I’ve shared some thoughts on the Enneagram recently. I know it’s growing in popularity, especially among certain Christian circles. I think it’s a helpful tool, and can give you a lot of insight into your own personality and that of others. But why even bother at all? Isn’t it just like any other personality quiz or horoscopes? Why should anyone be interested in the Enneagram unless all your friends are doing it and you want to talk about your number at the next dinner party?
First of all, if that’s all you want to get out of it, then seriously don’t bother.
However, if you’re ready to go on a serious journey of self-discovery and transformation, then the Enneagram (IMHO) is the best tool to help with that process.
You may be on the fence about it. So let me lay out what I believe the be the biblical foundation for this transformation process and why the Enneagram can help with it.
THREE BIG TRUTHS
Lets begin with three fundamental truths:
1. Every person is created in the Image of God.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Every single calorie-consuming, oxygen-processing, hemoglobin-pumping human is made in the Image of God the creator. Your new neighbors from some country in Central America you can never quite remember? Image of God. Your in-laws with whom you’d rather not spend more time with than necessary? Image of God. That awful customer who is berating you for something you had no control over? Image of God. Your boss who is placing unrealistic expectations on you? Image of God. The mass shooter? The corrupt politician? The strung-out hooker on the corner? Image. Of. God.
So what does this mean? Each person is worthy of respect. Each person needs to love and to be loved. Each person has the capacity for great things. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood. In other words, if you can hit them and make them bleed, then they are not your enemy. They are a potential brother or sister in Christ.
Yes, some people are simply unbearable to be around. But so are you sometimes. The fact that we are created in God’s image and likeness means that each person has some amount of good in them that’s worth discovering.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes the hardest person to see the good within is…ourselves. It’s easy for us to lose sight of the God-Image within ourselves. That’s when we become fearful, worrisome, anxious, or angry. That’s when we become filled with shame or regret or envy. The Enneagram helps us to rediscover the Image of God within others and, more importantly, within ourselves.
2. Our highest calling is to love God with our entire being – body, heart, and mind.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
This passage is known as The Shema, from the Hebrew word “hear” or “listen.” When asked what the greatest command in Scripture is, Jesus quotes The Shema. The greatest command, the highest calling in all the Bible is to love God with our entire being. We must love God with our heart (our emotional center), with all our soul (our intellect), and with all our strength (our physical bodies).
In Enneagram language we see this in the triads – Head, Heart, Body – or Feeling, Thinking, Doing. Each one of us is drawn to one of these expressions more than the others as our way of relating to God.
If we are heart people, then we want worship to be passionate and full of emotions. We want to connect on a deep level with the music and the prayers. We will want more creative, artistic forms of expression in worship. Maybe tears. We want a preacher who is emotive and expressive and deeply moving. We want to be inspired deep in our souls.
If we’re body people, then we’re looking at the clock hoping the preacher doesn’t get too long winded because we’ve got things to do. We’d rather be out serving, helping, making a difference. We feel most connected with God when we’re actually doing the things we’ve heard about in church. We want to experience God in action. Enough studying. Enough sappy worship songs. Let’s get going!
Each of us will be drawn to one of these more than the other. We will be dominant in thinking, feeling, or doing, and we will also be regressive in one of the remaining areas. The Enneagram helps us understand which is our dominant center and which is our regressive center. The goal is to bring all three into balance or rhythm so that we can truly love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength.
3. Our love for God is fulfilled in loving others AND loving ourselves.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)
After stating the Shema as the “first and greatest” command, Jesus then said there was a second command like it. He then quotes from the passage above, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s not even that this is the second place command and the Shema is first place. It’s more like “Command 1.A and Command 1.B.” We show our love for God by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
These verses back up this point:
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
If we claim to love God, then we must show it by loving others. It’s as plain as that. We get it. That’s what we’re taught. Love God. Love others. That’s the life of a disciple in a nutshell, right?
But we skip over the last part of Command 1.B – Love your neighbor as yourself. We don’t tend to emphasize self-love that much. Admittedly, we do run the risk of becoming self-absorbed if we emphasize self-love and self-care too much. But if we don’t emphasize it at all, then we can become self-loathing. We can become our own worst critics.
I can almost guarantee that you speak more harshly to yourself than you ever would to your best friend or your significant other. You would never call your girlfriend fat (at least I hope!). You would never call your spouse a worthless moron. You would never call your child a failure for missing a couple questions on their test. Yet we say these things and worse (!) to ourselves every day.
We need to develop a sense of love and compassion for ourselves, too. We need to show mercy and forgiveness to ourselves, too. We cannot pour from an empty vessel. We cannot truly love others if we are not loving and accepting of ourselves, who God made us to be.
Paul talks about the need for self-love in his instructions to husbands and wives:
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church (Ephesians 5:28-29)
The Enneagram is a tool for developing empathy and compassion for others and for yourself. It will reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly about you. You will find things you never even knew were there. But the Enneagram will help you see that for every shadow there is a light, for every bit of ugliness there is beauty, for every fault there is a gift. The worst part about you and the best part about you are often two sides of the same coin. And that coin bears God’s image and likeness.