If you’ve been paying attention to Christian books, podcasts, Twitter, and YouTube, then I’m sure you’ve at least heard of something called the Enneagram. You may be familiar with it, or you may have no idea what that term means. I’m no expert, and I’ll direct you to some helpful resources in a coming post. But for now, I want to mention just three key ways my life has improved because of this tool called the Enneagram (inn-ē-uh-gram).
1) The Enneagram has introduced me to myself.
At its most basic, the Enneagram is a personality typing system. You may have taken some kind of personality assessment before, like the Meyers-Briggs (I’m an ENFJ, whatever that means). The Enneagram spells out nine different personality types represented by a number along a circular figure. Each number represents a different way of viewing and interacting with the world.
You may wonder what’s the big deal. But it’s more than just picking a number or taking a test online. As you’re reading through the descriptions of the numbers, there will come a point when you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. You’ll get a sinking feeling in your stomach because suddenly you feel exposed for all the world to see. The Enneagram knows your deepest fears, shortcomings, and desires. The Enneagram knows how you react in stress and how you react in security. It reveals healthy and unhealthy patterns of behavior that creep up in your life.
I remember having that experience. I identify as a dominant Type THREE, sometimes called the Performer or Achiever. In times of stress, according to the Enneagram, I take on the unhealthy characteristics of a Type NINE, the Peacemaker. As I read the description of what that looked like, my jaw dropped. I think I got goosebumps. I felt nervous – in my bedroom alone reading this to myself. The way it described a THREE in stress was exactly what I found myself doing when I was going through times of “disintegration,” frustration, and stress.
It was like I was finally seeing myself clearly in the mirror for the first time. Warts and all. It isn’t a fun process. You may not like what you learn about yourself. But somehow you will know it’s all true.
2) The Enneagram has given me a new language.
I’ve never really been good at emotions and feelings. Chalk that up to being a THREE, I guess. But the Enneagram has given me a whole new vocabulary with which to communicate more clearly about my feelings.
Katelyn and I have been married for almost ten and a half years. We dated four and a half years before that. We’ve known each other for over fifteen years, and it’s just been in the last couple of years that we have really started to understand each other. She has learned things about me that I didn’t even know how to tell her – because I didn’t have the language for it. I’ve learned things about her that I never really would have known otherwise. We have been able to connect on a deeper level than ever because of the Enneagram.
Not only that, but it has helped me in my ministry. I work with teenagers full time. They are growing and developing their personalities at breakneck speed. They don’t know what’s going on inside them. But in listening to their stories and hearing how they describe themselves, their fears, their desires, their insecurities, I am better able to connect with them. The more knowledge I gain of the other eight types, the better I am to connect with people where they are and truly begin to understand what they’re going through and how they see the world.
3) The Enneagram has taught me what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself.
The Nine types of the Enneagram have been called “The Nine Faces of God.” Each type reveals something of God’s own nature. Each type is also a path toward transformation in Christ. It’s not just a way of being, it’s a way of becoming who we were made to be. The Enneagram reveals the defense mechanisms we put in place to keep God and people at a distance. It also shows us what it looks like to break down those walls and allow ourselves to be fully known and loved.
The Enneagram is teaching me what it looks like to love God with my whole self, not just my intellect, not just my instincts, not just my emotions, but all of it. The Enneagram urges us to integrate head, heart, and hands. True worship and spiritual transformation is a process that includes thinking, feeling, and doing. Each of us is dominant in one area and regressive in another. Our task to to lean into the areas of weakness to become a fully integrated worshiper of God.
Through learning the Enneagram and confronting my “shadow side,” I am brought to a place of self-love and self-acceptance. Out of that place of inward health, I am better able to show love, grace, and forgiveness toward others. In other words, the Enneagram is a tool for developing empathy.
Jesus said the greatest command in Scripture is to love God with all you have and to love your neighbor as yourself. I have not found a more practical tool for learning how to love than the Enneagram.
Are you familiar with the Enneagram? What’s your Type? How has knowing the Enneagram helped you? Let me know in the comments below.