How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t do those personality test things.” Maybe you’re that person. Ultimately, the thought of using a personality test to better outline an individual seems like a rushed way of getting to know them. Telling people, “I’m an ENFP,” isn’t really telling them anything at all other than a bare-bones version of your identity. So, what’s the point? Haven’t we moved through the phase of answering multiple-choice questions with gut responses in order to attempt to more sharply define ourselves?
Diving into the Enneagram can allow for a deeper look at why people are the way that they are and what they’re failing to acknowledge in their lives that hold them back. So what is it? An Enneagram is a tool for spiritual transformation that breaks down nine “types” of people and reveals their tendencies, preferences, and emotional longings as created by childhood experiences so that they can “get out of their own way” of how they perceive the world.
In a conversation with a Benedictine monk named Brother Dave, author of The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey To Self-Discovery, Ian Morgan Cron asked what “getting out of your own way” meant.
Brother Dave replied, “What we don’t know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others... As long as we stay in the dark about how we see the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we’re prisoners of our history. We’ll continue going through life on autopilot doing things that hurt and confuse ourselves and everyone around us. Working with the Enneagram helps people develop the kind of self-knowledge they need to understand who they are and why they see and relate to the world the way they do. When that happens you can start to get out of your own way and become more of the person God created you to be.”
What could easily be interpreted as “just another personality test” is a useful tool for uncovering the ‘whys’ of life. Here are three key takeaways in venturing into the journey of learning your Enneagram:
Reading about the nine types offers easily-digestible insights into the choices made by the people in your life. Empathy comes more smoothly when the ‘why’ of a decision is given a chance to explain itself instead of messily trying to justify the outcome after the fact. Simply put, a greater understanding of differences is achievable through knowing where on the Enneagram’s nine points another person sits. It’s like a cheat sheet for understanding where other people are coming from.
One of the rules about the Enneagram is that you don’t talk about the Enneagram… in a way that makes people feel like you are “typing” them before getting to know them. While other personality tests are intent upon categorizing the human experience, the Enneagram’s greatest use is self-realization and transformation. It does this by offering a range of examples of where people fall through the use of ‘wings’ and a ‘healthy vs unhealthy’ depiction of the nine types.
The Enneagram is about spiritual development, so it doesn’t leave room for attaching your identity to lies or false adjectives. It gives language to desires of the heart and replaces a damaging vocabulary with life-giving words that more accurately highlight the truth of your nature. For example, Enneagram type two is known as “the helper” and can range from being healthy and naming their own needs and feelings to be unhealthy and codependent. Exploring their Enneagram type can help twos learn to identify why they feel the need to help others, learn of their positive impact on society without gaining identity from their accomplishments, and hit the reset button when the urge to present themselves a certain way creeps into their relationships.
If the desire to better understand yourself has ever made its presence known in your life, exploring the Enneagram as a way to answer that call could be just what your spirit is asking for.
Pastor Rick Warren once said, “Transformation is a process, and as life happens, there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery - there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.”
The thought of processing these moments in life can be something that makes you want to run away but when we utilize the tools around us like the Enneagram, sometimes processing becomes less of a burden and we can see the importance of going through it all with clarity and a sense of necessity. The necessity is to know oneself.