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I googled the term the first time I heard it, not even sure how to pronounce it.
Enneagram: “Any – a – gram”
Named for a nine-sided polygon, the Enneagram distinguishes and describes nine facets of the human personality, nine different ways of being, nine unique manifestations of the image of God on this planet. In The Road Back to You, Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile provide a clear, humorous, and sensitive road map for the journey of self-discovery that happens while studying the Enneagram.
Here’s a summary of all nine types and connections:
It’s important to note that with the Enneagram, motivation determines type. So, for example, if I believe that a friend is feeling sad, I may reach out to her with a phone call for various reasons:
- If I call because I see myself as a champion of the sad and despondent, I may be an 8.
- If I’m motivated by a desire to comfort and to create a safe space for that friend, I am likely a 2.
- If I join my sad friend in her place of sadness and mirror the entire range of her emotions, I am probably a 4.
The way we take in information has a huge impact on the way we see the world, and the Enneagram provides a framework for understanding this, as well as a new vocabulary for expressing ourselves, for living alongside others, and for delighting in the mystery of our individuality.
To be honest, I’m not entirely settled on my Enneagram number. I kept hoping that Ian and Suzanne would say, “And if every time you read about one of the types, you think you ARE that type (or at least have all its weaknesses), then you are a _______.” (They didn’t say that — ever.)
It’s also important to understand that the Enneagram types are not convenient pigeon holes for filing yourself and all your friends into neat little Bento boxes, and this is one of the strengths of the concept. Because human beings operate at all levels of health and dysfunction, not all Type 1 Perfectionists are on a mission to make over the entire universe in their own image. Not all Eights are bent on world domination.
If you are curious about your type, you can take an online quiz, but then you will need to do some further reading and research to discover what significance that number has for you. Suzanne and Ian have also produced a podcast with an abundance of helpful information.
Additionally, it’s important to note that each Enneagram type will manifest characteristics of a neighbor number. This is referred to as your wing. For example, when I took the online test, it determined that I am most likely a 3 with a 4 wing (3w4). If I were a 3w2, I would be much more charming and intimate, but I would also drive my friends crazy trying to be the star of every show. As a 3w4 (if that’s what I really am), I am introspective and more authentic than the 3w2, but also more conflicted.
Of course, knowing all this won’t change who I am, but it does give me an understanding of the raw material I’m working with so that I can get out of my own way and become a God-honoring version of a 3w4, trusting for grace to deal with the weaknesses, and capitalizing on the strengths that are there.
The Ennegram is also a helpful tool for understanding how others are viewing the world. Suzanne and Ian have said it well:
“The Enneagram shows us that we can’t change the way other people see, but we can try to experience the world through their eyes and help them change what they do with what they see.”
The authors have also provided a “field guide” for understanding the other types with a “What It’s Like to Be a _________” at the beginning of each type’s chapter. Eye-opening!
It is clear that the Enneagram doesn’t just provide numbers attached to numerical excuses for us to stay in our present ruts or unhealthy behavior patterns. Understanding my weakness and frailty is true self-awareness. It is also a call to spiritual transformation. Thomas Merton has said, “For me to be a saint means to be myself.” While this may be overstating the point, it’s not by much, for if my efforts to “be a saint” pull me into a personality that is not my own, but rather some concoction of traits that I’ve admired in those I consider to be “saints,” I’m doomed to jettison myself out of that ill-fitting craft and conclude that sainthood is just not for me. The beauty of self-understanding is the knowledge that saints come in all types and sainthood is as various and multi-colored as the creative genius of God.
The Road Back to You begins and ends with a blessing for the journey, words spoken over those who are about to wake up to the wonder of discovering the true self, and to find more of God in the process:
“May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”
Let it be so.
This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of Intervarsity Press in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The amazing graphic showing the Enneagram is a creation of Lisa Burgess of LisaNotes, and it is used, gratefully, with her permission.