The Enneagram has ancient roots, stemming from Christian desert monk and medieval Sufi sources. In the last 25 or so years, there has been more written and discussed about this practice. It helps us identify the ways we hide from ourselves and from God. Last August my friend Mark told me about Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert's book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.
It's recommended that one does not explore the Enneagram until they are in their 30s, at the latest early 40s. Too soon and you have not fully developed your character and natural ways of dealing with life. Too late and you are likely to be too entrenched in those responses and unable or unwilling to identify them and change.
One must not enter this lightly. Discovering your type will be freeing in the end but it will first force you to confront yourself, the person that is a sinner in need of grace, who doesn't always make the best decisions, whose instincts may hurt others. We are used to the way we respond; the "dark side" of our gifts isn't always readily apparent. Rohr notes that discovering your type will make you miserable at first.
Why would anyone want to do this if it makes you miserable, you ask? Because understanding your motivations and your root sins need not end with simply identifying them. The flip side of our selfishness is our capacity to love. We see that our type, when we are whole, can enable us to give our gifts to others. We are the best version of ourselves and most open to being used by God. We are given the opportunity to grow and "become more mature, wiser, and integrated" (p. 26.)
The 9 Types:
One: The Need to be Perfect
Two: The Need to be Needed
Three: The Need to Succeed
Four: The Need to be Special
Five: The Need to Perceive
Six: The Need for Security
Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain
Eight: The Need to be Against
Nine: The Need to Avoid
Shauna Niequist has written a short overview of each type. It's well worth reading but I'd still encourage you to pick up a copy of Rohr and Ebert's book. While tests are available, it's more effective to read, ponder, pray, and discuss with others.
Perhaps this is still confusing so I will briefly walk you through Type Two, the Helper.
Twos use their gifts to help others, standing by them during difficult times. "Twos desperately want to be liked and have an exaggerated need for validation" (p. 63.) Their root sin is false pride, as they condescend to those they serve. Twos' identity is wrapped up in being needed, consequently adapting their personality to whomever needs them. Their temptation is to always help everyone else, which enables them to avoid themselves. The dilemma and gift of Twos is that they give others what they want for themselves (the golden rule)- this may not always be what the other person actually wants or needs. Their defense mechanism is repression. The pitfall is flattery, seen by denying who they are to please others. Mature Twos are able to love unconditionally, without any ulterior motives. Their fruit of the spirit (gift) is humility, as they are able to identify their real motivation. The invitation to Twos is for freedom- freedom from manipulating others to meet their own needs and from dependency on others for meaning. Tasks for a Two are to learn to say no and to understand what their own needs are.
Very interesting, isn't it? You may be wondering why I gave that particular example. When I started to read The Enneagram, I was sure I'd be a Two, as I work in a helping profession. However, I'm not. As to what type I actually am, you'll have to come back tomorrow!
After reading Shauna's overview, what type do you think you are? What are your thoughts about the Enneagram?
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