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.