Enneagram: Annoying or Awesome?


Author: Kate Schaber | www.kateschaberwrites.com | @kateschaber

By now you may have heard of The Enneagram. If you haven’t taken the test yourself, there’s a good chance you’ve overheard confusing/annoying conversations where people identify themselves as numbers for what feels like hours on end (“That’s such a SIX thing to say!!”). If you are entirely unfamiliar however, here are a few basics: The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system made up of nine distinct types, each associated with a number. The Reformer (One), The Peacemaker (Nine), The Challenger (Eight), and The Helper (Two) are just a few of the archetypes found in the Enneagram.

Initially, I was wary of all this Enneagram-business, based almost solely off the fact that the main symbol looks a lot like a pentagram. So spooky. But when a growing number of my favorite Christian authors and speakers began to reference the Enneagram, I decided to finally check it out. About a year ago, I downloaded the book The Sacred Enneagram by Chris Heuertz on my kindle, thinking I’d skim a few pages before bed. Many tears and hours later, I had never felt so deeply understood. I was sold on this Enneagram thing.

What makes it so special? For me, there are three aspects to the Enneagram that make it stand out.

There is a path forward

The Enneagram challenges you to keep moving. With many other typing systems, such as Meyers-Briggs, I felt pigeon-holed in my “type”. I felt stuck. Or worse yet, my type was seen as an excuse to justify unhealthy habits and mindsets.

However, built into the Enneagram’s foundation is the belief that not only do we have unique strengths and vices, but we each have a unique path forward to wholeness and balance.  

How to better understand others

This has been one the greatest relational tools I’ve ever had. Here’s a little analogy for why I find this so helpful. Let’s say each Number loves pizza.

  • A Seven loves pizza because there are endless combinations to choose from (and pizza usually means there’s a party happening).
  • A Two loves pizza because there is always enough to go around.
  • A Five loves This Specific Pizza because they have researched it and found it to be empirically The Actual Best Food.

See what I’m getting at? We can arrive at the same conclusion in completely different ways. Our motivation for thinking the way we do is a huge indicator of who we are, and quite often the source of friction in our relationships. If I know why you think the way you do, I know what is most important to you, and can better seek harmony in a relationship with you. In short, I can love you better.

Word to the wise here: Since there is such deep information attached to each Type (childhood wounds, deep longings and struggles), it’s important to refrain from going around guessing everyone’s type, as fun as it may seem. Because when you say “You’re probably a Two!”, you’re also saying “your deepest fear is that you’re unworthy of being loved!”. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a no-no.

Balance is everything: Each number tends to take on the strengths (when healthy) and weaknesses (when stressed) of another type. I find it incredibly helpful to recognize what behaviors crop up on both ends of the spectrum, because it enables me to either counteract the unhealthy habits with wiser ones, or to lean in to the behaviors that lead to health and life.

Not every teaching or source for the Enneagram is the same but, as with most things, when seen through the lens of the Father with guidance from the Holy Spirit, the message of the Enneagram is beautiful, profoundly Christian, and a powerful path toward understanding God’s intention of wholeness and redemption for ourselves and those around us.

Love this post?  She.ology recommends these resources:  

The Sacred Enneagram, Chris Heuertz

The Road Back to You, Ian Cron

The Visual Enneagram, Aine Ni Cheallaigh (A quick, helpful overview of each type through illustrations)

The Enneagram Institute

The Liturgists podcast:  http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2016/8/23/the-enneagram-episode-37