WARNING: If you don’t know anything about the Enneagram then this post may not make that much sense. I would recommend researching and perhaps taking the Enneagram test which gives each person a number between 1 and 9. It has helped me in a variety of ways to understand myself as well as the people around me. Let’s begin.
I recently have immersed myself in the Enneagram. My Instagram is filled with quotes, memes and descriptions of each number. I’m constantly being told how to love each number well or how each number feels. This test does a wonderful job of not just being a check list of facts, but connects each person with their feelings, their desires and their pitfalls. Before I continue, you should know that I think these types of tests are very useful. But I also think they have some negative sides as well, which we will explore.
Each number has certain positive qualities as well as undesirable qualities. Once you know your number your able to understand why you act the way you door how you perceive the world. It describes how you feel towards certain situations or what happens when you get overwhelmed. Let’s take myself as an example:
9 wing 1
My Instagram is constantly telling me that I run away from conflict like it’s my job. I like to sit and do nothing or that I need time to just “be”. I’m not assertive because I can’t deal with conflict and that I never actually make decisions. These Instagram posts also connect me with my feelings through pretty accurate memes as they shed light on things that I thought no one else knew about me. It’s a little like someone reading my journal and then explaining why I reacted in that particular way.
There are some very good things about knowing these traits about myself. It helps meto be much more self-aware. I can see my weaknesses and where I need to improve in my life. It helps me connect with my feelings and understand why I get stressed. Which allows me to think through how to tackle a certain problem or to know that I might struggle when it comes to being assertive. This, in turn, can prepare me for future situations in which my weaknesses may come into play.
The Enneagram has a particular way of defining people. It can describe the way I’m feeling or acting almost down to perfection. I can read a meme and think to myself, “Yep, that’s absolutely me.” And while that can be helpful, I believe it can also be harmful.
I can start to imitate what I believe to be true about myself because “that’s just who I am”. I can start to claim these traits as my “true” identity and because these things are “true” about who I am, people just need to learn to cope with them. Let’s take the below verse for example. As an aside, I know this verse is overused in Christian contexts but for illustration sake, just stick with me.
Philippians chapter 4 verse 13 says, “I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me.”
All of a sudden my Enneagram number can become my identity and not what God says. This verse can turn into, “I can only do the things that my number allows me to do.” I know this is an extreme statement, but I don’t like the idea that I am limited because of my number. It’s easy to fall into the “woe is me” category when I’m being told that I hide from difficulty or become lazy when I’m stressed.
It goes for all the numbers as well. Your number isn’t who you are. You are child of God. A son and daughter of our Father. Just because we have all have weaknesses and different emotions, shouldn’t give us the right to hide behind them.
Identifying someone else’s number
There’s something fun about meeting new people and engaging in conversation with them. I start to understand who they are, what they enjoy doing and even why they do what they do.
Since I started studying the Enneagram my first interaction with someone is one of discovery through trying to identify their number.As soon as I know their number I understand them to a whole new level. What their afraid of or how they perceive the world is all at my fingertips. I now have more information on them then I will ever need.
I started to find myself in a position of pride, as if I’m better than a person because I understood them. Instead of loving them for who God created them to be, I used the Enneagram to build up my already conceived assessments of who they are. I used their number to create distance rather than to build bridges.
Ending with the positive
Let me end with this. I think the Enneagram is a wonderful tool that can lead to healthier relationships and better self-awareness. But I also think it can be harmful if we don’t love each other first, rather than try to define each other first.
My challenge to myself and the readers: Let’s try and love each person we interact with, before we create distance with them.
Jason LaLone was on staff at YWAM Brisbane and is currently in America working with Truro Anglican Church located in Fairfax, Virginia. He is passionate about discipleship, taking Jesus’ command to make disciples a practical reality that he can live on a daily basis. He loves lasagna, cats and used to dislike Monday's, making him most like Garfield.
Jason LaLone’s previous articles might be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/Jason-LaLone.html