What to Make of the Enneagram

What to Make of the Enneagram

The Enneagram helps us discover our own selves in light of God’s truth so we can more deeply know who God is, according to James Emery White at Crosswalk.com.

Many of us have taken the Myers-Briggs test. We talk about being ENTJs or INTJs, or INFPs or ENTPs, FOXTVs or MSNBCs.

Okay, I made those last two up.

On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an INTJ, which stands for introvert, intuitive, thinking and judging. Or, as I like to think about it, INTJs are normal and others are irritating.

I can’t begin to tell you how important it was for me to get in touch with the first of those four letters—being an introvert. I honestly didn’t know it for a long time. I didn’t hear people talk about such things, so it wasn’t on my radar. People assumed (and I would have assumed) I was extroverted because I was good with people, comfortable in up-front roles and public speaking, and found myself in leadership positions.

But I wasn’t an extrovert.

The truth is that I got all of my emotional energy from being alone. (That’s the key difference between an introvert and an extrovert—where you get your emotional energy from.) Too much people time, and I would end up in the fetal position not knowing why I was so drained.

But I do now.

I love people, but I get my emotional energy away from people. Knowing that has helped me immensely.

But is personality awareness spiritual? Or does it just breed a kind of narcissism—a self-centeredness, a preoccupation with ourselves? The Bible’s answer may surprise you.

If I had to give the Bible’s headline, it would be, “Apart from knowing who you are, you cannot know who God is.” Or as one of the leaders of the 16th century Protestant Reformation put it, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.”


Because when it comes to the Christ life, there is a self to lose and a self to find. If that sounds like psycho-babble, it’s actually scripture. Here’s how the apostle Paul wrote about it in his letter to the Ephesians:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)

And in his letter to the Colossians, he put the same idea this way:

“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:8-10, NIV)

There is a self to lose and a self to find. We have a personality, and there are parts of it that are operating exactly like they should, and parts that aren’t. You can’t put off your old self and put on your new self if you aren’t in touch with… self.

The goal is to discover yourself in light of God’s truth so that you can quit being who you shouldn’t be and fully embrace who you are to be.  Your truest, best self that God intended. 

So how do you get to know yourself? And I mean deeply? There are a lot of ways. You can gain self-awareness through trusted friends, counselors and spiritual directors. You can utilize tests like the Myers-Briggs or things like StrengthsFinder.

But there is something much more ancient. It’s called the Enneagram. I know, some of you are saying, “The enne-a-what?” Others of you might be wondering, “Is this some kind of new-age thing?”

The truth is that the Enneagram is anything but new; in fact it’s very biblical.

It’s deeply rooted in ancient Christian thinking and Christian spirituality, going all the way back to the era known as the time of the desert fathers, which included the earliest centuries of the Eastern Christian monastic movement.

How Each Enneagram Type Is Struggling (and Thriving) During the Pandemic

How Each Enneagram Type Is Struggling (and Thriving) During the Pandemic

Jill E. McCormick at Relevant shares how each Enneagram type may be struggling, developing unhealthy habits, or even growing spiritually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How is your Enneagram type struggling and thriving during this crazy season? How can you continue to grow in grace? What does it look like to become more fully yourself in a season of shelter-in-place and quarantine? Have you formed any unhealthy habits? How can you be kinder yourself during this pandemic?

The Eights: The Challengers

There is nothing Eights like less than being told what to do and that’s exactly what’s happening in this pandemic. Your movement of where to go is restricted and your options of what to buy at Target are limited.

To cope, you may feel like you can make up your own rules because you don’t agree with the rules in place or deny the news you don’t like. If the experts say to limit your movement, you’re going to the grocery store once a day.

You also are focused on controlling what you can, like your schedule and routines.

This is also a tremendous time for growth as God slowly and gently teaches you about His sovereignty and matchless power. This is the perfect time to really learn, way down deep into your bones, that He holds the whole world together and you don’t have to.

You’re struggling in three areas.

You’re struggling with the reality that you have limited freedom right now and feeling out of control.

Your MO in life is to live big, but you’re not able to live that way. There are no good restaurants to enjoy, challenging conversations to start, travel to exotic locations. You feel stuck and suffocated.

You struggle with the fact that life feels so boring and that you’re stuck in the minutiae of daily life. Dishes. Cleaning toilets. Folding laundry. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. You feel the full force of a lack of an outlet.

And as a likely extrovert, you miss people. It’s no fun to verbally spar with yourself. You need your people to enjoy a good drink over chips and salsa.

You may have formed these three unhealthy habits.

Brainstorming projects to stay busy because you can’t stand doing nothing. Being in control of a project at least keeps the boredom at bay and keeps your hands busy.

You’re focused on tasks more than people. People are unpredictable and messy while tasks are controllable and don’t hold you back.

And finally, staying up too late, believing that you have no limits and that your body doesn’t need the rest doctors tell you it does.

But you’re also thriving.

You are a generous protector and ally. When you see a need, you have the energy, ability and charisma to get people what they need by using the resources at your disposal.

You care about others. You will help and serve as best you can for as long as you can.

So how can you offer yourself grace right now? What are some practical things you can do?

Spend time alone to critically think about how you can help and who you can help. Instead of rushing into a situation, analyze it and think through the best way to marshal your resources.

Acknowledge that you are a tremendous advocate for others and you have a gift. Harness your gift for good.

Memorize Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

What Exactly Is the Enneagram? A Counselor’s Take

What exactly is the enneagram? A counselors take

Mental health counselor William B. Bowes gives a clinician’s perspective on the Enneagram and cautions us against deterministic thinking in this Christian Post article.

Several weeks ago I was in a coffee shop near Boston, and unlike many of the patrons, I actually had come simply to buy coffee. If you have noticed, the coffee shop in our time has become an especially popular place for young people to congregate and talk about ideas in a way not unlike how I would imagine the marketplace Athenians in Acts 17:21. If you have either been around younger people of this sort or perused some of the more popular youth-oriented magazines and newspapers, I do not doubt that you will have heard of the Enneagram. While I was getting my coffee that day, I overheard a certain conversation where a young man attributed some of his behaviors and circumstances to the fact that he is “a two” on the Enneagram.

Because the Enneagram is related to psychology and I work in mental health, I hear this sort of language often. Even so, it has found its way out of the personality psychology world and into just about every other area of life, including the life of the church. At the time of this writing I simply searched “Enneagram” on the website of a popular Christian publication and over 30 articles were written about it directly or indirectly about it in the last two years. We are all very interested in the Enneagram. But before we decide whether that is good or bad, or whether we should even care, we have to answer a more important question: What is it?

What Your Enneagram Type Says About Your Leadership Style

What Your Enneagram Type Says About Your Leadership Style

Leadership coach Catherine Hayes at Forbes talks about how each Enneagram type can use their unique traits to become a better leader and team member.

The Enneagram personality test is a transformative tool. While many assessments help people understand their strengths, the Enneagram takes it a step further. It’s a map of the human psyche, providing a deep understanding of human behavior.

The Enneagram is a system of nine personality types, showing the interactions among each type. Although we all have the nine types within us, one is most dominant, and with it comes its own set of unique gifts and challenges.

By understanding your type, you can get let go of habitual patterns and open up to your own inherent gifts. As you become more aware of your type, you can move up the levels of growth and ultimately lead from your best self. You understand your reactions, preferences, and how you show up for your team.

With this level of self-awareness, we can be free of the patterns that hold us back and develop an understanding of those with whom we interact.

Type 1: The Reformer

Type 1 leaders get the job done, allowing little to no room for error. Trusting that others can carry out tasks to meet their standards is challenging, which results in difficulty delegating. As you become more aware of this pattern, mentor others. Trust their abilities, and value their input, relieving yourself of the burden of doing it all yourself.

Type 2: The Helper

Type 2 leaders can get caught in their need to be seen as helpful. Their “people-pleasing” behaviors such as flattery and being overly generous can often get in the way of them taking a firm stand when it’s needed. To be an effective and truly selfless leader, let go of the need to take care of everyone else, and make your own needs an equal priority.

Type 3: The Achiever

When Type 3 leaders aren’t aware of their personality type, they live and lead in reaction to an unconscious belief that they are worthless. Thus, they are always trying to prove themselves. They strive for validation by overachieving, often becoming outstanding in their fields, yet frequently at the expense of their personal relationships and emotions.

Get in touch with yourself, and accept that your value comes from who you are and not what you do. You can be an authentic and inspiring leader without needing to be the “shining star.” Relax into a more motivational role, so you can benefit the team and the organization.

Enneaneighboring: Forming Community in My Neighborhood Out of Different Types of Normal

Enneaneighboring article

Twyla Franz at Relevant dreams about what our communities and friendships could look like if we saw our neighbors through the grace-filled lens of the Enneagram.

Ann Voskamp said it in her book The Way of Abundance, and the words sink deep: “We will never reflect the image of Christ to the world unless we first see the image of God in everyone.” I look out across my street remembering with a tang of sadness the years I lived near neighbors without really knowing them—without seeing the image of God in them.

Open. I seek now to live open: Open heart, open front door, open to being vulnerable, to letting my neighbors in close like family, to letting the work God is doing in me seep into the cracks and crevasses of doing everyday life alongside my neighbors.

Aren’t we all just nine diverse kinds of normal, if we look at our neighborhood through the lens of the Enneagram, and as such an array of nine unique aspects of God’s image? Instead of letting our differences disconnect us like scattered pieces of a puzzle, might we see beauty in the puzzle we form when we are together? Enneagram lovers and those curious but largely unfamiliar with this personality typing tool alike—let’s dream of what could be together.

A neighborhood that becomes our village—connected community caring for each other, a recipe for empathy that fosters understanding and grace for our neighbors; an ancient tool that sheds light on the humanity and intrinsic value of those different than us who we live next to.

The Enneagram itself is not a new tool—in fact, it is quite old, and its contributors have presumably come from an expanse of historical periods and religions. How fitting that what we can unpack about the Enneagram today has been a truly collaborative effort when we consider that a byproduct of studying the Enneagram is an enhanced ability to see from other perspectives. Seeking to better understand the other eight Enneagram numbers—the other types of normal—makes it just that much easier to cultivate community right in our own neighborhoods.

Look up and down your street for a moment. What jumps out at you? Can you pick out the garage door with the peeling paint? The walls through which the loud music often pounds or the direction from which a car alarm intermittently rakes across the silence of the night? The dog that makes a break for the door on the regular or leaves behind a gift by your mailbox? The voices that are loud, the behaviors that seem odd, the people who remain hidden behind closed doors and curtained windows?

It’s easy to draw conclusions of our neighbors based on the little slivers of their lives that are visible to us and then let those perceived differences drive us apart. However, when we assess our neighbors but only possess a minuscule sliver of the whole of who they are, we fall into assumption-drawing and effectively reduce valued, multi-faceted people to one-dimensional, cursory depictions. Operating out of the surface understanding available to us, these slivers of our neighbor’s lives can quickly become frustrations that chisel at the interest we may have once had in getting to know our neighbors.

Yet if we begin instead with a deeply rooted belief that each and every neighbor reflects a piece of God, our judgment softens, our guarded stance relaxes, and we seek to understand instead of assume, honor instead of avoid.

You Are More than Your Enneagram Type

You Are More Than Your Enneagram Type

Enneagram teachers and authors of Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram Clare and Scott Loughrige and Adele and Doug Calhoun introduce how the Harmony Enneagram theory makes way for spiritual transformation.

Transformation is the soul of the Enneagram. Anything short of transformation and it’s just another personality fad. Something here today and gone tomorrow. We find ourselves conflicted about Instagram Memes, Enneagram art, and Enneagram music. Often these vehicles are fun and give a new generation access to an ancient tool and they can keep us defined by “type” rather than transformation. And, let’s not lose sight of the value of the Enneagram as a tool that can heal relationships, open us to truth, draw us to God and bring about spiritual transformation.

Soren Kierkegaard writes: With God’s help, I shall become myself. The Enneagram gets behind defenses and rationalizations to the truth of who we are.

In Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram we write, “The Enneagram can help you recognize your unique melody as well as where you are off-key internally and relationally. The Enneagram reveals your tempos, soloist agendas, and dedication to your ‘playlist.’ Still, discovering the truth of your number can never encompass who you are. Nor does it automatically change you or your relationships. Relational repairs and healthy interactions take intention and attention. Enneagram insights have to be applied to the rhythms and grooves of ordinary daily lives to bring transformation and harmony.”

The Enneagram comforts and discomforts. It names how we default and defend ourselves from truth—especially truth about ourselves! Jesus continually struggled with people who were closed to new truth about God and themselves. During his last hours with his followers, Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear” (John 16:12). Jesus’ friends just weren’t prepared to hear truth that contradicted their agendas and self-understanding. Two thousand years later, we are no more prepared to bear and practice truth than Jesus’ disciples were.

For us personally, God graciously used the Enneagram in our lives to get around our defenses and blind spots so we could practice truth. The Enneagram revealed the reality of our inner discord and its effect on others. Knowing our Enneagram number gave us eyes to see how image, wounds, lies, triggers, and default responses shaped us every bit as much as our faith. Yet, recognizing our number was just the beginning of a journey that is changing us and our ability to love God and neighbor as we love ourselves.

What Is the Enneagram, and Where Did It Come From?

What is the Enneagram and where did it come from

Spiritual director and Enneagram teacher Alice Fryling introduces the Enneagram’s history, Christian roots, and means for spiritual growth in this excerpt from her book Mirror for the Soul.

The Enneagram captured me from the first workshop I attended in Madison, Wisconsin. I had my doubts that the mysterious circle with its numbers, lines, and arrows could tell me anything about myself. But as the presenter described each number, I began to see not only myself but also my husband, my daughters, even my neighbors. I saw why relationships get so confused. And I saw why I was often confused with myself. I saw a description of my spiritual journey that was unlike anything else I knew. I was hooked.

Several years later I attended another conference about the Enneagram that did not go as well for me. It was a two-day conference on the origins of the Enneagram. I did okay with the history. The presenters described the influence of various scholars and teachers on the Enneagram over the course of history. I learned about Evagrius Ponticus of the fifth century, Ramon Lull of the thirteenth century, and Oscar Ichazo, Claudio Naranjo, and Robert Ochs, all from the twentieth century. Not that I really knew who any of these people were, but at least I got the history part. Then the presenters moved on to the diagram of the Enneagram. I sat in the audience trying to listen well and nod wisely. But I had no idea what they were talking about. That was partly because I do not have the scientific or mathematical expertise that the presenters had. But I have since learned that I am not the only one confused.

The Origins of the Enneagram

As I have read more and more about the Enneagram, I have learned that its origins are clouded in mystery. One Enneagram book admits that “the exact origins of the Enneagram symbol have been lost to history; we do not know where it came from, any more than we know who discovered the wheel or how to write.” Perhaps I was not so uninformed after all. We may never know the exact origins of the Enneagram or the Enneagram diagram.

We do know that the Christian roots of the Enneagram probably go back to the desert mothers and fathers of the fourth century.

They are often considered the “spiritual directors” or mentors of the early church. As people sought them out for help on the spiritual journey, these teachers saw patterns of life that are reflected in the Enneagram. Since then the wisdom of the Enneagram has been passed down through oral tradition. This accounts for some of the confusion. Just as modern-day journalists give different reports about the same event, so historical and contemporary teachers of the Enneagram describe its history and content with a variety of words and perspectives.

In modern times this oral tradition has been passed down largely through the Catholic Church, but until the second half of the twentieth century the Enneagram was considered “secret knowledge.” Laypeople, it was thought, could not handle this information with care and wisdom. When Richard Rohr, a Franciscan teacher of the Enneagram, learned of the Enneagram from his spiritual director in the 1970s, he was told not to pass it on in writing or to let anyone know where he got it. But, says Rohr, discovering the Enneagram was one of the “three great overwhelming spiritual experiences of my life. I could literally feel how something like scales fell from my eyes, and it became clear to me in a flash what I had previously been up to: I had always done the right thing . . . but for false motives.” Breaking the silence, Rohr became a major influence in bringing the Enneagram to laypeople within the Catholic Church and, more recently, to Protestants. It took centuries, then, for the Enneagram to become accessible to someone like me.

The Enneagram as a Spiritual Journey

I wonder what the desert mothers and fathers of the fourth century would say about our understanding of the Enneagram today. Would they even recognize it after thousands of years of being passed down by oral tradition? Our current understanding of the Enneagram incorporates a variety of perspectives, different words, and different applications. The Enneagram is taught today from the vantage points of psychological understanding, the business world, and secular, nonreligious points of view.

My presentation of the Enneagram is from the perspective of a Christian’s spiritual journey, looking at God’s gifts to us, our failure to express these gifts in love, and God’s gracious response to that failure. The Enneagram identifies the gifts we have been given. When we are freely and lovingly expressing these gifts, we are not held back by self-serving compulsive motivations. But on the journey of life, even when we want to live out of a truly loving place, we hit daily roadblocks. The Enneagram identifies the things we fixate on that cause us to get sidetracked or stuck on the journey. It shows where these fixations take us: right back into our compulsive, false-self perspective. In the words of the Enneagram, our compulsions are our “passions.” Christians often call them sins. But from the Enneagram we learn that we are not left in our compulsions or sins. It also identifies the graces (or “virtues”) given to us to lead us to transformation.

This is not a linear journey, from compulsion to transformation. It is more like a circle, or even a figure eight, that we weave in and out of many times a day. Richard Rohr said in one of his many talks on the Enneagram, “The agenda of the false self is to look good, to pretend. The biggest problem with the false self is not that it is there, but that we start to believe it ourselves. You can tell when the false self takes over because you become easily offended. The false self,” he says, “is offended (about every three minutes) because it is fragile. The true self, on the other hand, is unoffendable.” God invites us, through the wisdom of the Enneagram, to notice when we are acting out of false-self motivation. Then God, in love, invites us to let go of that motivation and return to living out of the gifts and grace given to us.

The Enneagram describes a life of growth, change, failure, and transformation. I have changed as I have traveled this Enneagram journey. By the grace of God, I am a different person today than I was when I went to that first workshop.

The Theory of the Enneagram

As we begin, we will take a bird’s-eye view of the Enneagram. Don’t worry if this seems confusing at first. Human beings are confusing people. The Enneagram will eventually help sort that out.

The Enneagram suggests that we are all given particular gifts. Numbered one to nine, these gifts include goodness, love, effectiveness, creativity, wisdom, faithfulness, joy, power, and peace. We usually like our gifts. In fact, we like them so much, we become addicted to them. We cannot live a day without our giftedness being front and center in our lives. But as we try to do this, we find that we cannot express our gifts perfectly, others do not value our gifts as much as we think they should, and other people have different gifts that we may think look better or worse than our own gifts. When we become frustrated about these experiences with our gifts, it is as though we reach a roadblock on our daily spiritual journey. We try to circumvent the roadblock by exaggerating the gift we have been given. A person in the Three space, for instance, is often very successful and effective in what he does. This becomes so important that failure is totally unacceptable, something to be avoided at all costs. If failure cannot be avoided, the Three person unconsciously decides that a little deceit might cover it up. Or a person in the Eight space may be so enamored with her leadership and power that she tries to control everything and everyone. When this doesn’t work, she doesn’t know why and doubles down and tries harder to control, alienating her colleagues even more.

All of us live with some version of these examples. We all exaggerate what we value. We exaggerate the gift we have been given in order to try to look good, control life, and impress ourselves and others. When we do this, we are no longer free. We become compulsive about how we think we should express our gifts and how we think our gifts should be received. The Enneagram identifies the particular compulsions that accompany each gift.

The Enneagram does not leave us stuck in the mire of our compulsions. It suggests a grace to help us return to God’s love, love for ourselves, and love for others. The classic presentation of the Enneagram uses the word virtue for this quality that helps us return to our true self. I prefer the word grace, a word used by many Enneagram presenters. This is a word that hints at something given to us freely, that we do not have to earn. For each of the nine spaces, a grace, or a perspective on life, is suggested to help loosen the grip of our compulsive thinking. The nine graces identified all hint at the mercy and love God offers all of us all of the time. As we receive the particular grace of our space, we also notice the graces of the other spaces and begin to participate in God’s overwhelming mercy, indeed in God’s grace. This will become clearer as we look at each space.

Nine Perspectives on Life

People in the One space are gifted with goodness. They do things well, very well. They are conscientious and ethical, striving for excellence. But on the journey of life, they discover that things are not always good, that they themselves are not always good. The false self convinces them that they are responsible for making life not only good but perfect. When things are not as perfect as they think they should be, Ones experience anger, toward themselves, situations, and others. God invites Ones to receive serenity, which is the ability to accept things as they are and to become less reactive when things are not perfect.

People in the Two space are especially gifted to love. But as Twos journey on in life, they discover that they actually like to feel needed by others even more than they like to love unselfishly. As they compulsively try to meet the needs of others, they deny their own needs and develop a pride that leads them to hover and control in the name of love. The false self convinces them that they know what everyone else needs but no one can know what they need. The grace that leads Twos back to the true self is humility. As they begin to acknowledge their own needs and weaknesses, God transforms them to be better able to love others with authenticity and grace.

People in the Three space are gifted to be effective, to succeed in making things happen. But as they succeed in life, Threes may become vain about their successes. When threatened with a sense of possible failure, Threes, in their false self, give in to deceit, the compulsion to twist the truth to fulfill the self-image they have created. Truth is the grace offered to Threes to experience God’s transformation. The Enneagram reminds Threes to embrace and express truth about themselves, their abilities, their weakness, and emotions.

People in the Four space reflect the creativity of God. But because they cannot always make life and themselves creative and special, Fours give in to self-doubt, self-contempt, even self-hatred. This leads to envy, as they believe that everyone else has qualities they are missing. The grace offered to the Fours is equanimity, which gives balance to their emotions, allowing them to feel their feelings without getting stuck in them.

People in the Five space are gifted with wisdom. They are knowledgeable visionaries. But for Fives, the quest for knowledge and information is never ending. They become protective of their knowledge and may have an air of superiority. If they give in to the false self, they experience compulsive avarice or greed, taking in more and more knowledge but not wanting to give it out or let go of it. Detachment is the grace offered to Fives, allowing them to hold more loosely all that they know and move into their true self as they engage with others, even without knowing or understanding everything.

People in the Six space are faithful. They are loyal and easily influenced by authority. But they do not trust themselves. The false self says to Sixes that the opinion of others has more validity than their own ideas, and that they should embrace truth as others see it. Because they believe they must be prepared for every possible danger, their false self is especially prone to fear. God offers the grace of courage to Sixes. It takes courage for Sixes to learn to trust themselves and not assume that other perspectives have more validity than their own.

People in the Seven space are gifted with joy. But as they live with this gift, they are tempted to overstate the positive and to resist anything dark or negative. They protect themselves from the stresses of life by planning and dreaming. When the false self takes over, Sevens succumb to gluttony, wanting more and more of everything joyful or “happy,” in order to avoid inner pain. The grace offered to Sevens is sobriety. This grace invites Sevens to take only what they need and live with that. In their true self, Sevens can enjoy life even if it includes some darkness.

People in the Eight space are often leaders. They are gifted with power. But Eights may deny their own vulnerability. To cope with this fear of weakness, they come to believe that they need to dominate others. “It’s my way or the highway.” The false self demands more and more power, giving in to lust, an insatiable passion for power over others. God invites Eights to receive the grace of innocence, a childlike capacity to admit weakness and vulnerability.

People in the Nine space are gifted with peace. They are calm and content and remind us that God is peaceful. But because they fear change and conflict, Nines may become indolent, not willing to exert themselves, even for things that are important. As the false self takes over, Nines can become slothful or lazy. This may lead them to become neglectful, taking the path of least resistance. God’s grace to Nines is action. In their true self they are able to be more assertive, to state their own positions and preferences, and to become energized and involved in life.

Seeing the Enneagram in Ordinary Life

Lest this all sound too simple, it is. Humanity is not neatly divided into nine categories. But the simplicity of the Enneagram is part of its genius. In the complexity of our life circumstances, our private motivations, and our inner inclinations, we lose sight of the unique ways we respond to life and we forget to appreciate that not everyone responds as we do. The Enneagram, quite simply, helps us see what we are doing.

Listen to how this might play out in an ordinary conversation when my husband and I connect in the late afternoon. If my husband asks me, “How was your day?” I would probably answer with a Four perspective, which can be a bit melancholic: “The committee chair didn’t get back to me about the brochure. Now I’ll be late with what they want me to do. The doctor never called about my test results. I don’t think he likes me. I didn’t have time to get the groceries so we have to eat leftovers.” If I were a Seven, I might be more optimistic: “The committee chair didn’t get back to me. Now I have extra time to work on the brochure. The doctor’s office didn’t call, so the test results must be okay. Oh, and I didn’t get to the grocery store. Let’s go out to eat.” Or notice the underlying anger in how a One might respond: “The committee chair didn’t call back. She should have! And I never heard from the doctor. We should switch to someone better. I should have gone to the grocery store, but lately they have so few cashiers, the lines are so long I didn’t have time.”

Each of us looks at life and relates to others within the perspective of our Enneagram space. Rohr often points out that “every viewpoint is a view from one point.” But this does not mean that everyone in each space looks or sounds the same. Human beings are much too unique for that. Not all Fives value the same aspect of wisdom. Not all Eights want to be powerful in the same situations. And not all Twos want to help in the same ways. But the categories are still instructive. We observe categories in all of creation. Consider the variety of roses and the many types of maple trees. Not all roses are alike, and not all maple trees are alike. But if we did not have tree and flower categories and rose and maple categories, we would not do well tending the backyard. The Enneagram gives words to describe nine categories of human beings.

Spiritual Blind Spots

One reason the Enneagram confuses us at first is that it identifies our blind spots. We are, by definition, unaware of psychological and spiritual blind spots. I don’t always know what I’m doing when I’m doing it. I can’t see what’s wrong with my compulsions. What’s wrong with wanting to be an expert in using my gifts? The One person might think, unconsciously, Why shouldn’t I strive for perfection even though nothing is ever perfect? Or the Nine might wonder, again unconsciously, Why shouldn’t I always be peaceful, even if I avoid conflict? We all have times when we don’t know why we are choosing to live life as we do, or we simply don’t see what we are doing. Other people experience us differently from how we experience ourselves. Jesus asked, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 RSV ). Our blind spots are the logs in our eyes. The Enneagram is trying to point out to me things about myself I can’t and don’t want to see.

Our Enneagram compulsions are like rocks on a dark path. We stumble over them because we cannot see them. People in the Two space, for instance, stumble over their invasiveness and control as they compulsively try to help people. Those in the Six space stumble over their fear of disloyalty or disobedience as they give in to the compelling influence of authority figures in their lives.

The problem with our blind spots is not just that we are frustrated with life, others, and ourselves. Our blind spots are powerful deterrents to our spiritual growth. To the extent that we remain unaware of what is motivating us, we are not free. Learning about the Enneagram has helped me embrace the truth that God gave me gifts because God loves me and has equipped me to love others, not because my gifts are so impressive. God does not love me more because of my gifts. This truth has been immensely freeing for me. But it is counter-intuitive and contrary to my normal thoughts and feelings.

My Native Language

Jesus said that the enemy of our faith is the great deceiver. “When he lies,” Jesus said, “he speaks his native language” (John 8:44). I have learned the language of the great deceiver well. In many ways it has become my native language. In order to grow spiritually, I need to translate my inner language into the language of God. Through the Enneagram I can see that my particular native language is the language of the Four. The lies I believe are second nature to me. Among other things, I believe that even though I am gifted in creativity, I must be extraordinarily special in all that I do. I believe that I am uniquely burdened by being sensitive and that others always have something I am missing. I did not even know I believed these lies until I learned I was a Four. In fact, when I first picked up a book about the Enneagram (to prepare for that first conference), I knew for sure that I was not a Four. That’s how blind I was!

Looking beyond our blind spots to the truth of who we are is a difficult process. It is no surprise, then, that finding our “home space” can be a challenge. Chapter seven is devoted to practical ways we can meet this challenge and find the space that best describes our gifts as well as our compulsions.


Learning the language of the Enneagram invites us into deeper self-awareness. Who in the world am I? This is not a narcissistic question. If I do not know who I am, I cannot see the log in my own eye, I do not know the full extent of God’s grace, and I am trapped in ongoing patterns of living that are not life giving. As I have continued on in the journey of learning the truths of the Enneagram, I have become more and more grateful that the knowledge it gives increases my own self-awareness, even if at first I don’t like what I see.

I am willing to journey on because this kind of awareness is essential to spiritual growth and intimacy with God. John Calvin wrote, “Nearly all wisdom we possess . . . consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. . . . The knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.”

David Benner wrote more recently, “Lack of awareness is the ground of our dis-ease and brokenness. . . . Choosing awareness opens up to finding God in the midst of our present realities. . . . Awareness is the key to so much. This is why it is, in my opinion, the single most important spiritual practice.”

These are strong words from respected Christian leaders teaching hundreds of years apart. We would do well to listen. Our spiritual blind spots are not just a matter of stumbling and bruising the knees of our soul. Our blind spots keep us from knowing the love of God. If I am hiding behind a blind spot, I am unconsciously trying to keep God, others, and myself from the love that God offers. Knowledge of the Enneagram has led me into a self-awareness that has drawn me closer to the heart of God.

Adapted from Mirror for the Soul by Alice Fryling. Copyright © 2017 by Alice Fryling. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, www.ivpress.com.

5 Surprising Truths About the Enneagram and Your Leadership Potential

5 Surprising Truths About the Enneagram and Your Leadership Potential

Self-aware leaders are better leaders. Carey Nieuwhof shares in ChurchLeaders how the Enneagram can help you develop spiritual and emotional health as a leader.

So many leaders have asked me about the Enneagram.

And while I’m a little late to the Enneagram bandwagon, after reading The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, I now totally get what the fuss is all about.

If you haven’t read the book, done the Enneagram test and don’t know your Enneagram number, here’s a link to the test that will help you discover more about your natural personality type.

So…what’s the big deal about the Enneagram?

Well, like a Myers Briggs or Strengthfinders assessment, it helps you discover your natural personality type, which in the world of leadership, means your default approach to leadership (and life). It’s another key to self-awareness, but also to an awareness of how everyone else on your team (or personally, even in your family) is wired.

If you’re curious, it turns out I’m an Eight—a challenger (with a Seven-wing). But I almost scored as a One as well (a Perfectionist). Funny, because most friends guessed me as a Three or a Seven.

Why does all of this matter? It’s simple.

Self-aware leaders are always better leaders, and the Enneagram will help you see yourself as others experience you.

The Enneagram Issue: Reactive or Reflective?

Is the Enneagram a wisdom tool or a passing fad? Chuck DeGroat talks with In All Things about how people can misuse the Enneagram as it gains more popularity.

By now, maybe you’ve begun to get my ironic foray into the Enneagram, a now popular tool for self-understanding. Brought to the United States five decades ago from South America by a handful of teachers, the Enneagram isn’t the invention of some self-help guru. It was rightly embraced as a serious tool, introduced within the church in small pockets for the sake of intentional spiritual formation. Its nine types (which I regularly call “habits” or “energies” to distinguish this from personality tests) represent windows into how we relationally navigate a broken world.

Where we are today with the Enneagram, however, might be hardly recognizable and highly regrettable to the Bolivian born teacher Oscar Ichazo, who is widely regarded as one of the first to pass this wisdom tool off to those who’d bring it to the United States. Only six years ago, a Christian publisher wouldn’t include a chapter I wrote on the Enneagram for fear of its reception by evangelicals. Today, you’re apt to find Enneagram discussions in many evangelical churches. You’ll find podcasts up-and-down your podcast dial. The internet offers dozens of free tests. And people on social media debate about the Enneagram types of their favorite characters from Friends or Star Trek or contemporary politics. In fact, on Twitter you can follow the EnneaDog. What we’ve done with it is so classically. . . American.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve transitioned from enthusiastic to cautious.

Curiosity about oneself is good and important. After telling his own story in sometimes lurid detail, St Augustine begins chapter 10 of his Confessions with the cry, “Let me know myself. Let me know Thee!” Self-knowledge is urged by Calvin and Teresa of Avila, by Richard Baxter and John Owen. In her Interior Castle, St Teresa of Avila writes, “self-knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it; so long as we are on this earth, nothing matters more than humility.”

But self-knowledge serves best as a doorway to humility. I once knew a pastor who loved personality tests. Everyone he knew was categorized—phlegmatic, extroverted, dominant, ESTP, idealist. He drew upon a range of different inventories and popular assessments. But it served a suspect agenda—with categories, he had power. In an instant, he could cut people down to size: “She’s such a melancholic…let’s keep her working behind the scenes or she’ll just depress everyone.”

Now, the difference between some of the major personality tests we know and the Enneagram is this: the Enneagram is concerned less about describing your personality and more concerned about naming what drives you and motivates you. This takes a bit more work. If I meet you at a social gathering, I might note that you’re a bit introverted, but I’ll have little clue as it what motivates you. And this is why so many of us have found the Enneagram to be a useful, albeit fallible, tool. We can gain real insight into ourselves by exploring what drives us.

The Enneagram Is Not Just for White People

The Enneagram is Not Just For White People

David Potter at Sojourners interviews Micky Scottbey Jones on decolonializing the Enneagram and the lack of diversity in Enneagram circles.

The landscape of social change is evolving. While effective activism and spiritual vitality have long been positioned in opposition to one another, today’s social movements are investing greater attention to their interdependence. At this intersection of personal and collective well-being, justice doula and movement chaplain Micky ScottBey Jones holds both deep conviction and embodied wisdom.

Jones’ passion for infusing movements with healing and resilience — as well as the need to sustain her own activism — led her to begin working with the Enneagram of Personality: a system that identifies nine unique ways of being and relating to others. In its common usage as a personality typing system, the Enneagram helps classify and understand different personalities – which often includes creating a profile of common behaviors, emotions, and motivations for each of the nine types.

While Jones has found the Enneagram invaluable, it is not equally accessible to all people. The lack of diverse teachers of the system leaves a critical absence of knowledge. Inspired by her commitment to decolonizing faith and justice, Jones recently launched a fundraising campaign to support her efforts to become an Accredited Professional Enneagram Teacher/Trainer. Sojourners spoke with Jones about this process and why she thinks the Enneagram is an important tool for both personal and social transformation.