The Enneagram is a popular topic right now in modern culture and even within Christian circles. Relevant magazine, the Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today, as well as a variety of podcasts and even church sermons, are investigating what the Enneagram has to offer us as God’s people. Some have positive things to say about it as a useful tool and some believe that it is dangerous ground to trod (akin to the way many used to say yoga was evil and demonic). I’m sure the weird graphic depicting the system doesn’t help the situation, however once you understand how it works it takes the strangeness out of it and is quite helpful.
I was introduced to the Enneagram about one year ago by my friend Jessie. Through reading several books that are both Biblically based as well as secular and pragmatic, listening to countless podcast episodes and in observing how people interact with others & how I interact with them, I have come to believe strongly that the Enneagram is a wise and useful tool that has deep wisdom to offer people today. (Books, websites and podcasts are mentioned at the end of this post!)
Outside of the Gospel, I think it is a tool of self discovery. Socrates said that before you can know others you have to “know thyself” and I think the Enneagram is a fantastic tool for understanding not just WHAT you do, but WHY you do it. I believe all people could stand to take a closer look at their own actions and thoughts and that societies would greatly benefit from more self-aware peoples.
Within the lens of the Gospel, I believe that it is not only a useful tool of self discovery but a pathway to grace and spiritual transformation! All of Scripture tells the story of how we were created GOOD and PERFECT. But sin entered the world when man chose to rebel and go their own way. There IS evil and darkness in this world and deep within each one of us. We are needy people. I believe Jesus fills that need and completes us; He makes us whole again.
I believe that ALL truth is God’s truth and that naming the evil we see and experience in this life has great value for us as God’s people. We are called by God to REDEEM and point people to the light. Micah 6:8 tells us to “do what is right, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” The Enneagram is a means to understanding who God has created us to be, to see the sin within us and to understand especially how we can grow in Christ-likeness within the parameters of who God created us to be. This tool specifically aids individuals to know what is right by helping them grow in discernment, by helping them have mercy and compassion for those who are different from them and to submit to the One who is the whole; the 10-Jesus! The Gospel invites us to see that we are more sinful than we can ever imagine and more loved than we could hope (my paraphrase-here is Tim Keller’s official quote.)
When I share with people why I like the Enneagram as compared to the MBTI, the DISC or even the True Colors assessments, I explain that these other useful tools tell us more about what we do or even how those views are perceived and experienced by others. But the Enneagram tells you WHY you do it AND then, it tells you how to grow in those areas within the context of WHO YOU ARE! (It also builds upon the idea that we are interconnected and need one another, which I think is an important element.)
Personality profiles show us our limitations, but we are not told how to grow, challenge or be transformed within ourselves in ways that honor who we already are deep within. There is a lot of failure and frustration present in people’s lives due in part to trying to be like someone they never can be!
The Enneagram is a personalized growth path that honors the person God made you to be. Scripture tells us we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.” , but how can you love others and show them mercy if you do NOT know and love yourself? If you are filled with self loathing and hatred for who God has created you to be, what will you express to others in this world? What will flow from within you?
At this point, you might be ready to dive in and discover your Enneagram number. But before you jump ahead, I want to give you a few more important points that will help you in the long run.
- Discovering your Enneagram number is a process and a journey for most people. It’s not a destination. There are a number of assessments you can take like the WEPPS test, the RHETI test or a more generic free test like the Ecclecitc Energies assessment. But chances are, it’ll be a bit confusing. I recommend reading up on How The System Works FIRST. Understanding the diagram and how it flows will make your number much more clear.
- Read about ALL the numbers on the Enneagram. (While many diagrams, books, podcasts, etc give short, descriptive names to each number, the number on the Enneagram is the way you refer to your unique type.) By familiarizing yourself with all 9 types, you will better understand the clues to how you are created.
- Once you are ready to take an assessment or you think you have enough clues to decipher which type you might be, investigate further! Ask yourself what your focus of attention is for the things that you do and pay special attention to your underlying motivations. When you read a type description and find yourself saying, “UGH” or “ouch, that hits too close to home!” then you are most likely on the right track for identifying your type. Revealing and naming the darkness, the gross stuff deep inside you is a key element of discovering your type. You must be willing to see yourself without bias. Remember that every type is given a growth path! If you feel grief or sorrow over what your type might be, be encouraged that there is goodness to EACH type and there is a good growth path available for everyone that honors WHO God made them to be. The Enneagram is more than a path to self actualization or self improvement, it is a path to GRACE.
- Once you know your type, begin to pause and observe yourself as you interact with yourselves and others. Take yourself off of autopilot and invite God into the things you are observing! Author Marilyn Vancil has a great resource that she calls the OWN UP process. This process is a beautiful path to spiritual transformation. Below is a diagram for the Enneagram with a Biblical perspective by Marilyn Vancil.
Thanks for reading up on my passion for the Enneagram! I hope this has been helpful to you as you discover more about who you are for the purpose of loving God and others well! Here are some additional resources for your journey.