Framework
An Introduction to the C.U.R.E.
What is Connecting
Respond, Engage, and Evaluate
Using ‘The Circle’ to Understand Relationship
Using ‘the Triangle’ as the foundation for connecting
The Square + The Cross
Using the Pyramid to see who we are with in life