I have a love/hate relationship with personality assessments. I enjoy learning more about myself, but most assessments leave me thinking, “You don’t know me at all.” And then I found the Enneagram.
About 8 years ago, when I was coaching a leadership program for our ministry, the other coaches began pulling out their Enneagram books. I was intrigued. I skimmed one of the books, saw myself in half of the 9 numbers, and came to the quick conclusion that the Enneagram is a crock.
But those other coaches were wise people, so I persisted. I narrowed myself down to 1, 3, or 4. My friend, Iris, who is an Enneagram 3, suggested that I was also a 3. Secretly, I wanted to be anything other than a 3.
So I decided that I was a 1. I texted Iris this news, and she texted back, “if you say so.” Apparently she was unconvinced.
A few weeks and several conversations with close friends later, I came to the conclusion that I am, in fact, an Enneagram 3. This was devastating to me. I called Iris, in tears, “Iris, I’m a 3!”
She said, “Oh honey, I know . . . when I realized I was a 3, I was up all night. And in the morning, I thought, ‘if I’m a 3, it’s cause God made me a 3, and that’s a good thing!'”
“Ok,” I choked.
Now, I can guess what you’re thinking. What’s wrong with being a 3? And where’s all this supposed love for the Enneagram?
Well, since that conversation, I have not only embraced my 3ness, but the Enneagram itself. So what do I love about it?
- The Enneagram doesn’t just tell you what you do; it tells you why you do it. And if we want to grow or change at all, we have to know the motivation behind our behavior.
- The Enneagram doesn’t just tell you where you are; it tells you where you could be. This isn’t a static assessment. Each of the 9 numbers has levels of maturity, so although you’ll never be a different number, you have a vision for growth within your type.
- The Enneagram is nuanced. While there are 9 types on the Enneagram, there are subtypes and wings and integration and disintegration on top of the levels of maturity that all reveal our uniqueness. So you and I might both be 3s, but we can still be our own people. It captures our complexity.
- The Enneagram helps us see our depravity. Yeah, I know that doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s necessary. Because if I can’t see how I’m trying to save myself and bring it to God, then I miss redemption. You know why I didn’t want to be a 3? Because I recognized the depravity of a 3, and I didn’t want to own it (guess what-every number has depravity. We can’t escape it).
- The Enneagram shows me how to love the people around me. It’s revolutionized our marriage by helping us both see the deeper motivations behind our behavior. Recognizing our kids’ numbers helps me understand what drives them and how to speak into it. Knowing my friends and co-workers on this level helps me see life from their perspective and speak their language.
- The Enneagram can lead us back to God. Each number has a root fear that drives it. I have learned that the more I let God speak to my root fear as a 3, the more rested and free I am to live my best self. When I see myself acting out very typical 3 behaviors, it gives pause to say, “What am I trying to get from others that I should be looking to God for instead?” It opens my eyes to my self-saving strategies.
They say that our Enneagram type is the lens through which we see the world. Our lens will never change, but the more we understand our own lens, the more we will recognize how we are trying to do life on our own, and how God is calling us to live more freely and expansively. And, we can develop compassion and grace for others who see the world through a different lens.
So that’s why I love the Enneagram. If you’re interested in learning more about it, I encourage you to check out The Road Back to You, by Cron and Stabile, or The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Riso and Hudson. Or check out The Enneagram Institute.
Or just talk to me. Give me a little time, and I’ll have you loving the Enneagram too.