In the previous post, I pointed to three fundamental truths that lay the foundation for working with the Enneagram. They are:

  1. Every person is created in the Image of God.
  2. Our highest calling is to love God with our entire being – body, heart, & mind.
  3. Our love for God is fulfilled in loving others AND loving ourselves.
Before you begin to build, you need to have a good base. Some of us may need to do a bit more foundation work before we begin. I believe that once we’ve got this foundation set, then we can begin the real work.

In my understanding, there are four main tasks that the Enneagram invites us to undergo. They are related to and flow out of the three fundamental truths. So if you’re ready to get to work on the Enneagram, here is what you can expect the process to look like.
1. Find Yourself

This is closely tied to the first truth, that we are all made in the Image of God. Some of us struggle with understanding who God made us to be. When I say “find yourself,” we may think that’s a task for high school and college students. We should have it all figured out by the time we’re young adults.
But have you ever stopped to think about who you are? If I asked you to introduce yourself, could you come up with anything to say that wasn’t related to your occupation, your age, your family relations, etc.? We tend to find our identity in our relationships, our jobs, our political beliefs, our religious practices, our hobbies and interests. But these are all peripheral to who we actually are at the core.
Have you ever noticed how God has a tendency to change people’s name in the Bible? Abram becomes Abraham. Jacob becomes Israel. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul. Names mean something. God would often give someone a new name, taking their life from one path onto another path, or revealing who they were truly made to be.
Henri Nouwen famously laid out three lies of identity that we tend to believe: 1) I am what I do. 2) I am what I have. 3) I am what others say I am. If we try to find our identity in these lies, we will forever be wandering. But if we want to truly find ourselves, we must come to know the truth. Look at what Nouwen says in his book Life of the Beloved.

The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.

You are the beloved, chosen child of God, created in his Image, loved and accepted, created to do good works which God had planned for you long ago.

The first task of Enneagram work is to be honest with yourself about where you are and who you have become. The Enneagram, to quote Suzanne Stabile, “doesn’t put you in a box. It reveals what box you’re already in, and it shows you the way out.” We all have defense mechanisms and patterns of behavior that we fall back into unconsciously. The Enneagram helps bring those things to our awareness so we can “put off the old man” and become a “new creation” in Christ.

2. Love Yourself

I spent quite a bit of time talking about this point in the previous post, so I won’t go back over everything. But I want to reiterate the fact that God loves you and created your inmost being. Christ loves you and gave up his life for you. The Spirit loves you and lives inside you, bringing life and gifts.

If the triune God loves you this much, then shouldn’t you find reason to love yourself? God knows all your faults, all your failures, all your sin and brokenness. God knows it better than you do. And God loves you despite all that.

I find Paul’s words in Romans 7 extremely relatable.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
(Romans 7:24-25)

You may look back at your shortcomings and screwups and think How could anyone love me? But God looks at all that and (see point 1) says, You are my beloved child. How could I not love you?

Love yourself. Accept yourself. Forgive yourself. God says you’re worth it. The Enneagram can help you see your own worth and value. Before you ever begin to make a change, you are worthy of love.

3. Deny Yourself

This may seem like a contradiction to the point above, but it’s really just what happens when we stop buying into the lies of identity that Nouwen pointed out. We deny ourselves when we begin to believe 1) I am NOT what I do. 2) I am NOT what I have. 3) I am NOT what others say I am. After all, weren’t the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness all about identity? If you are the Son of God…do this miracle…have these kingdoms…get people talking about you. That’s why Jesus could then turn around and say this:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
(Luke 9:23-25)

Notice, he doesn’t say that you must deny yourself ______X_______. It’s not that you are denying yourself pleasures or wealth or power. Jesus doesn’t call you to deny yourself things. The call is to deny yourself, your very identity, what you believe makes you you.

This is where the mask comes off. This is where you realize that who you have been is not who you want to be. In psychological and Enneagram language this is called the “false self.” We all have this image we want others to see. We build up walls to keep people out and prevent them from getting too close. We’re afraid that if we unmask, then people won’t like what they see underneath.

This is probably the most painful part of the whole process. We must be willing to say, “I’m going to take off the mask and get rid of my false self – even if it kills me. Even if my whole little world begins to unravel, it’s worth it. Living into my true identity as God’s beloved child is better than living under the lies of a fake identity.”

4. Transform Yourself

The bad news about the transformation process is that no one can do it for you. Even God can’t force you to change. You can only do the work for yourself.

The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. God will be with you every step of the way.

If you’ve ever read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, you understand this idea. The Pilgrim had a guide leading him through all the challenges along the journey, but the Pilgrim had to complete and overcome the challenges on his own. So it is with Enneagram work. No one can do the work for you. No one can force you to change or cause transformation in your life.

Paul describes the process at the beginning of Romans 12.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:1-2)

Self-denial leads to transformation. And notice how we are transformed – by the renewing of our minds. When we undergo these tasks – finding, loving, denying, and transforming – we will begin to think differently about ourselves, God, others, and the world.

Start Here

If you are ready to begin the journey of transformation via the Enneagram, please check out my list of resources. Whether you’re a complete beginner wanting to get started or you’ve been at it for a while and want to go deeper, these resources can help you along the way. They have personally helped me to get in tune with myself and God. I hope they will be a blessing to you, too.

11 Great Enneagram Resources