Easter and the Enneagram

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the good news, i.e. the Gospel, of what God is doing in the world. Christianity centers on the resurrection, new life, the fact that death doesn’t get the final word.

I’ve heard it said, and I wholeheartedly agree, that the Gospel isn’t good news unless it’s good news for everyone. I believe that it is. I believe everyone can find hope, love, forgiveness, belonging, and transformation at the foot of the cross and at the door to the empty tomb. It is good news for everyone! So let’s take a look at how the resurrection is good news for each type on the Enneagram.

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Type Ones, The Perfectionists/Reformers

Good news: There was only perfect person – and he’s not you – and we killed him for it. The empty tomb tells us that we don’t have to be perfect to be loved and accepted. We don’t have to make everything just right in order to enjoy God’s blessing. We don’t have to earn God’s grace – we already have it.

Ones often see the world in binaries – black and white, good and bad, perfect and imperfect. The cross introduces the gray – the only perfect man didn’t make everything right in the way we would expect him to. He was the best that humanity could be, and he died because of it. And if the cross introduces the gray, then the empty tomb introduces the color. The story of God is so much bigger than right and wrong, dos and don’ts, thou shalts and thou shalt nots. Our imperfections are what make us human. We cannot become perfect on our own. We can never be good enough. But God has done all the work for us in setting the world to rights. Because of the resurrection, we get to be a part of bringing God’s good and perfect will into reality on earth around us. We can forgive ourselves and show mercy to others.

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Type Twos, The Helpers

Good news: Your needs matter. Your emotions and feelings matter. Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb validates the full range of human emotion and experience, including our own insufficiencies and needs. I think of the words the crowd yelled out, “He saved others. Let him save himself!” Twos probably feel that in their souls. But Jesus shows us there are times when we must rely on God alone.

Twos have a deep need to be needed. They thrive when others depend on them. This can become a really unhealthy dynamic in relationships if we aren’t careful. When we seek our validation by pleasing people and only feel as valued as our own ability to contribute and take care of people, then we often forget about ourselves. The resurrection reminds us that we are not God. God alone is to be relied upon for our greatest needs. The cross and resurrection lead us to surrender our need to be needed. We are forced instead to shift our focus on simply being in the presence of God. I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha (a classic Two). Jesus and the disciples were at their house. Martha got upset that Mary, her sister, was abandoning her in the kitchen and sitting at the feet of Jesus with the other disciples. Jesus rocks Martha’s world by affirming the choice Mary had made. Simply being in the presence of God is enough. God doesn’t need anything from us. He needs us. Rest a while in his presence.

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Type Threes, The Performers/Achievers

Good news: You are loved for who you are, not for what you do or accomplish. The resurrection shows us that what may look like failure to the world can ultimately be used by God for great purposes. The cross allows us to die to the world’s definition of success. By all worldly measures Jesus was yet another failed Messiah. He had failed in his mission to overthrow Rome and assume the throne in Jerusalem. But what looked like failure was ultimately the greatest victory that could have been won.

Threes fear failure and have a strong desire to be (or appear to be) successful. They can be whoever they need to be in the moment to get the job done. Productivity and achievement are the whole ballgame. The cross allows us the freedom of downward mobility. Jesus is our greatest example of what it means to empty oneself of all privileges, distinctions, and honors. He hung out with the outcasts. He associated with the lowly. He bucked the traditional definitions of success, and became a servant of all. There is great freedom for Threes in downward mobility, learning how to lose and “fail.” The grave teaches Threes how to wait and sit without working or doing, simply being. And the resurrection shows us that the greatest success and victory isn’t won by our own volition, but in relying upon God to turn our failures into something beautiful.

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Type Fours, The Romantics/Individualists

Good news: You are not broken. You are not a misfit. You are a beloved child of God, uniquely gifted and wonderfully made. Fours are very comfortable with melancholy. They resonate with the description of the “Suffering Servant” as a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” The sorrow and bitter emotions of the cross may be where Fours are tempted to stay. There is a time and place for that “dark night of the soul.”

But there must also be resurrection. If we aren’t careful we can retreat so far into ourselves that we shut out the world. We get too comfortable with the darkness and seclusion. We mistrust the world while still wanting to be an accepted part of it. When Jesus was resurrected, he didn’t just become like everyone else. In fact, people didn’t recognize him at first. There was something uniquely different about the resurrected Christ. When we come out of that dark, sorrowful solitude of the grave into resurrection, we can fully embrace what makes us different and unrecognizable to so many. We can truly be who God created us to be, with all our flaws, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and imperfections. Let the life-giving Spirit of God fill that longing emptiness within you. Step out of that tomb into a new, fresh day.

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Type Fives, The Observers/Investigators

Good news: You are competent and capable. You are safe. Relationships take risks, but they are well worth it. Fives, more than just about any other type, tend to close themselves off in relationships. They aren’t very in tune with their emotions or those of others. They can feel intimidated by feelings and vulnerability. They tend to be more at home in the realm of academics, knowledge, and expertise. They like to know something about everything and everything about something. They tend to be more analytical and “logical” in their processing, because there is safety and security in knowledge.

The cross can be detrimental to a Five, because the cross reminds us that the world does not work in a logical, systematic way. The innocent man was executed while the rightfully convicted man goes free. The cross of Christ is illogical. How much more so the resurrection! People don’t rise from the dead. The tendency of a Five may be to go in search of empirical evidence for the resurrection. But it’s not something that can be scientifically proven or historically validated beyond a reasonable doubt. Easter Sunday calls all of us, and especially Fives, to take that scary leap of faith into the unknown. Will you follow Christ to the cross? Will you sit with him in the tomb? Will you place everything on the line for the hope of resurrection? The good news for Fives is that there are some things that defy explanation or logic. But we can gain experiential knowledge of Christ by participating with him in his death, burial, and resurrection as we follow him.

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Type Sixes, The Loyalists

Good news: You are safe. There is nothing left to fear. You may be focused on the worst-case-scenarios. But guess what! The worst thing imaginable has already happened. Christ has been crucified. But there is life on the other side. You may try to prepare for the worst that life has to throw at you, but you can never be fully prepared for the unexpected tragic events. Fear is the enemy of faith. Throughout his ministry Jesus chastised his disciples for living in fear rather than living by faith. That’s the choice we all have to make. The resurrection of Christ shows us that we have nothing left to fear.

FDR famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But what are we do afraid of? Death. Pain. Suffering. Losing loved ones. Living in need. Sickness. Demons and forces of evil. Natural disaster. We probably have a list a mile long. But the death and resurrection blows all those fears out of the water. When we participate with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, we know that we have already died. The worst-case-scenario has, in a way, already happened. We know that if Christ has been raised then we also will be raised to live with him. And nothing that we fear in all creation will separate us from the most important thing – the love of God in Christ Jesus. Fear and death have been conquered. Christ is victorious.

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Type Sevens, The Enthusiasts

Good news: You can stop running. Sevens are a ton of fun to be around. They are often extroverted, the life of the party, with tons of stories to tell. They are always looking forward to the next big adventure. But there is a reason they are always moving onto the next thing. Sevens have a deep need to avoid pain. They are afraid that if they stay in one place, one situation, one job, one relationship, etc. too long then they will have to wrestle with the pain of their past.

The cross and the tomb force Sevens to sit with their pain, to be still and reflect on the darkness and brokenness of life. Particularly in this time of lock-down and quarantine, Sevens are probably going crazy. We aren’t able to go and do and plan and have adventures. We are forced into stillness. The resurrection tells us that true life only comes through the pain. There cannot be life without death. There cannot be joy without pain. There cannot be celebration of Easter without the devastation of Good Friday. Life is worth living and savoring – even the boring, the uncomfortable, the mundane. and the painful.

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Type Eights, The Challengers/Enforcers

Good news: God will never leave you or betray you, even in death. You don’t have to fight anymore. You don’t have to take charge. You don’t have to be right about everything. I’m reminded of the story of Exodus when God tells the people of Israel, “You need only to be still. I will fight for you.”

Eights fear being betrayed and appearing weak or vulnerable. For Eights, all those fears are realized in the cross. Jesus was made to be weak. He was beaten and mocked. He was too weak to carry his cross. He was stripped naked and lifted up on the cross for all to see and judge. And after it all, Jesus cried out the words from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Weak, vulnerable, and forsaken. But the resurrection shows us that God can take our weakness and turn it into strength. Even though Jesus felt betrayed, he never really was. God may not be there for us in the way he wanted or needed, but God was there when he needed him. God allowed Jesus to go through the worst humanity had to offer, but resurrection awaited. When we are weak, then we are strong. When we are vulnerable, then we are most able to let down our guards, tear down our walls, and let people see the real us.

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Type Nines, The Peacemakers

Good news: You matter. You are valued. Your presence is noticed and matters. Nines are able to see all sides and all perspectives. That can be useful tool, but it can also be disorienting. Nines can lose the ability to differentiate themselves and their opinions from those of others. When faced with potential conflict, many Nines would rather fade into the background than to face it head on.

In the cross we see the greatest Peacemaker face down the greatest conflict of all time – the conflict between the evil ways of the world and the good and true way of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus did not shy away from the confrontation he faced. He knew that true peace could only come from enduring the pain of the cross. He came to bring peace, but it was not in the way the world brings “peace.” The world brings peace by taking lives. Jesus brought peace by giving up his life. The conflict came to a head at the cross, and the victory was won through his death. He laid everything on the line. When we wake up to the injustices in the world and the battle worth fighting, then we can truly work for the things that bring peace. Peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict. True peace comes from those who are willing to lay down their lives in the effort. These peacemakers will be called Children of God. And if we share in a death like his, we know that we will also share in a resurrection like his.

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So what do you think? If you know your Enneagram type, what is something you learn from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?

Harry Potter and the Ancient Enneagram

What’s the number one rule of the Enneagram?

Everybody say it with me now: “I will not type other people.”

Learning the Enneagram is a journey of self-discovery. No one can tell you your number. Only you can know your own motivations, fears, and desires. It’s not some party trick, Oooh, let me guess everyone’s number and tell me if I’m right! You can make assumptions, but you’re better off keeping them to yourself. If you tell someone what you think their number is, you are robbing them of a valuable part of the experience.

But while I won’t sit here and tell others what I think their type is, it can be a lot of fun to discuss the types of fictional characters. You can’t really be “wrong,” and even if you are you aren’t hurting anyone in the process. When it comes to literary figures, we are often given a glimpse into their inner thoughts, motivations, fears, and desires. We can make certain conclusions about them that we can’t for our friends and family.

So let’s start with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, shall we?

I’m currently re-reading the entire series. I’m about midway through book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you’ve never read the series, then what are you waiting for, ya Muggle?!

The characters in Harry Potter are incredibly well-written and developed. JK Rowling makes you fall in love with these characters. You genuinely care about what happens to them. By the end of the series, they feel like close personal friends. She also brilliantly writes some positively unlikeable characters apart from the main antagonist.

Her characters are so great and relatable because they are consistent within themselves. They grow and develop in a believable way. They respond to situations in ways that are in line with what we already know about them. And this makes the characters a good case study for Enneagram Types.

Some of them are rather easy to pin. Let’s begin with those.

  • Hermione Granger – a textbook ONE if there ever was one
  • Hagrid – a TWO all the way
  • Severus Snape – most likely a FIVE with a dominant FOUR wing
  • Professor McGonnagal – most certainly a ONE
  • Luna Lovegood – almost stereotypically a FOUR
  • Gilderoy Lockhart – a very unhealthy THREE
  • Draco Malfoy – also an unhealthy THREE with a strong FOUR wing
  • The Weasley Family…
    • Ginny – EIGHT
    • Fred & George – SEVEN, do you really need to ask?
    • Percy – ONE
    • Mrs. Weasley – TWO
    • Mr. Weasley – probably a FIVE with a strong SIX wing
    • Ron – phobic SIX
  • Neville Longbottom – most likely a NINE
  • Sirius Black – SEVEN with an EIGHT wing or vice versa, it’s difficult to say
  • Albus Dumbledore – many lists like this have him as a FIVE, but I think he’s most certainly a NINE
  • Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort – learning his back story makes me believe he is an unhealthy FOUR with a dominant THREE wing
“THE CHOSE ONE”
You may notice I have left someone off the list. What about Harry Potter? Most sources I’ve seen have him as a NINE. I don’t see that. He is far too openly aggressive with his anger to be a NINE. So some sources list him as an EIGHT. That makes some sense. He seems to be driven by anger. He has a knack for defending the underdog. But I don’t think that’s the whole picture.
Look at this Type description from the Enneagram Institute:

To compensate for insecurities, they become sarcastic and belligerent, blaming others for their problems, taking a tough stance toward “outsiders.” Highly reactive and defensive, dividing people into friends and enemies, while looking for threats to their own security. Authoritarian while fearful of authority, highly suspicious, yet, conspiratorial, and fear-instilling to silence their own fears.

I believe that description fits Harry perfectly, especially throughout book 5, The Order of the Phoenix. And that is the description of a Low-Average type SIX.

Enneagram SIXES can be split into two subtypes: Phobic and Counter-phobic. SIXES are driven by fear and a need to feel secure. The subtypes are split based on how they react to fear. Phobic SIXES exhibit a flight-response (like Ron). Counter-Phobic SIXES instinctually exhibit the fight-response. They are more openly aggressive and confrontational. These SIXES can often be mis-typed as EIGHTS, but there are key differences.

Let’s start with the Loyalty aspect of SIXES. Harry is fiercely loyal once you have earned his trust. He is loyal almost to a fault. Think about his devotion to his friends – Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, Ginny. But even more so, think about his devotion to the trusted authority figures in his life – Dumbledore, Sirius, Hagrid, McGonnagal. He’s even over-the-top loyal to the very institution of Hogwarts.

But he is also inherently distrustful of most people until they have earned his trust. And those who have not earned it or have broken it, they are almost certainly viewed as his arch-enemies. This is particularly evident in his relationship with Snape. It doesn’t matter how much Dumbledore trusts Snape; Harry won’t give Snape one ounce of trust – not until the very end at least.

When Harry is afraid, his instinct is to fight. He fights against Malfoy and Voldemort and Umbridge and all his general critics and nay-sayers. He even fights against his own friends and mentors when he feels threatened. Here’s another description of Counter-Phobic SIXES from the Enneagram Institute:

Sixes become aggressive because they do not want to be pushed around anymore; Eights become aggressive to push others even more.
The essential difference is that Sixes eventually will yield and their defenses will crumble if enough pressure is applied to them, whereas opposition to Eights only encourages them to remain defiant and to meet their adversary with renewed aggression.

Harry’s opposition to Dumbledore and others ultimately crumbles. He finally yields and lets Dumbledore take more of a leadership role in his life. Even though he felt like his trust had been betrayed, he is eager to mend those broken relationships for the sake of his devotion and loyalty. An EIGHT wouldn’t do that so easily.

Also, we must look at the paths of Stress and Security. In stress, SIXES go to the unhealthy side of THREE. We see this play out in Harry’s life, especially book Five. He takes it upon himself to lead the D.A. (Dumbledore’s Army) in response to the oppressive Umbridge regime. More than that, Voldemort takes advantage of 1) Harry’s loyalty and 2) Harry’s arrogance to trick him into going to the Ministry of Magic. When Harry is a state of stress or “disorientation,” he responds by doubling down on his own self-worth and arrogance. He begins to think of himself as more important and more capable than he really is. He develops a sort of “Messiah complex,” believing that he is the only one who could save Sirius. He stops relying on the help of others. He begins to believe himself to be more skilled and more qualified than others. He becomes more self-focused and less group oriented.

But in times of security, SIXES go to the healthy side of NINE. We often do see Harry in a peacemaker role, bridging the gap between Ron and Hermione or bringing together different groups of people who would otherwise never work together. As I read through book six again, I’m reminded of how important it is to the story that Harry find out more about Voldemort’s past. Harry needs to understand Voldemort, and he can do so in a way that most people can’t. Harry feels most secure when he is in the presence of Dumbledore, who himself is a NINE. Dumbledore helps Harry to develop empathy even for his greatest enemy.

I don’t think Harry is a NINE, but he does move towards NINE. I don’t believe Harry is an EIGHT, although he does display a lot of the same aggression and fighting spirit of an EIGHT. The type that makes most sense to me is that Harry is a Counter-Phobic SIX.

What do you think? Would you argue that Harry is a different type? What about the other characters? Let me know in the comments below!

PERSECUTED | 40 Days of Focus, Day 25

 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
(Matthew 5:10 | The Message)

Most of us have no idea what it really looks like to be persecuted. We’ve all experienced bullies and jerks. We’ve all face insults and passive aggressiveness. But real persecution is deeper than that. Persecution arises out of fear and a lack of understanding. We fear that which we don’t understand. We cannot love that which we fear.

One of the most misunderstood types on the Enneagram is Type 5 – the Observer or Investigator. Fives have a deep inner commitment to truth and knowledge. They would rather sit back and people watch than actually engage in social interactions. They read the Encyclopedia for fun as kids. They are typically the type of people who know a little bit about everything and everything about something. The pursuit of knowledge and insight takes a high priority in their lives, to the point that they can seem aloof or standoffish. They tend to act more introverted than most other Types.

As such, they can be hard to relate to. They may be able to talk your ear off about differentials or automatic transmissions, but might not be up to date on the latest Marvel movies.

They are passionate about getting things right and doing things right. When they gain interest in a subject, they tend to go all in. They can be some of the best researchers, scientists, and engineers. But they might not be the “best” spouse, friend, or coworker. This can lead to ostracism and misunderstanding.

And we fear that which we don’t understand. We cannot love that which we fear. We mistreat that which we do not love.

Fives can feel persecuted because of their beliefs, values, and hoard of knowledge. They can feel left out, excluded, and unwelcome. That is…if they ever admit to these feelings.

An example of a Five in Scripture facing some level of persecution is Nicodemus. He appears three times in John’s Gospel. First he has a nighttime conversation with Jesus in which Jesus challenged everything he thought he knew about God. The second time we see him, Nicodemus is standing up for Jesus, pointing out that their own law prohibits the leaders from arresting Jesus without cause. They all turn on him and begin to ridicule him – even though he was simply stating facts, using his knowledge of the law to defend Jesus.

People don’t really like know-it-alls. That’s the boat most Fives find themselves in more often than we realize.

It’s important for all of us to do a better job getting to know one another. You cannot love your neighbor if you are afraid of them. You cannot overcome your fear of them if you don’t take the time to know and understand them. That’s what we all want, really – to know and to be known; to love and to be loved. And that’s what the kingdom of heaven is all about.
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Do you know any Fives in your life? How might their knowledge come into conflict with their relationships?


What is our typical response when someone else points out where we’ve gone wrong? Even though they’re right, why do we react negatively?


Is there a person or group of people you’re afraid to get to know? Why? What steps can you take this week to reach out to them?

PEACEMAKER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 24

 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
(Matthew 5:9 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
(Matthew 5:9 | The Message)

Everyone who would rather avoid conflict, let me know by making a passive aggressive comment under your breath!

There are very few people who appreciate conflict and arguments. Type Eights aside, most people would rather avoid those hard, painful conversations. But I think we are all aware that absence of conflict does not equal peace. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. Whenever a family never fights or argues, it’s probably because nobody is talking to each other, they’re all just avoiding the tough topics that need to be addressed. Anger and resentment bubble and simmer just below the surface. From the outside everything might look ok. But unless there is some conflict, there can never be real growth or healing.

Some of the Beatitudes have a more obvious Enneagram connection than others. This is one of those. Enneagram Type Nines are commonly known as Peacemakers. When they are unhealthy, Nines tend to avoid all conflict and uncomfortable situations. They can physically leave or mentally check out – or worse, use numbing behaviors – in order to preserve their inward tranquility. But when Nines are healthy they can become expert negotiators, mediators, and peacemakers.

There is a difference between a peace-lover, a peace-keeper, and a peacemaker. Peacemaking is the hard work of entering into the conflict and the chaos in order to get both sides to agree to a ceasefire. Nines are especially equipped for this task because they can easily step into other people’s shoes. They have an easier time than most seeing the world from other people’s perspective. They can easily see both sides of a conflict and determine a middle-ground on which to compromise.

Healthy Nines make really good pastors, church elders, teachers, and even politicians.

I love how Eugene Peterson words this Beatitude in The Message. He describes these people as those who “can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.” Nines are not inherently competitive (for the most part). Nines just want everyone to have a good time playing the game. Unfortunately we live in a world full of competition. We compete for jobs, for online attention, for resources, for followers, for the promotion, for the corner office, for the spot in that graduate program. We’ve turned singing, dancing, modeling, and cupcake baking into major competition shows. Peacemakers are those who step in and remind us that not everything is a competition. Life is a team sport. Ministry is a team sport. Business and government and baking are team sports.

But Nines tend to struggle finding their place in life, or going through the process of individuation. They tend to define their identity based on their relationship to others. As kids, Nines picked up on the message that their own desires and ideas and opinions – even their presence – didn’t matter much. So they  defer to others who are more assertive and would often prefer to fade into the background. But when Nines step into their role as Peacemakers, then they can truly become who they were meant to be. Or as Peterson words it, “That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
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What’s the difference between peace-lovers, peace-keepers, and peacemakers?


If peace is not simply the absence of conflict, then what is it? How would you define it?


How is peacemaking connected to our identity as children of God? What does he expect from us? What is our place in the kingdom? In the world?

PURE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 23

 

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
(Matthew 5:8 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
(Matthew 5:8 | The Message)

Pure in heart. Now that’s a phrase we don’t use a lot. We don’t tend to talk about purity that often. We want our water to be pure. We want essential oils to be a certain degree of purity. We like pure gold and Purity Milk. But our hearts? Is it even possible to be “pure in heart?”

When I think of this phrase I think of innocence. Deep down we all know that we adults are anything but pure and innocent. In fact, if we meet someone in their late teens or early twenties who actually is “pure,” we feel uncomfortable around them. We call them sheltered or socially awkward. There’s something unsettling about an adult who is “too” innocent or pure hearted. They’re just a little too childlike.

But isn’t that the point? Jesus said that we must become like little children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus pointed out children as an example of the kind of faith it takes to follow him. Children who haven’t become jaded or cynical yet are refreshing and even inspiring. They don’t get the innuendoes. They don’t automatically distrust people. They don’t carry around emotional baggage. There is freedom that comes from purity.

Care-free. Joyful. Optimistic. Does this sound like a certain Enneagram type? If you know the Enneagram, I’m sure you’re thinking of Sevens, also known as Enthusiasts.

Sevens are fun to be around, because they’re always up for the next adventure. They bring joy and excitement to their work and whatever else they find to do. Healthy Sevens have an innocence about them that draws people in. Think Bob Goff or “Joy” from Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out.

Sevens are always concerned about what comes next. They want to see all the things. They want to do all the things. Most of the time the expectation of the thing is better than the thing itself. Planning the trip can be more fun than actually going on the trip. Ordering the new product is better than that product arriving. Mapping out the project is better than executing the project.

But what’s the best thing you can imagine? Can you imagine actually seeing God? Being in God’s presence? As exciting as it may be to anticipate that moment, it’s nothing compare to experiencing heaven.

Sevens can be some of the most hesitant Type to actually do the hard inner work required of them. They enjoy being themselves, why would they want to change?! But Enthusiasts must align their inner world with their outer world to become fully present in the moment. They’re always looking to the future, but God is always now.

Bring your inner and outer world into alignment. Pursue your dreams from a pure motivation. Become fully present in the moment. Then you will be able to take a look around and see God at work all around you.
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What do purity, joy, and productivity have to do with each other?


What do you think it means to “see God?” What do you imagine that will be like?


What does it look like for an adult to be “pure in heart” or innocent without being completely awkward about it?

MERCIFUL | 40 Days of Focus, Day 22

 

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
(Matthew 5:7 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
(Matthew 5:7 | The Message)

A word about mercy. The word is closely related to the concepts of justice and grace. Here’s an easy way to keep them all straight.

  • Justice: I get what I deserve (positive or negative)
  • Grace: I get what I don’t deserve (positive)
  • Mercy: I don’t get what I deserve (negative)
We want the world to be fair and just. We want everything to be boiled down to a simple ration where the guilty are punished and the “good guys” get rewarded. But that all breaks down the moment we understand that bad things happen to good people, and the “bad guy”sometimes gets away with it. We begin to believe that the world is chaotic, that it’s dog-eat-dog, and that only the strong survive. We can’t take anything for granted – even our personal safety and survival.
Some of us learn this lesson earlier in life than others. These people often become dominant Enneagram Type Eights, or Challengers. Eights value strength, action, power, and justice. Eights make good superheroes. Eights tend to be the most aggressive/assertive type on the Enneagram. They can come across as intense and intimidating, “larger than life.” They wear their anger on their sleeve, but keep their more tender/vulnerable emotions buried deep.
So why would we talk about Eights in relation to this Beatitude?
Eights are heavy on the side of justice. If someone wrongs them, they want to make sure that person is held accountable and pays for the transgression. They want life to be fair and right, like Ones, but Eights aren’t as perfectionistic in how they go about fighting for justice. Ones might fight in the courts. Eights will march in the streets.
When it comes to justice issues, Eights are almost always on the side of the underdog. They see a lot of themselves in those who are mistreated, bullied, or oppressed.
Eights have the justice thing down. It’s mercy they need to work on. Eights are good when it comes to “people get what they deserve.” Not so great with “people don’t get what they deserve.” Mercy can be viewed as weakness, which is what an Eight wants to avoid at all costs. Mercy is vulnerable, making it a double whammy.
But mercy is strength because it requires us to absorb the full cost of the transgression, to let it go, to defer “justice” in order to preserve relationships.
Someone cuts you off in traffic? You let it go.
Someone gives you a dirty look? Smile and shake it off.
Someone utters a passive-aggressive insult? Just roll with it and move on.
Someone says they’re sorry? You forgive and move forward.
Deep down Eights know they are the ones most in need of mercy and forgiveness. They are painfully aware of their own weaknesses, their own shortcomings, their own failures. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
(James 2:12-13)

When Eights move to a place of health and security, they can offer not just justice but also mercy and grace. In opening themselves up to the vulnerability of mercy, they will find themselves on the receiving end of all they ever wanted.

__________________________________

Why is mercy often thought of as a sign of weakness?

What does society tend to value more: justice, grace, or mercy?

What do you think about James’ statement that “mercy triumphs over judgment?” How can that make sense in the real world?

MEEK | 40 Days of Focus, Day 20

 

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
(Matthew 5:5 | The Message)

Google defines the word “meek” as quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive. It’s closely related to humility. We have a hard time with those words in our society. It’s a shame that meek rhymes with weak – because that’s not what it means. It’s a shame that humble and humiliation share the same root. We associate humility and meekness with weakness and fragility.

A Clydesdale may be meek and submissive, but that in no way means he’s weak or fragile. To be meek is to harness your power, to control your strength, and not to impose your will on others by force.

Again, it’s closely tied to humility. To be humble is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less.

I always find this line from the Book of Numbers amusing:

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
(Numbers 12:13)

Irony is bragging about how humble someone is. But we all know people like this. We all know people who would give you the shirt of their backs. They would open their home for a dinner party in a moment’s notice. They would drop everything they’re doing to help you out of a bad situation.

These people, in Enneagram language, are called The Helpers. They are Enneagram Type Twos. They are driven by a need to be needed. They want other people to call on them for help. They are gracious hosts, warm and inviting to strangers, and generally pleasant to be around.

But while they often put on a humble, meek exterior, an attitude of pride is lurking just below the surface. This pride leaks out when they feel unappreciated or taken for granted. They can become indignant when they help someone out and don’t get a Thank You in return. If their actions go unnoticed, it can drive a Two crazy to the point of burnout. Think back to the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 11. Martha is slaving away in the kitchen while her sister is sitting at Jesus’ feet with the other disciples. Martha gets angry and tells Jesus to tell Mary to help her.

Pride and humility are two sides of the same coin. Humility can be easy to fake, but when tested the pride will almost always reveal itself.

Ironically, for a Helper to become healthier they need to spend more time focusing on themselves. The pride that’s hidden below the meek facade is fed by praise, acknowledgement, and by being needed. Twos actually need to starve that pride by learning to say no to others and setting boundaries. When Twos are able to starve their pride and get free from the trappings of outward validation, then they can become truly healthy and happy Helpers, who serve not from a place of pride but from genuine humility.

Or as Peterson words it in The Message:

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.

When Twos are able to live out of a place of genuine humility, they find within themselves the love and acceptance they always craved from outside sources. They no longer need to be needed with no regard to their own needs. Rather, they can now find ways to fill their own cup so they have something more to pour into others.

_______________________________

Why do you think it’s so easy for pride to hide below the surface of humility?


What is the more genuine display of humility: refusing to ask for help or making your needs known? Or letting others know what you need and how they can help?


What do Twos (Helpers) gain by embracing true humility?

MOURN | 40 Days of Focus, Day 19

 

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
(Matthew 5:4 | The Message)

Enneagram Type Fours are commonly known as Individualists or Romantics. They tend to be more creative types – painters, musicians, authors, poets, etc. They have a unique way of seeing the world, and they want to be seen by the world as unique. They are driven by a desire to be special, different, authentic, but most of all to be accepted for who they are. You may not know who they are from one week to the next as they try on different personas and styles.

But the thing that really sets Fours apart from most other types is their comfort with melancholy. Fours tend to be drawn to sad movies, heartfelt TV dramas, and emotional indie music. They embrace sorrow like it’s a close friend. It’s been said that Fours don’t have emotions, they are emotions.

This comfort with sorrow can likely be attributed to their own feelings of brokenness. Many Fours grew up feeling different from everyone else. It might be a physical abnormality – too tall, too short, glasses, freckles, curly hair, anything that can cause a child to feel self-conscious. Or it might be a different way of interacting with the world and their peers – they might be into different types of books, movies, tv shows, or cosplay than most other kids their age. But somewhere along they way they begin to believe that there is something wrong and different and bad about them. They feel like they don’t belong and they never will. It’s like there are key pieces missing in the puzzle of their lives.

Fours have a deep seated envy of others whom they perceive as “normal.” They want what other people have, they want to be accepted and find belonging, but they don’t want to conform or be thought of as “normal.” This tension can lead to a predisposition for anxiety and depression.

But I believe Fours, or “those who mourn,” can teach us a very valuable lesson. So many of us would rather reframe a bad situation, crack a joke to lighten the mood, or avoid the pain altogether. Fours teach us the value in sitting with our pain and our sorrow. They teach us to lean into our emotions, not away from them. Fours teach us the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
(Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)

We cannot find comfort if we never allow ourselves to truly feel, to mourn, to grieve. If we keep going through life with a forced smile on our face pretending that “everything is awesome,” then we’re not opening ourselves up to the possibility of true peace and comfort.

The LEGO Movie featured the popular song “Everything Is Awesome.” But the sequel that just came out (The LEGO Movie 2, the Second Part) features a different take on that song. Just look at these lyrics.

Everything’s not awesome
Things can’t be awesome all of the time
It’s not realistic expectation
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try
To make everything awesome
In a less like, unrealistic kind of way
We should maybe aim for not bad
‘Cause not bad, well that would be real great

Mourning is part of life. Things can’t be awesome all of the time. We should stop telling people to “cheer up” or to “get over it.” We should stop expecting people to grieve on our timeline and in our approved way. Jesus himself is referred to as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Jesus comes to us in our distress, in our grief, in our depression, and he doesn’t tell us to “turnt that frown upside down.” He sits with us. He weeps with us. He feels deep compassion and empathy for us.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34:18)

_________________________________

Why do you think so many people try to avoid sorrow and sadness in their lives? Can you see the benefit to embracing those emotions rather than pushing them aside?

When you are going through a hard time, would you prefer someone to tell you to cheer up? Or would you rather just have someone be present with you even if they didn’t say anything?

Why would a “house of mourning” be better than a “house of feasting?”

POOR | 40 Days of Focus, Day 18

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3 | New International Version) 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
(Matthew 5:3 | The Message)

When we focus in on aspects of Scripture like the 10 Commandments, it can be easy to think religion is all about following a set of rule and regulation. For the Jews, it wasn’t just the 10 Commandments. All together the Rabbis tallied 613 commands in the Torah. Beyond that they developed their own traditions and practices to act as a sort of “hedge” around the commands so they wouldn’t even come close to breaking them.

For instance, the command to keep the Sabbath Day holy evolved into an elaborate system of regulations concerning how far one could walk, what tasks could be done if absolutely necessary, and trying to define “work” as tightly as possible. Religion became more about rights, rituals, rules, and regulations than it was about relationship – which is what God wanted all along.

We humans sure do put the “mental” in fundamentalism!

The 10 Commandments were given on Mount Sinai. Jesus comes along and delivers his first major sermon on what is today known as the “Mount of Beatitudes.” He doesn’t begin with commands, but blessings. Religion says You’re blessed if you follow these rules. Jesus says You’re blessed. There are no “ifs.” This list of blessings, commonly known as the Beatitudes, are not a checklist for us to adhere to. It’s not telling us how we should be or what we should do. Jesus is looking out at the crowd, seeing the oppressed and the disenfranchised and calling them “Blessed.”

I’m going to address each of the Beatitudes in Enneagram language. If you aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, then go check out my Enneagram page to find out more. According to the Enneagram, there are nine basic personality types, or “false selves,” and each one of us is dominant in one type. And I believe that each Enneagram number finds a blessing and word of encouragement in these Beatitudes.

Jesus begins by pronouncing a blessing on “the poor in spirit.” I’ve never really heard a satisfying explanation of what Jesus meant by that. But when I think of it in Enneagram language it begins to make sense. I believe Jesus speaks this blessing on Enneagram Type Threes – the Performers or Achievers. These are the type of people who put a lot of stock in success, or at least the appearance of success. They are very action driven, and they fear failure and insignificance.

Threes want it all. Threes want to achieve their goals, knock off their to-do list, and look good doing it. They want all the markers of success and status symbols for whatever “in-group” they’re trying to impress. Want an example? Just watch one episode of Parks and Rec. Leslie Knope is a THREE.

Failure can be devastating for a Three. It makes them feel worthless and insignificant. Imposter Syndrome is a big problem for a lot of Threes – everyone thinks you’re better than you really are, and only you know your true failings and faults. It’s a byproduct of their own success and achievement. They knocked it out of the park once, now they have to do it again…and again…and they have to do it bigger and better. It’s a cycle that never ends, but it’s one of their own making. They feel stuck and wish they could break free. No matter what they do, it’s never quite good enough. There is no end.

That’s why I love the way Eugene Peterson phrased it in The Message: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.”

The song “High Hopes” by Panic! At the Disco has become somewhat of a Three anthem. There’s one line repeated a few times that just nails it: “We wanted everything more than everything.” And what’s the promise to those who are “poor in spirit” or “at the end of their rope?” Their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Or again as Peterson puts it: “With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

The worst thing that can happen to a Three is failure and burnout. But the best thing that can ever happen to a Three is failure and burnout. When everything comes easy to an Achiever, they begin to get an inflated self-image. Threes fear failure and its repercussions, but in many ways they will never find real growth unless they experience failure. Threes have a tendency to believe the lie, “I am only as valuable as my latest success.” Only through failure can Threes begin to correct that lie and experience the truth that “I am loved not for what I do but for who I am.”

The world urges us to believe we are #blessed if we have all the stuff we want. We’ve got to be part of the hustle. We’ve got to grind for what we want.

Jesus says you’re blessed when you give up, when you dare to redefine success according to God’s terms.

Actress/Comedian Lily Tomlin is famous for saying, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Or as Jesus would put it:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
(Mark 8:35-37)

When you decide to get out before you burn out, when you resolve not to keep up with the Joneses anymore, when you redefine what success means, when you’re at the end of your rope – that’s where you’ll find the Kingdom of Heaven, ready and waiting for you.

______________________________

Do you struggle to believe you are loved for who you are, not for what you do? Why or why not?


Have you ever experienced real failure or burnout? How did it make you feel? How did you recover from it?


If you were to redefine success according to God’s terms for your life, what would that actually look like? How would your life be different?

Biblical Enneagram Types: NINES

The Peacemaker


Enneagram Type Nines are typically known as the Peacemakers. Nines have the uncanny ability to see everyone’s point of view at once and can join in either side of a debate. However, they usually choose to withdraw from the debate altogether because they want to avoid conflict and anything that might upset their calm.

Nines sit atop the Enneagram for a reason. It’s not unusual for a Nine to have difficulty finding their type since they can relate to so many other numbers. They can understand the drive of the Three, the desire to be helpful of a Two, the skepticism of a Six, and the protectiveness of an Eight all at once.

This can be a good thing or a very bad thing. Healthy Nines make excellent mediators, able to bring two conflicting sides to the table and find common ground between them. Unhealthy Nines, however, can be crippled by the conflicting viewpoints and simply shut down, withdrawing into themselves and their own little world. If a Nine doesn’t want to be moved, then they can become the most stubborn Type on the Enneagram. But if a Nine truly doesn’t have strong opinions, then they are usually happy to go with the flow.

They can be peacemakers or conflict-avoiders. They can be laid back and easy-going, or they can be an immovable stick in the mud. They can be assertive and fight for a just cause, or they can be masters of sarcasm and passive aggressiveness. They can be aloof or welcoming.

Nines often defer decisions to the group or to the one in authority. As kids, Nines picked up on the message that their presence doesn’t matter very much, so they learned to fade into the background and keep their anger in check lest they rock the boat. Nines come into their own when they learn to pair their ability to see all points of view with an assertiveness to act on what they know to be right.

Healthy Nines can be a blessing to everyone around them.

FATHER ABRAHAM HAD MANY SONS…

Funny how we never talk about Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Genesis 26:1). But whatever.

I believe that the “Father of the Faith” was a Nine: Abraham.

God called Abraham (then known as Abram) to leave the place of his fathers and travel to a distant land. God promised that he would bless Abram with offspring too numerable to count. It’s a beautiful promise, really.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
(Genesis 12:1-3)

I don’t know how well any other Enneagram type would handle a promise like this. A Three would let that go directly to his head as his ego inflated to the size of a hot air balloon. A Four would probably try to hide from the responsibility – You’ve got the wrong guy, God. A Seven would be almost TOO eager for the task. A One would likely get caught up in all the details of exactly how and when God’s plan would come about. But Abram simply trusted and went.

The very next story in Genesis 12 is about Abram traveling to Egypt. While there, he fears that Pharaoh would have him killed in order to take his wife, Sarai. So in order to avoid that conflict Abram told the Egyptians that Sarai was his sister. They still took her, but they let him live. God had to step in and punish Pharaoh and his court because of Abram’s lie. A very similar thing happened in Genesis 20. Nines often think they are doing what’s best if they avoid conflict, but that often only makes the situation worse.

Then there’s the time when Abram’s and Lot’s (his nephew) herds and flocks were getting too big. They knew they couldn’t stay together, so they decided to part ways. Abram would go one direction, Lot the other. Abram let Lot have the first pick. Nines share some commonalities with Twos, for instance putting other people’s needs and desires above their own.

When Sarai grew tired of waiting for God to act on his promise of a son, she urged Abram to take her handmaid, Hagar, and use her as a surrogate. This is yet another instance when Abram avoided a potential conflict and everyone was worse off because of it. Hagar bore a son named Ishmael, and Sarai grew jealous and eventually sent them both away to make it on their own in the wilderness. Abram just let it happen.

God changed Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah. Soon after that God sent his angels to investigate the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah – where Lot and his family settled down. The report was NOT good, to say the least. God sent word to Abraham that he planned to destroy the cities and the inhabitants. But Abraham took on the role of mediator and began to bargain and negotiate with God on behalf of the cities. The cities were full of evil, but Abraham still saw something worth saving in them.

Finally, Abraham and Sarah were blessed with a son of their own – Isaac. God fulfilled the promise he made to them so long ago. I think only a Nine could have been as patient as Abraham. But then…God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac upon an altar. Some theologians and rabbis over the years have insisted that Abraham should have argued with God on behalf of Isaac like he did on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m not sure. Maybe this is another instance of Abraham simply going along in order to avoid one more conflict. Or maybe Abraham had learned by this point to fully trust that God was in control of the situation. He sounds confident when he tells his men, “We will go up and worship, and then we will come back down.”

Abraham ended up outliving Sarah. One of the most amazing little lines jumps out to me every time I read about Abraham’s death.

Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah.
(Genesis 26:8-10)

Nines have a way of bringing people together. Even in his death Abraham was able to bring Isaac and Ishmael together again. I don’t know that they ever settled their differences, but they were together for a time because of their father. I think that’s a very touching detail that we often overlook.

Abraham was compliant and stubborn. Abraham was a pushover and he stood up for his beliefs. Abraham shied away from conflicts and he got into arguments with God Almighty. Abraham acted in his own self-interest and he became the one through whom all nations would be blessed. Abraham was self-absorbed and concerned about making everyone else happy.

Nines often live in the tension between action and inaction. When pressed with a choice, they choose not to choose – which is still a choice! Nines must learn to move, to act, to decide, to fight. Deciding not to choose is almost never the right decision.

Nines, we see you, we love you, we need you. God created you with a gift to see everyone’s perspective. But don’t lose your own perspective while looking at everyone else’s. God created you to live your life. God has blessed you so that you can be a blessing to all people.