The Enneagram - what is it and why do we need it?

The Enneagram (pronounced ANY-a-gram) is the study of nine basic types of people. Ennea is Greek for the number nine and gram means a diagram, so Enneagram means “a diagram with nine points” as you can see represented in the diagram.

The Enneagram reveals why we do what we do. It focuses on why we chose to relate to the world in a particular way. It reveals our heart’s intent, what we are seeking and avoiding, in our relationships and in ourselves in very specific ways. The Enneagram is seeking the personal transformation of our heart, not simply our behavior.

Why is it important to take look at our interior world verses just our external behaviors? In Mark 7:1-23, the Pharisees (the self-righteous) believed that if they ingested uncleanliness from the outside it would make them unclean (corrupt) on the inside. Jesus pointed out that what’s unclean is already inside of us - our sinful heart. As Pastor Matt Chandler put it, “You don’t do sinful acts that make you a sinner. You’re already a sinner, so you do sinful acts.” Matthew 15:18 says, “but what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” We must realize that the heart of our problem is the problem of our heart!

The role of the Holy Spirit is to reveal truth to our hearts about our hearts, both the truth of God’s word and our need for Jesus Christ. As we “walk in the Spirit” we participate in transformation. We can fall into the same error as the Pharisees if we only focus on obeying externally without understanding our hearts. The Enneagram is a tool that reveals our inner world to us with startling clarity. It also guides us in a particular direction of growth uniquely catered to each type. The Enneagram is one tool that can guide us individually into becoming a more mature follower of Christ.

Here is how each type works. The Enneagram begins with each personality’s Core Fear. This fear shapes how we see the world and how we relate to it. Our personality is simply the relational strategies we use to avoid our Core Fear and obtain our Core Desire. By understanding this dynamic in ourselves is where we find the most opportunity for change.

We are often reluctant to enter into the space of conflict between our desires and fears. The more we stray away from the truth of who we are in Christ (his beloved child) the harder it is to take a look inside, because when we see our weaknesses and sinful strategies, we will use this knowledge to shame and punish ourselves. But when we remember the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we can safely enter in to our interior world with peace and assurance. By embracing the full implications of the gospel, being fully forgiven (justification), being his beloved child (adoption), and indwelt by the Holy Spirit for personal transformation (sanctification), we enter into personal freedom from our personality. Put simply, the Enneagram helps us to navigate when we are living in line or out of step with the truth of the gospel. (Romans 12:2).

The Enneagram also can bring amazing transformation to relationships. Since we are more aware of ourselves, we can become more present to others. It also allows us to see how people relate to life from their personality type’s perspective. It helps us to know why they do what they do. Understanding another person's personality type enables us to foster greater love, compassion, and understanding. Because we have received mercy and forgiveness, we are able to extend these to others. It can help us to understand how we can love others better from their particular perspective. It opens the door for understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This in turn enables you to develop richer and more meaningful relationships with yourself, family, and people as a whole.

Another way of thinking about this is to imagine each type wearing a pair of glasses with different colored lenses. If someone is wearing a blue lens, then they would see everything completely different than another who was wearing a red lens. Each types fundamentally sees and interprets their world from a different point of view based on their Core Fear and Core Desire. As you read about each type below, try putting on their “colored lens” and see the world from their perspective.

Once you discover and begin learning about your type, you will begin to see yourself in a completely new light. This will be surprising, exciting, embarrassing, funny, and ultimately empowering as you begin to understand yourself and others more deeply to bring about personal and relationship transformation.

Here are the 9 Types with four general words that describe them, their Core Fears and their Core Desires:

Type One - The Moral Perfectionist: is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
Core Fear: Being corrupt, evil, defective, bad, wrong, inappropriate, lazy, and unethical
Core Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced, to be right, fair, and accurate

Type Two - The Supportive Advisor: is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.
Core Fear: Being unwanted, unworthy of being loved, worthless, unneeded, useless, discarded, lonely, and unappreciated
Core Desire: To feel loved for being me without needing to help or support.

Type Three - The Successful Achiever: is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
Core Fear: Being unsuccessful, failing, being inefficient, unmasked, found out, incapable, unable to do, unproductive, and/or second best
Core Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile for simply being you without needing to achieve.

Type Four - The Romantic Individualist: is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
Core Fear: That they would have no identity or personal significance, inadequate, flawed, defective, ordinary and mundane
Core Desire: To find themselves, their significance, to be unique and authentic

Type Five  - The Investigative Thinker: is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
Core Fear: Being useless, helpless, incapable, ignorant, without mastery, expertise or knowledge, mentally drained, obligated, and without resources
Core Desire: To be capable and competent

Type Six - The Loyal Guardian: is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
Core Fear: Being without support and guidance, alone, blamed for something you didn’t do, anxious you will worry that something will go wrong, and being unprepared
Core Desire: To have security, support , and guidance

Type Seven - The Entertaining Optimist: is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
Basic Fear: Being deprived, trapped in emotional pain, missing out, being inferior, limited, and/or bored
Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content, to have their needs fulfilled

Type Eight - The Protective Challenger: is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
Basic Fear: Being harmed or controlled by others, misrepresented, powerlessness, being manipulated, humiliated, and at the mercy of injustice
Basic Desire: To protect themselves and their independence

Type Nine - The Peaceful Mediator: is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.
Basic Fear: Being in conflict, loveless, uncomfortable, inharmonious, overlooked, discordant, unimportant, non-existent, lost in complications and/or shutout
Basic Desire: To have inner stability, peace of mind

To learn more and take the Enneagram 101 course, visit YourEnneagramUniversity.com.

Which personality type seems most like you? Please leave a comment below and tell me which type you believe you are and why. I look forward to starting this fun conversation and reading your comments.

Remember that in Christ we are his Beloved!