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Response: "The Problem with Those 9 Personality Types"

I love the Complexly production company and the work they do producing free, informative, entertaining content with the purpose of educating the general public on a broad range of issues. They produce the YouTube channels “SciShow” and the spin offs “SciShow Space” and “SciShow Psych.” I’m a subscriber and regular viewer of these channels. I really dig what they’re trying to do.

On February 21, though, they released a video challenging the claims of the Enneagram. You know I can’t just let that one slide. Haha

I watched it yesterday, and I actually agree with most of what’s said. However, I don’t think they quite understand what the Enneagram system does and what it’s really about. Here’s the video. Watch it, and then I’ll give some comments on it below.

First of all, the scenario she opened with is not what the Enneagram is about. You should NEVER use someone’s Type to shame them or call them out on something. I’ve failed in this before, and it’s never a good idea. Don’t ever say “you’re such an Eight” or “you’re being so Four right now” as an insult or jibe at someone. Just don’t.

Brit Garner, the host, then goes on to point out that the Enneagram doesn’t have much scientific support or validation behind it. And she’s completely right. No Enneagram expert or teacher or book would ever make that sort of claim. The Enneagram is not science. I lead with that almost every time I talk about it. Some may view that as a weakness and a reason to be skeptical. I understand that 100%. The Enneagram is more of an art than a science. It comes out of a longstanding wisdom tradition and has been used among various religions and cultures throughout the centuries.

Just because something isn’t scientific doesn’t mean it’s not True. Science does not have the corner market on truth. Wisdom and science shouldn’t compete with each other but should inform each other. I think that’s what the Enneagram does well. I think that’s one of its strengths.

Garner claims that the purpose of the Enneagram is to “encourage [people] to become the best version of their personality type.” Not exactly. Our personality type consists of all the walls and defenses that we have built up over a lifetime. We have different ways of surviving in the world that comprise what we call a “false self.” Most Enneagram teachers will emphasize the truth that you are not your type. Your type is a false self. The Enneagram helps expose that false self so we can actually shed those masks and defense mechanisms, tear down the walls, and become our True Self, a more whole, integrated person. The purpose of the Enneagram is NOT to become the best version of your type.

The “fundamental flaw” in the system, she says, is that each type can be relatable for almost everyone. Again, most experts will tell you that we have a little bit of each type within us. I’m dominant in Type Three, but I also relate well to types One and Five. I see a lot of myself in those other types. I’m also influenced by my Two wing and my lines to Six and Nine. The Enneagram recognizes and affirms the complexity within each individual person. Every one of us contains elements of all Nine, but we are only Dominant in one type.

She also points out the very real problem that we can get different results based on the tests we take. I agree 100% that this is a problem. That’s why YOU DON’T RELY ON A TEST TO FIND YOUR ENNEAGRAM TYPE. Did I say that strongly enough? Haha

Tests are one of the least effective ways to discover your type. Every Enneagram expert will tell you that. It’s a journey of self-discovery. A test can help, but it should not be your go-to.

Then Garner points to the “Barnum Effect” in relation to the fact that people can relate to each of the types. On a mere surface level explanation of the Types, I can see how that might be the case. Sometimes the basic introductions do come across as vague generalities that can apply to almost everyone. That’s why you must go deeper. The real strength of the Enneagram lies in its ability to reveal your dark, hidden areas, or your “shadow side.” You know you’ve hit your Enneagram type, not when you feel good and agree with it, but when it punches you in the gut and you feel like hiding. I can remember the moment reading through the types when I got to Type Three. My jaw dropped. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt nervous and vulnerable. These people were openly describing parts of me that I wanted to keep hidden at all costs. I didn’t get that feeling from any other number.

The Enneagram does NOT rely on the Barnum effect. You just have to go deeper.

Finally, she expressed the fact that the Enneagram relies on “self-validation” as a weakness to the system. Again, the Enneagram never claims to be a scientific system or a grand unifying theory of personality. It is a tool for personal self-discovery and transformation. I cannot name anyone else’s type, because your type is determined by inward motivation, not outward behavior. Only YOU can know why you do what you do. Only YOU can validate your Type and know it to be true. No one can do it for you. No therapist or standardized test can do it for you. If you cannot be brutally honest with yourself, then you are not ready to learn the Enneagram.

If you want a scientific blueprint of personality, by all means explore “The Big Five.” That’s a lot more scientifically accurate than the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs. But my question is…so what? The Big Five Personality Inventory can map your personality across five scientifically validated traits. But then what? What’s the point in learning your personality traits just for the sake of knowing?

The wisdom of the Enneagram sets you on a journey, a trajectory of transformation. I love what Suzanne Stabile says: “The Enneagram does not put you in a box. It shows you what box you’re already in, and it shows you how to get out.”

Biblical Enneagram Types: EIGHTS


Enneagram type Eights get a bad rap. I think they are treated more unfairly than any other type when teachers are explaining the types for the first time. People seem to be more judgmental and harsher toward Eights than they are empathetic and caring. Maybe it’s because they think Eights can handle it. Maybe it’s because they just don’t understand them fully. Maybe it’s because they meet perceived aggression with aggression.

I try my best not to do this. I happen to be married to an Eight, and I love her dearly. It’s unfair to paint an overblown caricature of her or any other Eight as overly hostile and aggressive and mean. Any Enneagram type can be hostile or aggressive or mean or angry or bitter – not just Eights. And often, the anger and aggression of an Eight comes from a holier place than from other types.

Let me explain.

Eights are commonly known as “The Challenger.” They have a deep seated need to be against. They do tend to be more outwardly aggressive, but more often than not their anger and hostility is directed toward those whom they perceive to be oppressors or bullies or rule breakers. Eights are in the corner of the underdog. When they see injustices of any sort, their anger boils over and the “momma bear” comes out.

When Eights are unhealthy, that’s when they revert to self-preservation and survival mode, looking out for their own needs and protection. They fear betrayal and vulnerability. They try at all costs to avoid appearing weak. But when they are healthy, they realize that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. They become more concerned with the safety and protection of others and will fight to the death to save them.

Many people think Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa were healthy Eights.

Most Eights, when they were children, picked up on the message that only the tough and strong survive. If you show any physical or emotional weakness, you’ll get eaten alive. And so they developed a rock hard exterior wall, making themselves look and act tougher than they really are. They had to grow up fast, and most of them can remember the moment when their “innocence” was lost, when they could no longer be the care-free, naive little kid anymore. They had to toughen up or face the consequences.

That’s why Eights make such good social workers, civil rights activists, therapists, lawyers, and humanitarians. Beneath that hardened exterior is a soft heart that feels deeply for the needs of the weak, helpless, vulnerable, and oppressed. But that protective wall can be a real barrier to intimate relationships. Eights have a hard time letting people into their inner circle of trust. They will often do everything within their power to test you and push you. If you stick around through all of it, then you’re in. But the moment they suspect betrayal or abandonment is coming, then you’re out.


One obvious biblical example of a Challenger would definitely be Samson. His story is told in Judges 13-16.

Samson’s birth was prophesied by an angel. It was a miraculous birth to a barren couple. But from the start they were told that Samson would be different. He would be a Nazarite for his entire life. The Nazarite Vow was usually only taken for a few weeks or a couple months. For Samson, it was a lifetime commitment. No hair cuts, no alcohol or wine, no contact with dead bodies – you know, normal kid stuff.

As long as Samson observed the regulations of the Nazarite, then God would bless him with power from God’s own Spirit. Samson is the literal embodiment of strength. No one could do what he did. He killed a lion with his bare hands. He slew 1,000 Philistine warriors with a donkey’s jawbone. When he was tied with ropes, he broke his bonds like they were string.

But he was also too strong for his own good. Did you hear that, Eights? He threw his weight around and strong-armed his way through relationships and his public life, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. There was a lot of collateral damage from his unhealthy anger and aggression.

Eights feel a strong need to seek vengeance. If someone hits them, they want to hit back harder. Grudges. Revenge. Payback. This is the form of “justice” that unhealthy Eights carry out. But as we see time and time again, violence begets more violence. Read through Judges 14-15 and you will see what started out as a simple wager over the answer to a riddle devolved into mass slaughter and chaos.

If Samson had one weakness, it was women. The vice of Eights is lust. That doesn’t necessarily mean strong sexual desire, but in Samson’s case it definitely does. Samson is a complete idiot when it comes to women. The story of Samson and Delilah could have been entirely avoided if he had just kept his lust in check. She’s actively trying to betray him and he’s so blinded by his desire for her that he can’t see it.

Four different times Delilah asked him what the secret to his strength was and how he could be defeated. Eights HATE that question. Three times he flat out lies to her. I’m not saying he should have told her the truth right away due to the fact that she was trying to help get him killed. But this is how Eights often treat even their healthier relationships. I think this line is telling and speaks volumes about what it means to be an Eight in relationship:

So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
(Judges 16:9)

His blinding lust was ultimately his downfall. He finally revealed his secret (which, again, would be a good move in a healthy relationship, but not when your S.O. is trying to literally kill you). His head was shaved, he was overthrown and captured, his eyes were gouged out, and he was put into prison. While imprisoned, his hair began to regrow.

The Philistines held a huge banquet in celebration of defeating Samson, and they all wanted to bring him out for their entertainment. (Side note: our society loves to be entertained by Eights even today. Think about the reality TV shows that litter our stations. Most of them would be incredibly boring without a “Challenger” to stir up conflict. Eights – don’t let your anger become other people’s entertainment. That’s not healthy.)

With one last prayer Samson cries out to God to return his strength. He pushes with all his might against the support pillars, and the whole facility comes crashing down – killing thousands of Philistines and taking Samson along with them.

Remember, while Samson had his personal beef with the Philistines, they were also the enemy and oppressor of the Israelites. Samson made the transition from fighting for himself to sacrificing himself in order to protect and deliver his people.

We may give Eights a hard time. We may not understand their attraction to conflict and arguments. We may be turned off by what we perceive to be aggression and intimidation. But the fact is – Eights are world changers. If we live in a world with a pressing problem, then we don’t want a bunch of Nines and Sevens and Fours working on it. We need our Eights to come in, throw some bombs, shake things up, hash out the arguments, and GET. STUFF. DONE. Sometimes the boat needs to be rocked. Sometimes the status quo needs to be thrown out. Eights embody the strength of God which says:

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
(Exodus 14:14)


Biblical Enneagram Types: SEVENS

Everyone needs a Seven in their life. Sevens bring a joie de vivre that is hard for some other types to come by. Sevens are commonly known as Enthusiasts, and they can be the most joyful, energetic, and optimistic people you know. I think one of the best portrayals of a Seven in recent pop culture is the character “Joy” from Inside Out. Take everything you know about a Seven, and it applies to her exactly. If you’ve never seen that movie, I HIGHLY recommend it. Just bring the tissues.

Enthusiasts live for the next adventure. The keyword is next. Sevens have difficulty living in the present. They are very future-oriented by nature. They live off that dopamine rush of expectation and anticipation. Sevens love planning events but can have trouble enjoying the event. They love ordering products online, but are always a little let down when it arrives. The problem with living this way is that Sevens develop a “more is better” mentality that can lead to serious commitment issues and even addiction.

The vice of Sevens is gluttony. If a little is good, more is better. Sevens can struggle with anything from overeating to gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, obsessive collecting, pornography or sexual addictions. Sevens are more prone to addictions than other types. Their primary need is to avoid pain, so they fall back into numbing behaviors when they can’t physically escape the painful or traumatic situation.

Another way they avoid dealing with the pain is through reframing. They are experts at finding the silver lining in any situation. They can spin a failure to find the positive outcome. They are often known for cracking jokes to lighten the mood when a conversation gets too serious.

On the surface Sevens can appear to be spontaneous and carefree. But below the surface, healthy Sevens can be some of the most grounded individuals who know what it means to experience true Joy even in the midst of sorrow.


One person in the Bible that I think was a Seven might come as a surprise – King David.

I automatically thought of David as a Four because of the Psalms. Sevens tend to be disconnected from their emotions, especially the negative ones like sadness and anger. The Psalms of David are packed with emotions. Many of them are even lament psalms – heavily sorrowful and downcast. The Psalms can be major Four territory.

But if you compare the Psalms of David with the Life of David, I think it becomes clear that he was a Seven who was highly in tune with his own emotions.

Let’s start at the beginning. The wounding message that Sevens latch onto during childhood is You are on your own. No one else is here to take care of you. A lot of Sevens had to fend for themselves somewhat during childhood. They learned early on to ensure their own survival. Think about David. He was the youngest in his family with seven older brothers. David was out tending sheep by himself (1 Samuel 16) with no one else to come to his rescue. He had to come up with his own ways of fending off the predators who would endanger the flock, so he became incredibly skilled with a sling. He had to find ways to keep his mind occupied during the endless hours in the field, so he became an expert musician and song writer.

Many Sevens that I know are very talented and skilled in a lot of different areas. They make me jealous.

Then think about the most famous story of his life – “David and Goliath.” Here comes David, a young teenager, into the battle lines. Everyone else is terrified of Goliath, but David steps up and says, “I’ll fight him!” He doesn’t have any armor. He doesn’t have a battle plan. All he has is a sling, some stones, and a boatload of confidence in God and in his abilities. What stands out to me, though, is David’s reasoning for taking on the giant. He’s already killed a lion…and a bear…and now a giant warrior! Remember – more is better. Sevens are always trying to one-up themselves.

One other instance in his life really stands out as a Seven-moment. David led the processional of priests bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the newly established capital city of Jerusalem. Remember how he entered the city? He was dancing nearly naked in the streets in front of God and everyone! His wife even confronted him about it later. But his response to her criticism is amazing: “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:21-22)

There would come a time, though, when his “gluttony” nearly ruined him. While his armies when out to war, David stayed home at the palace (avoiding pain and conflict). He looked out from his palace and saw a woman bathing on her roof. He asked about her and sent for her and used her. Remember what I said earlier about a tendency toward addiction and abuse? He already had a few different wives by that point – but he wanted her. When she became pregnant he arranged for her husband to be killed in battle rather than own up to what he had done. He nearly lost it all, but God was merciful.

Whenever I read through the story of David’s life – his adventures, his battles, his close calls, his antics – I’m absolutely intrigued. David lived life to the full and didn’t hold anything back. He was fearless and powerful, but he was also kind and gentle. He made his fair share of mistakes and blunders. But through it all, David remained a man after God’s own heart.

Sevens, if you’re still reading this and haven’t moved on to the next thing, then bravo! Here’s what you need to know. You must learn that more isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just more. Sevens need to learn to be content (Philippians 4:12-13). You also need to cultivate the disciplines of solitude and fasting, learning to say no to pleasures and to social engagements. Practice living in the moment and being fully present here and now instead of jumping to the next big thing in your mind.

Sevens inspire us, encourage us, and bring so much joy into our lives. Without them around, life would be much more boring and routine. But it’s ok for them to take a breather sometimes.

Biblical Enneagram Types: SIXES

According to some Enneagram teachers, there are probably more Sixes than any other Type. The world needs Sixes, also called Loyalists, to ensure that the community is preserved and that we’re prepared when disaster strikes.

Trust is a big issue for Sixes. If you have earned their trust – as a leader, friend, or spouse – then they will be with you through thick and thin. They won’t jump ship. But Sixes can also be some of the more skeptical people in your life. Often Sixes find themselves playing “Devil’s Advocate” – asking probing or even accusatory questions. They aren’t purposefully trying to be obnoxious or derail the whole system. They just want to know that those in charge have everything under control and have planned for anything that can and will go wrong.

Perfect gift for the Sixes in your life!

Sixes are worst-case-scenario thinkers. They live in the world of “mights”, “coulds”, and hypotheticals. If there ever is a real disaster or problem, you want a Six around because they’ve already gone through the scenario multiple times in their head.

Sixes are more likely to actually count the number of rows to the exit on the airplane and pay attention to the safety briefing before takeoff “just in case.”

There is safety in numbers. Always be prepared. These are the mantras that get a Six through the day.

Every number on the Enneagram lives in some sort of inner tension. For Sixes, that tension comes in their relation to authority. As children Sixes picked up on the fact that the adults in charge can’t always be trusted. So as adults they are inherently skeptical of those in power. At the same time, through, their greatest need is a sense of safety and security. Some Sixes end up trusting too strongly in human authority figures and are inevitably let down at some point. Other Sixes end up distrusting nearly all authority figures in order to protect themselves from that same disappointment. This is the difference between “Phobic” and “Counterphobic” Sixes. All Sixes must deal with their fear. Phobic Sixes tend to have more of a “flight” response, whereas Counterphobic Sixes have a more aggressive “fight” response.


An excellent example of a Six in the Bible is Simon Peter.

Peter was the foremost among the disciples, not because he was the most loving or most knowledgable, but because he was the most committed to Jesus and the group. Peter latched onto Jesus as an authority figure like none other. Peter definitely had his share of screwups – recorded for us to laugh at 2,000 years later! – but he is also the one primarily entrusted with carrying on Jesus’ mission after the resurrection and ascension.

Who was the first to confess true belief in who Jesus was? Peter.

Who played “Devil’s Advocate” when Jesus told the disciples he was going to be killed? Peter.

Who jumped out of the relative safety of the boat during the storm into the certain terror of the raging sea in order to be near Jesus? Peter.

Who was the closest friend and confidant of Jesus? Peter.

Who was the leader of the disciples? Peter.

Who was willing to fight and die for Jesus? Peter.

When push came to shove, who gave into fear time and time again? Peter.

Who did Jesus want the women to specifically tell about his resurrection? Peter.

Who was able to overcome his fear and deliver one of the most powerful sermons in recorded history? Peter.

Peter attached himself to Jesus, but he also had his own fears and anxieties to overcome. Peter had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that Jesus was going to leave them. When Jesus said “let not your hearts be troubled – you believe in God, believe also in me,” I’m sure he was speaking directly to Peter. As a Six, Peter needed as much reassurance as he could get that everything was going to be ok. Jesus is basically telling Peter, “You’ve trusted me this far. Trust me a little more.”

All those times that Jesus had to say, “Do not be afraid,” I’m sure he was speaking directly to Peter.

That conversation that Jesus and Peter had on the beach after his resurrection always gets to me. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” And three times Peter replied, “Yes, Lord. You know I love you.” Jesus’ response to Peter’s affirmation of love is an instruction to take care of the others. Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t planning on sticking around for a long time. He had to leave. But he promised that he would not leave them as orphans.

Side note: I think one of the worst things that can happen to a teenager in the church is to go through multiple youth ministers over the course of a few short years. Teens need someone who is going to be there for them through it all. It takes a few years for them to trust their youth minister, and by then he’s already moving on to the next church. That can be absolutely devastating, especially for Sixes who already have trust issues.

Back to the point. Jesus is redirecting Peter away from a single point of loyalty to a more group-oriented commitment. Jesus is encouraging Peter to step up and commit not just to Jesus but to the group. Jesus knew that Peter, the Loyalist, was going to be the glue that held the group together.

Peter was stronger than he knew. Jesus saw that from the beginning. That’s why he changed his name from Simon to Peter in the first place. Peter was going to be that solid bedrock, that foundational member of the group. It took some time for Peter to see in himself what Jesus had seen all along.

Sixes, you must know that you are stronger than you think. You are more capable than you think. We value your leadership, your loyalty, your commitment, and even your questions. You are the bedrock of our churches and families and organizations. Without you we would all tend to simply drift apart from each other. You keep us grounded and secure. You help provide us with the security you so desire for yourselves.

Sixes, hear again the words of the Master, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God – believe also in me.”

Check out the song “Six” by Sleeping At Last

Biblical Enneagram Types: FIVES

Fives are some of the unsung heroes of the Enneagram. They don’t like the recognition and the spotlight. They don’t seek to be honored at banquets or showered with public praise. Fives know what they know and they do what they do – and they do it well. I’ve never met a Five who wasn’t at least somewhat knowledgable in virtually everything. Fives are the researchers behind the project. They are the quality engineers making sure your new car runs perfectly. They are the chemists developing new, safer, more sustainable formulas and medicines.

If you have a five in your life, you know they are great to have around. They’re like a walking Google search. Ask them a question, and they can probably give you an answer. If not, they’ll disappear for a while and then come back with one.

Fives read the Encyclopedia for fun as children.

Fives, often called Observers or Investigators, are not typically very outgoing – which is interesting because they share a line with Sevens. Fives tend to keep to themselves at parties and family gatherings. Most Fives will have a “fortress of solitude” where they can disappear for a while. It’s their space, and no one else is allowed in unless invited and accompanied by the Five. Respect their space and their privacy.

Being around large groups of people or in the spotlight for extended periods of time saps the emotional energy right out of a Five. But if you give them a task – a research project or something requiring their technical expertise – they will do it better than anyone.

One example of a Five in the Bible is (probably) Nicodemus. He only appears in John’s gospel account, but he must have made an impact on John. He doesn’t just pop up once but three times. Each time reveals something more about him.


Nicodemus is a Five, but he’s a Five on a journey toward something greater than he could have imagined. (I’ll call him Nic from here on out. Nicodemus is tedious to type each time.)

Nic first appears in John 3.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night…
(John 3:1-2a)

Here are a few things we know about him, and they fit really well with type Five. 1) He was a Pharisee. Pharisees were concerned with doing the right things in the right ways. As a group they were probably a collective One, but they would be very appealing to Fives like Nic. 2) He was a member of the Jewish ruling council – also known as the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was comprised of top lawyers from both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was essentially a two party system not that much different than we have today. So Nic was one of the top 70 law experts in the nation. 3) He came to Jesus at night. Why at night? Was he scared? I used to think so. But if I view Nic as a Five, then it makes perfect sense. He wasn’t afraid of the crowds, he just wanted Jesus to himself. He needed that one-on-one time to go deep.

Nic starts up the conversation with Jesus this way:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

No flattery. No lofty or buttery language. Just right to the point. Respectful, but straight shooting.

Also, notice the scientific language as he opens. We know X because Y. Here’s a hypothesis: Jesus is a Rabbi sent from God. Here’s how we test the hypothesis: Observe the works he is doing. Analysis: No one could perform these signs if they were not from God. Jesus is performing these signs. Therefore, Jesus is from God.

Many Fives approach faith the same way they approach any other aspect of their lives. They tend to be very evidence-based and by-the-book. But they might not be so keen on church small groups or meet and greet time in worship. They want the sermon to be factual and Scripture-driven without a lot of flowery language or stories.

So what does Jesus do? He immediately responds with metaphorical (even poetic) language.

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Nic is not tracking with Jesus. He’s trying to take Jesus literally (Can a man enter his mother’s womb a second time? That’s scientifically impossible!). But Jesus is relentless. He starts off with figurative language and then reels it in using Nic’s own worldview against him and exposing the insufficiencies of a purely materialistic approach to faith.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

You want to talk scientifically, rationally, and logically about God, as if God is a formula? Nic, you can’t even explain the wind, much less God. Even today, we can’t explain everything about the world, atoms, the universe. How much less can we explain the Creator of it all? But we can feel the effects of God all around us.

Fives don’t like that word – feel. Jesus is trying to get Nic to feel something when all he knows how to do is think. God gave us a brain, yes. But he also gave us a heart. (And I know the heart doesn’t actually control our emotions, that’s all in the brain. Just go with it, Fives! Haha)

Nic still isn’t picking up what Jesus is putting down. He’s still asking questions. (Fives are the most inquisitive number on the Enneagram.) So Jesus tries to put it in terms Nic just might finally get.

“You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

As far as we can tell, that’s the end of the conversation. Jesus doesn’t give Nic the answers. He gives him homework. Jesus gives Nic a research project. Son of Man – go look into Daniel 7 and figure out who I am. Moses lifted up the snake in the desert – go back to Numbers 21 and see how God saved the people.


And you know what? Nic did his homework. He did his research. He found answers. How do I know? The next time we see him, he’s coming to Jesus’ defense – citing Jewish Law back to the people who would be willing to bend the rules in order to silence Jesus.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
(John 7:50-51)

This is huge for a Five. When Fives are in health and security, they can draw on the positive energies of Type 8, the Challenger. Fives in this space are more willing to make their voice be heard and to stand up for their beliefs. Eights are concerned about justice and fighting for the underdog. Nic goes to this Eight space because he’s more secure in who he is and what God has called him to do. He get’s chastised and mocked for it, but he doesn’t back down.


The final time we see Nic is at the very end (or what they thought was the end). After Jesus died, he was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea – another Pharisee and Sanhedrin member. Joseph was joined by Nic in preparing the body for burial. Don’t overlook what it says about Nic.

He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
(John 19:39)

Seventy-five pounds of aloes, oils, and spices?! That’s a ton, and it would have cost a ton, too. The major vice of a Five is avarice (or greed). Fives can tend to be borderline hoarders. Fives will often keep the most random stuff and stockpile it because who know? We might need that someday. Fives can be very stingy with their knowledge, their possessions, their time, and the emotions. Fives keep things to themselves – literally.

When a Five moves to a place of health, they can become some of the most generous people in the world. They no longer operate out of a scarcity mindset. They realize that they have more than they need, and there’s plenty to go around. Healthy Fives can be some of the best teachers and mentors and philanthropists.

Nic, in one last act of faith, offered up probably thousands of dollars worth of burial spices that he had likely been storing away for himself or a family member – because you never know. But then he saw someone else in need of what he had, and he gave it freely.


Nic wasn’t in the spotlight. He quite literally avoided it. But his transformation is incredibly apparent in such a few verses.

Fives, the greatest distance between two points in your body is not from the top of your skull to the balls of your feet. The longest distance is between your head and your heart. Nic didn’t experience real transformation until Jesus opened up his heart to feeling what God was doing. Sometimes there are no explanations. Sometimes there is insufficient evidence. Are you able to believe anyway? Do you trust God even when it doesn’t make logical sense?

Biblical Enneagram Types: FOURS

Do you have that friend who’s just a bit different? They’re the ones with the unique hair styles, kinda “out there” clothing choices, who listen to bands you’ve never heard of. They are outside-the-box thinkers. They don’t like to be labeled or categorized.

In fact, if they think “I’m not any of the Enneagram numbers. I’m my own number!” then they’re most likely a FOUR.

Maybe this describes you or someone you know. Fours, often called the Individualist, are, in fact, different. According to some experts, there are probably fewer Fours than any other number. Fours fear being “normal” or just like everyone else, but they also deeply desire to belong and feel accepted. That’s the tension of Fours. They want to be accepted as part of the group while maintaining their own individual identity.

This all leads to the vice of Fours: envy. They see the life everyone else has – their perfect and pretty Instagram lives – and they want that. Everyone else seems so normal and happy, why can’t I be? If Fours aren’t careful and self-aware, they can let their envy drive them to really dark places – which is where Fours like to hang out, anyway.

It’s been said, “Fours don’t have feelings. Fours are feelings.” In this way, they couldn’t be more different than their Three neighbors, who are feeling repressed. Threes have difficulty accessing and expressing their emotions. Fours have trouble NOT accessing and expressing them.

Fours see the world in a way that is profoundly concerned with beauty and truth and art. A lot of Fours are poets and artists and mystics and song writers.

One famous Four was a King.

No, I’m not talking about David. He was probably a Seven. I’m talking about King Saul. You can read his story in the book of 1 Samuel.

Saul’s life was full of twists and turns, highs and lows, and ultimately ended in tragedy. From early in his life he was signaled out as different. He was “head and shoulders” above everyone else – literally. He was a tall, stately man. But like many Fours he was full of shame and self-doubt. When the prophet Samuel first met Saul, here’s how that conversation went:

“And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?”
Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”
(1 Samuel 9:20-21)

Self-doubt and self-degradation are snares for a Four. Saul had no confidence in his own abilities. He had trouble seeing in himself the things that other people saw. In fact, the very next chapter records the story when Saul actually gets publicly chosen to be king – and he hides!

Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”
And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”
They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”
(1 Samuel 10:21-24)

Saul is different than everyone else – a head taller than all the others. He was gifted in ways he didn’t even see in himself. He was unsure and lacked confidence in his abilities. And Samuel says the most “Four” thing ever – There is no one like him among all the people.

Things went ok for Saul in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before his kingship took a turn for the worst. There was a time when he achieved a victory over his enemies, the Philistines. Samuel the prophet told Saul to wait until he arrived in order to offer sacrifices to God. But Saul didn’t like that idea. He waited for a while but grew impatient.

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
“What have you done?” asked Samuel.
(1 Samuel 13:8-10)

If some numbers on the Enneagram are prone to ask “Why?” Fours are prone to ask “Why not?” Why not me? Why not Saul? Why couldn’t Saul just go ahead with the sacrifices? Why do we have to wait for Samuel? What’s so special about Samuel? Why not me?

The envy of a Four can start out so small, but it can escalate rapidly and grow out of control. Envy cost Saul his kingdom. And envy would ultimately cost Saul his life.

Things when from bad to worse as Saul continued to spiral toward the darkness. Fours are comfortable in the melancholy and the sadness. But don’t make it where you live. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where Saul found himself. After a string of bad choices and rash misjudgments, we see a tipping point for Saul:

Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
(1 Samuel 16:14)

The king’s officials brought in musicians to help calm his mood or cheer him up. It didn’t work. Saul just continued to lash out at the innocent people around him. David was one of those musicians. Saul tried multiple times to kill him. Saul even threatened his own son, Jonathan, for befriending and helping David.

In times of stress, Fours really tend to struggle with jealousy and envy of others. David was the new, rising star among the people of Israel. The people even made up songs comparing David and Saul. Unhealthy Fours are constantly comparing their lives to others – and the others always have it better than they do.

Fours, for better or worse, are outside-the-box thinkers. They will come up with solutions to problems that others never would even consider. In Saul’s life, however, this didn’t really do him much good. One of the most interesting stories from his life is when he paid a late night, costume-clad visit to a medium’s hut. (If you have a friend who suggests going to a fortune teller for fun, they’re probably a Four…)

He dawns a disguise and calls upon this witch to summon the spirit of Samuel, who had passed away some years earlier. The ghost of Samuel tells Saul that because of his sinful choices and actions, both he and his son would die in the upcoming battle. Sure enough, the next day Jonathan fell in battle. Saul witnessed it all and fell on his own sword, taking his life.

Fours have a tendency to wallow. Especially if they are unhealthy, Fours can go to that dark, sad place and have a hard time getting back out. I think that’s why Fours like to surround themselves with art and beauty. Beauty gives us a reason to hope, and hope drives us out of despair.

Saul had cut himself off from all beauty and hope, being driven by nothing other than his envy toward David. That envy fueled his own insecurities, shame, and self-doubt, ultimately leading to his demise.

Fours, your life doesn’t have to be a Shakespearean tragedy! You don’t have to live in the drama and the melancholy. Those places are fine to visit, but you don’t want to live there. Don’t settle in. Find out what is bringing on those feelings of sadness or depression and deal with them. Don’t blame it all on other people or circumstances beyond your control. Saul blamed all his problems on David instead of taking ownership of his own idiotic choices that got him into the mess.

Fours – find things that bring you true joy in life. Don’t worry so much about fitting in or being unique or whatever it might be on any given day. Focus on finding true joy and beauty in your ordinary, everyday, mundane, routine life.

Believe me, you make our lives so much more interesting just by being you.

Biblical Enneagram Types: THREES

Enneagram Type THREES are commonly known as “The Performer” or “The Achiever.” Threes are driven by a need to succeed, or at least to appear successful. Threes aim to impress others with their skills, their knowledge, and their accomplishments. This is why the vice of Threes is deceit. Threes are expert “mask-wearers.” Threes can become whoever they need to be in any given situation in order to fit in or to make others think highly of them. The danger for Threes is that they can become social chameleons to the point that they lose their own identity, deceiving others to the degree that they end up believing their own false persona. Self-deceit is the true vice of Threes.

But the gift of Threes is truthfulness and authenticity. Threes have really good BS-detectors. They can see through the charades of others because they are so accustomed to the games people play. Healthy Threes value honesty in their relationships and with themselves. They can give you an honest assessment of the world as they see it, and they can tell you how to make things better. Streamlining, productivity, and efficiency are second nature to Threes.

Threes get stuff done.

Every Type has some of God’s own nature in them. When I think of the Performer or Achiever, I think of all the times we are reminded of what God has done for us. “Come and see what God has done.” “The Lord has done great things.”

As a Three, I relate to God as “The First Mover.” God has done the work of salvation for us. This also reassures me that there’s nothing I can do to make God love me any more or any less. I don’t have to work for God’s acceptance. I don’t have to “succeed” in order to earn God’s favor.

One prime example of a Three in the Bible is Jacob. Jacob’s story is recorded in the middle part of Genesis. Jacob and his brother Esau were the fraternal twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, the grandsons of Abraham and Sarah. Even from the womb, Jacob was a deceiver. At their birth, Jacob’s limb stuck out first, but his brother was actually the firstborn. Jacob came second, grasping the heal of Esau. Jacob’s name literally means “heal grabber” or “deceiver.”

Jacob would eventually go on to trick his older brother out of his birthright and his blessing. Jacob’s early days represent the unhealthiest side of Threes – success at any cost. Unhealthy Threes can be ultra-competitive. They divide the world into winners and losers, and they definitely wouldn’t be caught dead among the “losers.” Failure is not an option. For unhealthy Threes like Jacob, the ends absolutely justify the means in achieving success and being known as the best.

Unhealthy Threes are not in tune with their emotions at all. They have the ability to compartmentalize their lives in such a way that negative emotions don’t necessarily have any bearing their ability to perform. But this can also mean that Threes try to avoid conflict, especially in times of stress. Rather than confront Esau and own up to his actions, Jacob runs.

While on the run, Jacob receives a vision from God with angels ascending and descending from heaven. Even at his lowest, God reassured Jacob that he was with him, that he was watching over him, that he was loved and pursued. I think this is a message that most Threes need to hear.

Jacob then went to work for his Uncle Laban. While working there, Laban gave Jacob a taste of his own medicine by deceiving him into marrying Leah AND Rachel. But during this time it seems as if Jacob turns a corner. He no longer tries to win at all costs. He works hard for what he wants, knowing that his efforts will pay off in the end if he’s patient enough to follow through. While working for Laban, Jacob gains wives and sons and a lot of wealth. But he also learns patience and humility.

Threes grow through struggle and challenge. If things come too easy to Threes, then they stay stuck in their unhealthy patterns of vanity, deception, and a win-at-all-costs mentality.

The ultimate challenge for Jacob came when he made the decision to go home and confront his past – possibly one of the hardest things for a Three to do. While Jacob was making his way back home, he had an encounter with God that would leave him crippled. Jacob wrestled with God all night, showing his dedication to the struggle and his unwillingness to give up when things got hard – true growth for a Three. In security, Threes go to the healthy side of Six, the Loyalist. They become more others-focused, more dedicated, more loyal, more in touch with their own emotions and those of others. In refusing to give up when things got hard, Jacob showed real maturity and transformation.

But he also failed. Jacob didn’t win in his wrestling match. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to a Three is failure. We learn far more from our failures than we do from our successes. Threes want to avoid failure at all costs, but it’s the very thing that can lead to growth and transformation.

When Jacob finally did confront Esau, things were not nearly as bad as he had imagined. He had feared for the worst – that Esau would still hold his deceptions against him and would seek revenge for all that Jacob had taken from him. Much to Jacob’s surprise, he was greeted with the open arms of forgiveness.

This can completely rock a Threes’ world. Threes, especially unhealthy Threes, have a hard time believing that they are worthy of love and acceptance. They know their own deceitfulness and vanity. They know their own faults that they are trying to hide from the rest of the world. When those faults, failures, shortcomings, and sins are laid bare for all the world to see, and they are still forgiven and loved anyway, that is almost more than a Three can bear.

Before Jacob met his brother face to face, he tried to soften things up by sending flocks and herds and gifts. Look at the interaction that follows.

Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”
“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
“No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
(Genesis 33:8-11)

Once Threes turn a corner in their lives they are no longer driven by success, vanity, and appearances, but rather by truthfulness, authenticity, and acceptance. This can take a lifetime for a Three to learn, and it only comes through the very thing Threes avoid the most – failure.

If you are a Three, like I am, you must stop fearing failure. You must stop believing the lies: “I am what I do; I am what I have; and I am what others say I am.” You are a child of God. You are loved, accepted, and pursued by God. Even if your worst and darkest part of yourself is fully known, you can also experience love and grace and forgiveness.

If you haven’t yet, check out the song “Three” by Sleeping at Last

Biblical Enneagram Types: TWOS

The Enneagram Type TWO is commonly known as the Helper. Twos have a need to be needed. Hospitality is their jam. They are always ready to play host or hostess at a moment’s notice. There’s always more room at the table with Twos.

Twos are, outwardly, very others-focused. Helpers tend to focus on the emotions and needs of the other people in their lives, often to the neglect of their own needs. Helpers are always wanting to make sure others are taken care of and can be hesitant to make their own needs and desires known. I emphasize the outwardness of their actions because Twos (like many numbers) live in a place of tension between their outward actions and their inward motivations.

Twos will help clear the table and wash the dishes at a friend’s house after the dinner party without being asked. But Twos, especially unhealthy Twos, can be resentful that no one else offered to join in. Twos are in that weird space of appearing humble but acting out of a sense of pride. They want to be needed, they want to help, but they can easily become bitter towards those who don’t help them.

Or to the other extreme, Twos can make themselves indispensable to someone they love and develop an unhealthy codependency. Twos can be enablers of bad behaviors in those they love because they so desperately need to be needed. If you are a Two or are in relationship with someone who is a Two, these are things to look out for.

But we all love the Twos in our lives. It’s no surprise to me that most women who are mothers identify, at least somewhat, as a Two. Mothers are the best example of Helpers in our every day lives. Moms are there for us no matter what. Moms want to make sure that we’ve gotten enough to eat, that our hair is combed, that our jersey is washed, and that our khakis aren’t wrinkled. This has been changing some over the past few decades as gender roles and household norms transform. More husbands/dads are picking up the load and not leaving everything to the wife/mother to do.

I don’t know if my mom is a Two, but when I read the description of what Helpers are like, I think of her and many other great women I know. This is even reflected in the language of Genesis 2 when God creates a “helper” for Adam, one who is suitable and compatible for him.

Do you know who else in the Bible is described as a Helper? God. Check out these descriptions of God:

Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.
(Deuteronomy 33:29)

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
(Psalm 10:14)

The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
(Psalm 118:7)

So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:6)

Like all types, Twos have something special of God’s own character within them. Twos came “not to be served, but to serve.” Twos will drop what they’re doing and help you in a moment’s notice.

But because Twos struggle inwardly with pride, their helpfulness can often be tainted by ulterior motives, bitterness, and resentfulness.

The classic story of a Two is found in Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Notice a few things. Mary and Martha live together, but who opened their home to Jesus? Martha. Who was making all the preparations? Martha. Who refused to ask her sister for help and let her resentfulness bubble over into an angry outburst? Martha.

Martha, Martha, Martha…

Martha sounds like a classic Two in this story. She’s playing the welcoming, gracious hostess to Jesus and his disciples. There are things to clean and an entire meal to prepare. Martha is definitely up for the challenge, but she can’t do it all on her own. She needs her sister to help. Unfortunately, Mary is nowhere to be found.

Mary, probably a Four, is completely bailing on Martha in order to sit with the guys and listen to Jesus teach. So Martha tattles to Jesus and tries to make him tell Mary to help her out.

Twos are in the Heart Triad. Twos, Threes, and Fours are more image-conscious than the other numbers. For Twos, it’s important to make serving and helping look effortless. Twos are more likely to have magazine-ready center pieces on their dining tables. Twos want everyone to think that they are humble, selfless, and that they’ve got it all together. But the family members of Twos know the reality of the situation.

I would bet you money (if I were a betting man) that this wasn’t the first time Martha had had this “discussion” with Mary.

Twos want to feel appreciated, and they want their efforts to be noticed. They just have trouble making their needs known. Bitterness takes root and grows when needs and expectations are not clearly communicated.

Twos need to learn the lesson that Jesus taught Martha. Only one thing matters – sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from him. Jesus was a servant! Jesus was a helper! Jesus had a lot of Two in him. But Jesus taught us how to love with no strings attached.

In other words, what good is it if you have perfect table decorations but you miss out on the meal?

Serving is a gift (Romans 12:7). We all need Helpers in our lives. Some of my favorite people are Twos. We have much to learn from you and much to love about you. But we also need you to be real with us. We need you to let us help you. We need you to be open and honest about your feelings before you hold them all in and explode like Martha.

You have loved us and served us. Now let us return the favor. Sit down and take a load off.


If you are a Two, be sure to check out the song “Two” by Sleeping at Last

Biblical Enneagram Types: ONES

Enneagram Type ONES are commonly known as “The Perfectionist,” “The Reformer,” or “The Idealist.” Ones see the world in black and white, with little room for gray. Things are either right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or imperfect. Ones are always in pursuit of perfection as a way of controlling their environment.

Ones will straighten picture frames at a friend’s house.

Ones have a strong sense of justice and are greatly concerned with moral and ethical uprightness. When this is externalized, Ones can be some of the greatest advocates for human rights and positive change in the world. But when it becomes internalized, Ones become their own worst critics.

The world isn’t perfect, so Ones take it upon themselves to help make it better. But when Ones do something wrong they jump to thinking that they are bad, and so their anger and frustration gets directed inward.

Listen to me, Ones. There is a difference between saying “I did something bad” and saying “I am bad.” The first is a true statement that can lead to positive transformation. The second is a lie straight from the devil’s own mouth.

It’s no surprise that the Pharisees in the New Testament are portrayed as a very “One” group. If you just pay attention to the interactions Jesus has with them, you see that the Pharisee sect was very concerned with doing all the right things in the right ways. The Pharisees served as the moral backbone of Jewish society. The problem is that Ones can get a bit carried away with it.

Ones have a tendency to act very judgmentally toward others. Ones are often pointing out others’ faults and saying what others should or should not do. They expect perfection from others, but they can’t even obtain their own standards of perfection.

Can you see why Jesus was trying so hard to break them out of this cycle in regards to religion?

Jesus would say things like, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, then you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” That must have really grated on the nerves of those religious elites. How could anyone be more righteous than they were? Can you believe this guy?

In the same sermon Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Now that’s the language of a One. That’s something the Pharisees could get behind. But what’s the context of that statement? Loving the unlovable. Accepting those who are imperfect. Welcoming those who don’t have it all together. Investing in those whom you deem “lesser.”

The Pharisees couldn’t stand the things Jesus was saying, but also many Pharisees became his followers. I can see why. Jesus was trying to break them out of this need for moral and religious perfection in relating to God. That flew in the face of everything they were teaching. But once they actually listened to Jesus, they found that the true path to freedom and relationship with God lay not in keeping the laws perfectly but in loving God and others more fully.

I don’t think this effect was more profound on anyone than Saul of Tarsus, who would become Paul the Apostle. Paul is the classic example of a One. His journey is one from severe unhealth (anger, resentment, judgmentalism, perfectionism) to true health (love, acceptance, and service to others).

Listen to Paul’s words in Philippians 3 and tell me this doesn’t sound like the words of a One who has undergone a major transformation.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:4-14)

Ones are affected early in life by the message that they have to be “good” and do things “right” in order to be accepted. Paul had to learn that there was nothing he could do to earn God’s love. It didn’t matter how impressive his resumé or how solid his theology was. It would never be good enough. He could never be perfect enough.

Ones need to hear and really internalize the truth – you don’t have to be “perfect” in order to be “good.” Even in the very beginning (Genesis 1) God didn’t say his creation was “perfect.” He said it was “good.” There’s a difference.

Paul still struggled daily with the unhealthy habits and patterns of thoughts/behaviors of a One. He still had to fight off that inner critical voice (Romans 7). He still had to remind himself and others that love was the true calling, not religious perfection (1 Corinthians 13). He would still get angry and lash out at those who opposed him or simply refused to listen to his message (see basically the whole book of Galatians and the second half of 2 Corinthians).

But Ones don’t give up. Ones keep going, no matter what. When a One finds his/her true calling, there is nothing that can stand in their way. Paul faced beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks, but he was committed to his calling.

Redeemed, healthy Ones can literally change the world.

Be sure to check out the song “One” by the incredibly talented Sleeping at Last.

Why the Enneagram? pt. 2

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