Writer Marlena Graves shares about her experience as an Enneagram Nine and how she’s learned to maintain the peace without giving up her identity.
Throughout my entire life, I’ve been a bridge builder and a peacemaker. It is easy for me to find and affirm the common ground human beings share with one another. We have our differences for sure, but our commonalities and shared humanity stand out to me much more readily than our differences do. It also helps that I’ve been among all sorts of ethnic groups—among the rural, urban, and suburban, the rich and poor, those with more education and those with less. And where do I stand among them? Well, I am the bridge.
That’s all well and good, but it also leads to feeling unmoored and dislocated—as if I don’t have a home of my very own. Enneagram Nines find it quite easy to merge with others but have trouble figuring themselves out because their “self” is so merged with others and also because Nines are mystics and experts at reading people. When I learned that, I instantly knew, “That’s me! I am a Nine!” If I am constantly merging with others, who am I then? Where do I belong? Where is my place in this world?
I’ve had to disentangle myself from others in order to figure out what I like and what I stand for. I’ve even had to be willing to tick people off with my stances on anything from immigration to politics to which branch of the Church I prefer. I do have opinions about these things, and through trial and error (and maturity) I have learned not to cave on what I think or believe simply because I might encounter someone who disagrees with me. I don’t give up my values and hard-won wisdom to do what Nines find it so easy to do: go along to get along. Indeed, I can sometimes be bold and blunt about what I think—that’s my Eight-wing coming out for you!
Related to all this is that desire for peace. If I am not living out what I profess to believe and stand for, there is tension within—a lack of peace. So, I don’t want to make proclamations personally or in writing if I am not living them out. I think anyone who practices what they preach has immediate and lasting credibility. I want to be one of those people, but it can be exhausting. I fall back on Jesus’s words to us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). And I also fall back on the Lord’s injunction to us to “cease striving, be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Maybe this struggle and tension about feeling really unsettled if I am not practicing what I am preaching is a bit of a One-wing coming out in me—the perfectionist side.
The interesting thing about all of this is that you wouldn’t have a clue that this is going on inside of most Nines. We strive hard to maintain peace and part of that is not bothering you about our lack of peace. Our desire for peace is such that we don’t want to say or do things that might cause you to feel uncomfortable or lose peace. Nines are loathe to burden or bother others. That can come at a great cost and lead to distress in them and in relationships. Or sometimes, Nines hold things in for so long that eventually they explode at the drop of a hat and people around them wonder where that volcanic energy came from. The thing about Nines is that they don’t usually stay angry for long once it is out.
There’s so much more I could say about being a Nine and using the Enneagram as a tool for self-knowledge and self-awareness. No two Nines are exactly alike. We come from different environments, life circumstances, and perspectives. But hopefully you know a little more about my experience in being a Nine and about the Nines who are agreeable peacemakers in your life. Perhaps without Nines it’d be all war, all of the time. So, take a moment to see and affirm the Nines in your life and the role they play. They will appreciate your affirmation and the fact that you see them.
About the Author
Marlena Graves is a writer and adjunct professor. She holds an MDiv from Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York, and is a graduate of the Renovaré Institute. She is the author of Forty Days on Being a Nine, The Way Up Is Down, and A Beautiful Disaster, and her writing has also appeared at Christianity Today, (in)courage, and Our Daily Bread. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Toledo, Ohio.