One of my current interests is learning about the Enneagram.
The Enneagram is a typology. You’ve probably heard of other typologies: Myers-Briggs, temperament tests (sanguine, melancholy, choleric, phlegmatic), as well as the zodiac. While all these typologies have been derived in different ways, they all share one thing: they simplify human behaviors into a limited number of character types. I think we’d all agree that some of these are more helpful than others for one reason or another.
The Enneagram is an ancient typology that boils all of humanity down to 9 character types. These character types are based around a deep-seated sin (the seven deadly sins + 2 more), which often plays a big role in how we hide from God and hide from ourselves. We learn the “life-lie” from which we operate.
The starting point of the Enneagram is the blind alleys into which we stumble in our attempt to protect our life from internal and external threats (p. 4).
The NINE Types
Type ONE: The Need to Be Perfect
Type TWO: The Need to be Needed
Type THREE: The Need to Succeed
Type FOUR: The Need to be Special
Type FIVE: The Need to Perceive
Type SIX: The Need for Securitiy
Type SEVEN: The Need to Avoid Pain
Type EIGHT: The Need to be Against
Type NINE: The Need to Avoid
The beauty of the Enneagram is that this is not another tool that tries to box us in and help us only to know ourselves better. Instead, this tool helps us to understand ourselves better so that we’re able to recognize our own voice and hence be able to recognize God’s voice all the more.
For an example. I’m a 1, which means I see what’s wrong with the world. I’m a perfectionist who has high expectations for others and even higher expectations for myself. So, when I “hear God” saying, “Try harder. You should probably add on another project. If you loved me, you would _________. Are you accomplishing all you can for my kingdom? Oh wow I’m disappointed that you couldn’t make that all happen”, then I can take a pause. Is this God speaking to me? Or is this my voice talking to me? Am I attempting to hide behind all this “stuff” I’m doing for him and not really allow Him full access to my heart? I’m beginning to hear God’s voice more distinctly as I begin to recognize my own that I thought was God’s.
Understanding myself in this way is transforming my inner life.
In addition, this tool allows us not to stay “stuck”. Even though I’m a 1 and can recognize what I easily fall into, I also can start doing some serious heart work in that area and allow God to transform me. The Truth, my friend, can really set us free.
So, as per recommendation of my spiritual director, I’ve been working through the book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert. In it, Rohr and Ebert share the many twists and turns of how the Enneagram as we know it came about. Many think that a form of the Enneagram originated with the Desert Fathers.Then, they explain a little bit more about what the Enneagram is and isn’t, and finally the good part– they dive into each “number”, dedicating a chapter to each.
The Enneagram is intended as an oral tradition and not really to be learned from a book. The reason being is that spiritual directors throughout history have used the Enneagram to help people along in their spiritual journey with God. It’s never to be used as a way to peg people or manipulate people (wahaha, I know YOUR NUMBER!), but to help individuals understand themselves, their “modes of operation” and how that affects/hinders/enhances their relationship with God and others.
If you’re interested in learning more, it may be helpful to check with your pastor to see if he or she knows of anyone trained to teach it. It’s best to learn from a real life person who has been trained in walking people through this. But, if that doesn’t work out, it may not be bad to read the one I”m reading by Rohr (if you’re interested in the Christian perspective). The Enneagram has been adjusted away from its original purposes and is now often used in the secular world of psychology, which is fine and all, but it’s not the same as the original. Also, it’s not without controversy, so be aware of that too. However, there are many solid churches, both Catholic and Evangelical, who use this tool as a way of personal/spiritual development. For a quick guestimation of what your number may be, this free test is decent (but not perfect).
My thoughts: the Enneagram is a tool just like any other type of typology. Some people are all into temperament typing. Others Myers-Briggs. Others Strengthsfinder. This is not some magic ball that will solve all problems or a “cure all” for sin (we know that there is only one way for that to happen!). It’s simply a really helpful tool to understand yourself better.
So, if you decide to look into it, have fun and may God use it as a transformational tool in your life!