I’d like to start off by saying two things: first, I am no expert in this content. I am simply an interested learner who is eager to share and learn more; second, I’ll be using the word ‘sin’ quite a bit throughout this post, so if that term puts a bad taste in your mouth, please feel free to sub in the word ‘weakness,’ ‘challenge,’ or ‘character flaw.’
You can count me among those who find great joy in taking personality tests. I’ve taken so many of them, you’d think I’d know myself by now. But whether it’s “Which Disney Princess Are You?” on Buzzfeed or Myer’s Briggs for the 100th time, I think there’s something so fascinating about digging deeper into who you are.
The Enneagram is gaining lots of attention right now, and as soon as I heard the words “personality test,” I was itching to take it. I was surprised to research that the Enneagram has actually been around for a long time and has roots in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I also found it is not so much a personality test as it is a tool of self-discovery and self-improvement. A personality test can tell you who you are, but the Enneagram can lead you to understand both who you are and why you are who you are. So you’re organized? Great! That may be because you crave perfection. Of course, the Enneagram has no knowledge of your life experiences, but it can draw out what your personality and experiences have led you to most desire and how those needs and beliefs influence your actions, mindset, and relationships. And it’s all wrapped into a number. Enneagram Worldwide states:
“The Enneagram is a powerful tool for personal and collective transformation. Stemming from the Greek words ennea (nine) and grammos (a written symbol), the nine-pointed Enneagram symbol represents nine distinct strategies for relating to the self, others and the world. Each Enneagram type has a different pattern of thinking, feeling and acting that arises from a deeper inner motivation or worldview.”
Most personality tests are so fun because they make you feel good. They highlight your strengths. They compare you to the characters, celebrities, or historical figures whom you admire. These tests help remind you that you are not alone. You are surrounded by like-minded and like-behaving individuals. And you are remarkable. The challenges you face are ranked insignificant in comparison to all of your defining strengths. I float away in the clouds when I read that I am an INFJ – the RAREST of them all. I stand a little taller when I see I am comparable to Hermione, Belle, or Mother Theresa. Did I mention I’m a Hufflepuff? They are recognized by their compassion and empathy, you know.
The thing is. We are far more complex than our gifts, inherent preferences, and natural tendencies. We have flaws. Sin is inevitable. I’m not talking sin as in the mistakes made in our past or present, but the actual character flaws that influence how we think and drive what we do. We all have them, and just as much as the traits we wear proudly, our innermost challenges are a significant part of who we are. These weaknesses are the bruises in our person that cause us to flinch when someone rubs up against them. We know they are there, but it is painful to be reminded. When our clothing is drawn back to reveal the black and blue, we cover them up or do our best to make them go away. But we are told in 2 Corinthians 12:9,
“…’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
It is important that we recognize our innate imperfection, because it is in this place of humility that we are forced to rely on the only Perfect One. Boasting in our weakness allows us to experience the transformative grace of a relationship with Jesus! We are all both great and broken. Breathtakingly gifted and enormously flawed. This intriguing paradox is emphasized in the Enneagram. And somehow, as you taste and swallow the bitter pill of your goodness mixed with your sin, you feel encouraged, hopeful, and humbled. The Enneagram is a call to understand and return to your Self – who you were truly created to be. And it helps you figure out how to get there, because the first step to change is admitting you have a problem, right? By identifying your “vice” or “most basic sin” (as it is referred to by Richard Rohr, author of The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective), you can journey towards redemption, live fully into the strengths of your number, and become your best, most whole self. What was once your vice can become your virtue. What was once your most basic sin can become your most beautiful gift.
I mentioned before that I enjoy a good personality/self-discovery test. Well, when given the chance to take the Enneagram, I took it SO seriously. What took my husband a mere 20 minutes to complete, took me a solid 45. The Narrative Enneagram narrows down your numbers based on paragraph statements that either sound like you or don’t. Eventually, you get to a place where you choose your number. I did not want to choose wrong, so I analyzed, processed, and held numbers against one another to compare. Truth be told, I saw myself reflected in more than one number. But I read that that’s normal. Also, important to note: your immediate number assignment may change over time as you mature and understand yourself more fully. My analysis led me to this: I am a Two. With a wing One. WHERE MY TWOS AT?!
Enneagram Worldwide classifies twos as Givers:
“Givers believe you must give fully to others to be loved. Consequently, Givers are caring, helpful, supportive, and relationship-oriented; they also can be prideful, intrusive, and demanding.”
In Richard Rohr’s book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, he classifies the nine numbers by a need. The need of twos is to be needed.
He continues to map out the Two, “Role: Helper; Virtue: Humility; Vice: Pride; Basic Desire: To give and receive love; TWOs are redeemed from themselves the more they experience God as the real lover and realize that their puny love can only consist in sharing in God’s infinite love.” But wait, it gets worse…”They sacrifice themselves for the welfare of others. They are benefactors, givers, and helpers. They give others precisely what they want for themselves. Their seeming altruism is a “legitimate” form of indulging their own egoism.”
Instant reaction: I DO NOT. AM NOT. OF COURSE I’M ALL THE GOOD THINGS, BUT THOSE DOWNFALLS ARE WAY OFF. That’s just like pride, isn’t it? So I sat with it. And then I realized. Yep, this is me. I need to recognize my own needs and accept love that doesn’t come from my being needed. People can and will survive without me. I am not their answer, their cure, or their savior. I am good things, but I am not perfect. I am the good and the bad, the good with the bad; just like all of us. And as I learn to acknowledge these weaknesses and rely more fully on my perfect Savior, He refines me, teaches me, and forgives me.
I am working on soaking in the humbling reminders of the Enneagram, letting them absorb into my innermost self. Twos are encouraged to recognize when they are giving love to get love. And when I begin to increase this awareness, healing is near. The need to be needed is replaced with confidence in my belonging. Pride becomes humility. What an incredible picture of 2 Corinthians 12:9! The Fruits of the Spirit stem from the place where we find ourselves leaning against the Father most. Or at least the places where we should.
What number are you? How do you plan to move from your sin to your Self?
ALSO. I urge you to listen to Sleeping at Last. He has written songs for each type. They are phenomenal. There’s a podcast, too! Here’s “my” song – TEARS, folks.
Now for kicks and gigs, I put this together. It’s what happens when simultaneously binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy and researching the Enneagram. Originally, I went looking for this type of thing after having taken the Enneagram, but I shockingly found NOTHING. So after learning more, I made my own. I was told not to project numbers on other people because we cannot know another’s inner motives. But these are fictional characters, so no harm, right? Again, I’m no expert, so please don’t take this too seriously. But if you do, I’ll take thoughts to steer this toward greater accuracy 🙂