I’ve hesitated to write anything about the Enneagram till now. I’ve benefited from it, as a Spiritual Director it comes up a lot, and now it seems to be a fixture in our culture.
…And that’s the problem.
In a land of in-depth behavior profiles the likes of Myers Briggs, Strengthsfinder, DiSC, and others – as well as stupid little personality quizzes found on social media, there is a narcissistic element to our society. Another thing is that these personality profiles are usually about ‘measuring’ behavior, which leads to behavior forecasting as well as copping out: i.e. “You’re such an ENFP…Oh, I’m just an Eight…that’s so Three of you…I’m a Connector, it’s what I do,” as if the classifications are excuses for the way we act, or worse, presuming the actions of others without actual relationship with them. What I’ve found with the Enneagram (and what I love about it), is that it is not about behavior forecasting, rather it is about looking at the motivations behind those behaviors. It’s not about pigeonholing people into one of nine types, but rather as you begin to study it, you’ll see that like colors, there are many ‘shades’ of red, of blue, etc. There are many ways that these types are expressed through people – through you. I’ve found that it’s useful in being aware of our tendencies: our strengths and beauty, as well as our hang-ups and shadow-side. It can start the conversations of: What lies have we believed about ourselves? What makes us come alive? In learning to discover our True Self in Christ, it can help us navigate the False Self identities that we’ve believed. Studying the Enneagram has been very helpful for me personally, for my marriage, and has brought transformation in my life with God.
How to get started:
- Don’t take a test (Not yet, anyway). That’s right, you heard me. Tests are usually used to measure behavior, we are exploring some deeper things here. So, allow some time.
- A (relatively) quick overview: Gem Fadling (Unhurried Living) | Ian Cron and the Enneagram at Fuller Seminary
- I’ve actually found podcasts as an effective way to develop understanding on the Enneagram (links are at the end of this post), maybe because this ancient system was an oral tradition much longer than it has been written. I think it helps to hear how this is walked out in different people’s lives. However, there are some books that I’ve found very useful. They are: The Road Back To You, Mirror For The Soul: a Christian Guide to the Enneagram, and The Sacred Enneagram.
- Going deeper in each type: While there are many podcasts (some which are mentioned at the end of this post), I’ve really enjoyed the work that Singer/songwriter Ryan O’Neal (aka Sleeping at Last) has done on the subject (possibly due to being a musician myself). He has thoughtfully written songs on each of the Enneatypes, and on his podcast, he has his friend Chris Heuertz (author of The Sacred Enneagram) talk about each of the types. Here are the blog posts from Sleeping at Last: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine. And here is a link to subscribe to his Podcast.
- Now, if you are having trouble figuring it out, and still wondering where you may most dominantly land, take a test. But don’t take just any free test, thinking that it will accurately land you where you are on the Enneagram. Even a more in-depth test like the RHETI, will give you an idea of the types that you’re most dominant in (though there is still margin of error – so don’t be completely set on your highest scoring number). Look at it as a starting point – not a full-blown conclusion. The more in-depth tests will require a $ investment, but they are helpful in their information. Here is a newer test that I recommend (via Ian Cron’s website): iEQ9
- Take time with it. In a world of fast answers, this is a process of introspective analysis and soul searching. It is most definitely worth the journey.
Now, if you are wondering, I strongly identify with and am dominant in Type 9. I’ve seen this at work throughout my life, and now (in the past couple of years), I have been enjoying tapping into how to do self-care for myself and how to step out in being a voice for the Kingdom of Heaven – in my own special way (music, speaking, writing, walking with others in their journeys).
I hope this helps you as you start to explore. I hope you’ll take time to explore your life in this context.