Have you ever found yourself utterly confused by another person? Your spouse, coworker, boss, child, or maybe even yourself? The enneagram is a typology of personality that has become wildly popular in the Christian community. It states that there are nine different types of people that share the same basic fears, motivations, virtue, and a core sin. Each type has a stress and security arrow from it indicating characteristics of that type while integrated in security or disintegrated under stress. It also defines the characteristics of each type when healthy, average, and unhealthy. It is a tool for self-awareness and a tool to gain compassion for the human condition. Most teachers agree this tool works a whole lot better while accompanying a spiritual discipline like studying the bible. The enneagram has a long history but can be traced back to 2500 B.C.
A word of caution
It is my understanding that the enneagram should come with some ground rules. When I started my enneagram journey, a few different wise Christians told me, “Be careful with that.” “Oh, I will,” I replied in automation, not really understanding their warning. As it turns out, there are some things that need to be handled with care and respect. Here are seven things I’ve learned that might help you along your path.
One: Do NOT let the enneagram define you. That is God’s job. These characteristics are simply tendencies.
Two: It’s not for teens and children. Experts say that people's ego needs to be built up in young people. If their frontal lobe is still developing, knowledge of the enneagram might do more harm than good.
Three: People use the enneagram as a sword and/or a shield. This is missing the mark. It is not an excuse for bad behavior and certainly should not be used to beat anyone down.
Four: Number thumping (going around typing people) is a fool's errand. Sometimes you’ll be right, but often you’ll be dead wrong. Being wrong might lead to relational disconnection. Because of the dynamic nature of the human personality, it’s helpful to really get to know someone in a variety of different settings before you can really hone in on a type.
Five: Mistyping is extremely common. You may find it helpful to look into the types with someone that knows you better than you know yourself.
Six: While online tests may be a useful resource, they might point you in the wrong direction. Hold on to these answers lightly. People that lack self-knowledge may be unfamiliar with this side of themselves.
Seven: There is no best type. Only Jesus is whole, perfect, and best. Any type when healthy is great! There is a rebuke involved in the journey. Think of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Don’t be discouraged! Your type is not your true self.
Mark 12:31 NIV "The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
If your Christian journey is anything like mine, Jesus’s commandment to love others, even your enemies, has been the hardest part. One of the goals of learning the enneagram is to gain compassion for yourself and others. A compassion built on understanding. There are nine different ways to see the world. The enneagram is a lens that can be used to catch a glimpse of how our friends see the world.
To conclude, I think that God wants you to bring your whole and best self wherever you go. Although the enneagram isn’t an excuse for bad behavior, it would be a tragedy if you stopped, well, being you. God loves you for your essence, which is the best/truest version of you. Do you know that person? If anything, the enneagram has helped me connect on a deeper level with people in my life. If you haven't already, I encourage you to look into it.