The Road Back to You

An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

When I first heard about the Enneagram, I chalked it up to another personality test. Personality tests never seem to work, because they emphasize outward behavior which changes as people grow. I've taken the Myers Briggs personality test five times and each time I've gotten a difference result. Personality tests seem more like astrology than science.

What about the Enneagram?
In attempts to convince me the Enneagram was more than just a personality test, my friend handed me a book. The book in question was The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. In it, Cron and Stabile explain that your Enneagram type "is not determined by what you do so much as by why you do it." (36) The purpose of the Enneagram is to identify the parts of ourselves that hinder our ability to spread the kingdom of God. The Enneagram is a mirror that reflects who you are. When we see our shortcomings, we are given the opportunity to humbly move out of the way for our Father to come in.  

"The term personality is derived from the Greek word for mask (persona), reflecting our tendency to confuse the masks we wear with our true selves." (23)

Where does it come from?
The Enneagram is first and foremost a Christian idea. The History of the Enneagram is a long and complicated mess. Its origins are complicated, it was created either by a Christian monk named Evagrius, the desert fathers and mothers of the fourth century, or Jews. Either way, in the early 1970's Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo rediscovered the Enneagram. They made "significant contributions" to it and brought it to the United States where Father Robert Ochs found it impressive. Soon after it was popularized as a "helpful aid to Christian spiritual formation." (11)
What is the Enneagram?
In the words of Cron and Stabile, "It is a nine-pointed geometric figure that illustrates nine different but interconnected personality types." Each type has an obstacle/sin and fear they are prone to struggle with which provides their motivations. According to The Road Back to You, here's a rough list of each type and their traits:

TYPE ONE: The Perfectionist. Anger. Ethical, dedicated, and reliable. They are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame. Ones feel a compulsive need to perfect the world. Keenly aware that neither they nor anyone else can live up to their impossibly high standards, they experience anger in the form of smoldering resentment. 

TYPE TWO: The Helper. Pride. Warm, caring, and giving. They are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs. Twos direct all their attention and energy toward meeting the needs of others while disavowing having any of their own. Their secret belief that they alone know what's best for others and that they're indispensable reveals their prideful spirit.

TYPE THREE: The Performer. Deceit. Success-oriented, image-conscious, and wired for productivity. They are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure. Threes value appearance over substance. Abandoning their true selves to project a false, crowd-pleasing image, Threes buy their own performance and deceive themselves into believing they are their persona.

TYPE FOUR: The Romantic. Envy. Creative, sensitive, and moody. They are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings, and avoid being ordinary. Fours believe they are missing something essential without which they will never be complete. They envy what they perceive to be the wholeness and happiness of others.

TYPE FIVE: The Investigator. AvariceAnalytical, detached, and private. They are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy, and avoid relying on others. Fives hoard those things they believe will ensure they can live an independent, self-sustaining existence. This withholding ultimately leads to their holding back love and affection from others.

TYPE SIX: The Loyalist. FearCommitted, practical, and witty. They are worst-case-senario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security. Forever imagining worst-case-senarios and questioning their ability to handle life on their own, Sixes turn to authority figures and belief systems rather than God to provide them with the support and security they yearn for. 

TYPE SEVEN: The Enthusiast. Gluttony. Fun, spontaneous, and adventurous. They are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences, and to avoid pain. To avoid painful feelings, Sevens gorge themselves on positive experiences, planning and anticipating new adventures, and entertaining interesting ideas. Never satisfied, the Seven's frenzied pursuit of these distractions eventually escalates to the point of gluttony.

TYPE EIGHT: The Challenger. LustCommanding, intense, and confrontational. They are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable. Eights lust after intensity. It can be seen in the excessiveness they evidence in every area of life. Domineering and confrontational, Eights present a hard, intimidating exterior to mask vulnerability. 

TYPE NINE: The Peacemaker. Sloth.
Pleasant, laid back, and accommodating. They are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others, and avoid conflict. For Nines, sloth refers not to physical but to spiritual laziness. Nines fall asleep to their own priorities, personal development, and responsibility for becoming their own person. 

"Once you know the dark side of your personality, simply give God consent to do for you what you've never been able to do for yourself, namely, bring meaningful and lasting change to your life." (36)

How to find your type.
One of my biggest issues with personality tests are that they are so inconsistent. I feel like I could identify with literally every description given. The thing with the Enneagram is you can't take a test to find your type. Tests are out there, but they fall into the same problems as any other personality test. The most accurate way to find your type is to sit down, read each type's chapter, and "ask yourself why you do the things you do." (37) Someone can't type you, only you can type yourself because only you know why you do what you do.

For example, when my friend initially tried to convince me to get into the Enneagram, I was not easy to convince. I had experienced personality tests and was skeptical of anything that resembled one. Then she bought me The Road Back to You. I spent a long time with it sitting on the shelf, that was until right before a road trip. My friend grabbed it off the shelf as we were leaving and read it to me while I drove. I felt like I was the type of whichever chapter we were in. That was until she turned to the chapter on type Five, the Investigator. Every single aspect of the Five reflected the inner workings of my heart that not even I had considered. The fears, desires, motives, needs, and sins were all there. My fate was sealed, I was definitively a Five.

For you it may be a similar process. Don't try to force anything, naturally read along until the chapter/type description that pulls your heart. That's when you'll know this is the one. 
Why is this important?
How does this relate to God? How does this relate to Jesus? Jesus is supposed to be the perfect mixture of each of these types. Each type also reflects a different aspect of God's personality which is manifested in Jesus and reflected in you. Let's let Cron and Stabile speak for themselves:
"Every number on the Enneagram teaches us something about the nature and character of the God who made us. Inside each number is a hidden gift that reveals something about God's heart. So when you are tempted to prosecute yourself for the flaws in your own character, remember that each type is at its core a signpost pointing us to travel toward and embrace an aspect of God's character that we need." (228)
Not only does the Enneagram help us understand our Maker, but it also helps us understand each other. Understanding the needs of our loved ones helps us provide those needs to them. Whether it's your spouse, child, or parent knowing the motivations and fears of those closest to you helps you love them better. If you can love someone in the way they experience love they will feel that love.

The Enneagram also helps us love our communities better. The more we understand how others work it's much easier to have grace for them when we're wronged. Whether it's in our church, job, or neighborhood if we realize the fears, anxieties, and stresses everyone deals with everyday maybe we can start to give each other a little slack when we're upset. 

"The Beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them." (Thomas Merton)

There's so much more to the Enneagram than I can say here. If you're curious and want to explore I highly recommend The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. We barely scratched the surface not to mention leaving out triads, wings, stresses, and security numbers. If you're still not convinced, remember, we judge if something is good by its fruit. At its root, the purpose of the Enneagram is to help us understand ourselves, understand each other, and understand God. I'll let you decide the fruit.

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