Allie is a good friend and my (Kent’s) trusted go-to for Enneagram wisdom. She offers here a great introduction to the Enneagram. Later this week I’ll follow up with a brief review of Suzanne Stabile’s recent book, The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships (IVP, 2018).
Guest Post: Allie Brown.
I try not to overstate things. Words matter, and I hope to keep my credibility when it comes to the words I choose, so when I say the following, please know that I mean every bit of it: the Enneagram changed my life. To be clearer, the Enneagram has changed and continues to change my life.
Thomas Merton wrote,
“There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find [God] I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find [God].”
For me, the Enneagram is the spiritual tool that has most shepherded my journey of self-awareness and acceptance. An ancient tool with somewhat mysterious origins, the Enneagram has been used by Christians for centuries as a spiritual practice of self-discovery. At its most basic, the Enneagram (meaning ‘nine points’) is a personality typing system. But for those of us seeking God and, in God, our true selves, it is a vision for how God’s character is manifest in nine archetypal ways.
I have always been drawn to personality tests and tools. I felt like a mystery to myself for most of life. In search for my truest self, I was desperate for anything that would help express my inner world to everyone on the outside.
The Enneagram drew me in for the same reason, but thankfully a wise friend advised me to not treat it as just another personality test. Instead, she encouraged me to approach it as a spiritual practice; a way to seek God by seeking my true self.
Most of us are in need of such a tool because we cannot step outside of ourselves to see the ways we have been warped by the stuff of life. I believe each of us is born with the imprint of the Divine and that, given the chance to live in total harmony with the world and other humans, we would live out that unique, divine identity with clarity and ease.
Since none of us lives in a bubble, we rely on coping skills and defense mechanisms to protect us. We’re bumping up against sin, injustice, broken systems, and other complicated humans all the time, so we need that protection to help us grow up. Part of maturation, though, is peeling back the layers of defense to understand what motivates us, lights us up, and how God is most revealed in us.
The Enneagram helped me do that by speaking to both the shadow and light sides of my personality.
Each of the nine types is characterized by an underlying motivation that acts as the root for all kinds of behaviors. We all do things that help us and things that hurt us; the gift that the Enneagram gave me is to see that it’s all connected. If we stay on the surface and focus simply on strengths and weaknesses, then all we’re dealing with is a personality test. But if we want to get at the root of motivation and seek the fire within us, then it’s a spiritual journey we’re after.
It’s a journey for those who want to see themselves more clearly, and in that process, see God in new ways. In seeing myself, I found that I am more than I could have imagined, but like any spiritual journey, it is painful at times. There’s a tenderness in peeling back our defenses to expose the truth of ourselves underneath. It’s best done with the Spirit’s guidance and in the midst of a loving community to remind us that we can be both broken and beautiful.
The Enneagram changed my life because it helped me get a glimpse of myself as God sees me.
I also see others in a new light. I’ve heard it said that the Enneagram generates compassion, and if there is no other reason to dive into it, this is enough: the world needs more compassion. When another person peels back their layers and lets me in, I experience a true turning of my heart toward them. This has been the gift that has given me new eyes to see myself and the rest of the world around me. And, of course, in finding compassion in the world, I have found God.
Thank you Allie!