It seems like everywhere you turn in the Christian world right now, someone is talking about the Enneagram. There are books, podcasts and blogs popping up everywhere.
I was first introduced to it two years ago as part of a leadership training I did with Katie through Crosspoint.
If you aren’t familiar, here’s a helpful description from Crosspoint:
We are in Christ so that we may become like Christ. (Ephesians 3:17) This is the journey of Christian spiritual formation. It requires a self-clarity anchored in the reality of being created in the image of God and re-created in the likeness of Christ. It involves ‘putting off’ the old way of being and ‘putting on’ the new way of being by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:20-24) Without a greater awareness of the unconscious motivations that impact our decisions and relationships, we remain stuck.
Each personality style carries a particular challenge to Christian maturity. This is what the desert fathers and mothers of the third and fourth century discovered. These spiritual guides were concerned about unacknowledged patterns that kept Christians from a deeper walk with Christ. As they listened and prayed, various patterns began to emerge. The individual Fruits of the Spirit (nine godly virtues) faced the corruptive power of nine specific vices. And it seemed to them that each virtue was susceptible to a particular vice. True sanctification of the heart would be impossible without addressing this subtle but sinful reality.
What I have found most helpful is that at the beginning of taking the Enneagram, it shows you your personality style. The way that you perceive reality, process reality and how you present yourself to the world around you.
In light of that, here are some ways it is helping me as a leader:
Helping me to know the mask I wear. Most adults and leaders are not self aware. Most of the people I meet with do not know how they are wired, how that wiring works, what they are best suited to do or not do. Knowing this one thing helps to save you a lot of heartache when it comes to figuring out a job, where to serve in a church or what would make you excited in the morning.
Many people also don’t understand the mask that they wear. The Enneagram really helped me understand the mask I wear, not only to protect myself in relationships, but also to get ahead. It really does help you understand the sins and tendencies that will bring you down. Sadly, many people will take the Enneagram or any test and say, “Well I’m just this or that, so that’s all there is to it.” That isn’t it or the end, and that is a sad excuse to stay stuck.
Which leads to the next one…
Helps those closest to me challenge me and pray for me. I’m an 8 on the Enneagram, which means I bring a lot of energy and intensity to everything I do and every relationship I have. I often joke that if you want something done and don’t care how it gets done, send an 8. If you want it done a specific way, send a 1. If you want it done efficiently, send a 3.
Knowing how I’m wired not only helps me process what I’m feeling and thinking when things happen, but it helps those around me understand that as well. It helps them to give grace when needed, but also to push on me when needed. They can also point out my blindspots a lot faster than simply guessing if I am that way.
If you are a friend with someone who is a 7, they can very easily be the life of the party, but they can also be impulsive, all over the map and lean towards escapism in unhealthy places. Knowing this is incredibly helpful not only for the person but for those around them.
Helps me to appreciate others wiring and give grace to them. Most people know that everyone is not wired like they are, but we rarely live like that is true. The Enneagram has really helped me understand how others are created, how they process and see things and how they protect themselves. 1’s are incredibly hard on things, they love things to be done well and perfectly (to their standards). They are also 10 times harder on themselves than on those around them. Knowing this has allowed me to extend a lot of grace to 1’s and help me understand the frustration they experience.
If you are friends with a 2 on the Enneagram, they love to help people and are often right in the center of helping to make things happen. But they also struggle to know what they need in a situation because they are often so focused on helping others and meeting their needs. Knowing this is enormously helpful to know how someone needs to pace themselves and make sure they have strong boundaries for rest and rejuvenation.
This matters in relationships because many times we will look at how others see the world and dismiss it because it is different than our viewpoint, or we will see how someone struggles with something and if we don’t struggle with that, we can easily look down on them or wonder why that is such a stumbling block to them. I feel like understanding this has raised my ability to give grace in situations that in the past I would’ve given up on someone.
Helps those closest to me understand my reactions and how I process the world. While the Enneagram has been a help to me in relationships, it has been a help to those closest to me as well as we’ve discussed what we’re learning together. This one point was one of the biggest aha moments for Katie and me in our marriage.
If you’re married, do you know how your spouse processes the world? You might know their reactions to things because you are so used to it by now, but do you know why they react that way? Where that comes from?
Most people don’t, but that one piece of information is incredibly important and helpful. Your spouse might get angry easily, but do you know why? People get angry for different reasons. That is how they process the world. Your spouse might shut down emotionally, but do you know why? They might look at the world through lenses of fear, melancholy, co-dependence, or being focused on their image.
All of those things matter and are important. And knowing these helps with the next one.
Helps me to know if my reactions or processing are sins. Getting angry isn’t always a sin, but sometimes it is. Isolating isn’t always a sin, but it can be. Being incredibly helpful and others-focused is a great quality, but it can be a sin. Getting things done is incredibly important and will make you very successful, but it can be destructive.
It is understanding yourself in the light of the person God created and called you to be that you are able to understand if something is a sin.
Being able to articulate that this is my childhood wound, this is how that has affected my life, this is how I have found redemption from it, is crucial in our journey to being whole in Christ. Being able to know this is why I’m fearful, anxious, frugal, emotionally sensitive, and what parts of those feelings and actions are sins or not is really important. I think it gives a bigger picture of humanity.
It keeps you from imploding. The last thing the Enneagram has helped me with as a leader is protecting from implosion. Now, the reality is that all of us are a choice away from wrecking our lives, but the Enneagram has helped me know what can wreck my life, what struggle can bring me or another person down. And they are different.
Another important aspect has come out of talking to counselors who have been using the Enneagram, and it is this: What made you successful in your 20’s and 30’s can often be the thing that brings you down in your 40’s and 50’s.
We have all seen this. The hard driving 28 year old who starts a business and “makes it happen” quickly becomes the tyrant no one wants to work for when he’s 42.
The person who is always helping others early in life who becomes co-dependent in relationships, and now they don’t know who they are without people.
The person who is the life of the party and the one you always want to have around because of how spontaneous and fun they are, but in their 40’s they are irresponsible and too impulsive as they switch from job to job.
Knowing the resourceful and non-resourceful side of your personality is crucial to knowing what will bring you down and the road to health.