Does the Enneagram Make You Too Self-Focused?

Woman pointing to herself

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In the realm of self-discovery tools, the Enneagram stands out as a profound guide. Yet, amidst its growing popularity, some voices, particularly within certain Christian circles, raise concerns about its purported selfishness. They argue that delving into the Enneagram leads individuals to focus excessively on themselves rather than on God and others. However, this perspective overlooks the transformative potential the Enneagram holds in facilitating a deeper understanding of both oneself and the divine. To dismiss it as selfish is to misunderstand its essence and purpose.

Thomas Merton, a revered figure in Christian contemplative tradition, encapsulates the interconnectedness of self-discovery and spiritual awakening in his poignant words: “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.” Merton’s insight underscores the profound link between self-awareness and the journey toward God. In essence, the quest for self-discovery is not divorced from the pursuit of divine connection; rather, it is a vital aspect of it.

St. Augustine echoes this sentiment, recognizing the intrinsic bond between God and the true self. His words, “When I was far from me, I was far from you,” reflect an intuitive understanding of the spiritual principle that our separation from God is intertwined with our detachment from our authentic selves. Here lies the crux of the Enneagram’s relevance—it serves as a roadmap for navigating this journey of rediscovery, guiding individuals back to their true essence and, by extension, to God.

Contrary to the notion that the Enneagram fosters self-centeredness, its core purpose is to facilitate healing and wholeness. It is a tool that unveils the intricacies of human behavior, shedding light on the patterns and tendencies that obstruct our path to self-realization and spiritual growth. By gaining insight into our Enneagram type, we unearth the underlying motivations, fears, and desires that shape our actions, allowing us to confront and transcend the barriers that hinder our connection with God and others.

At its essence, the Enneagram invites individuals to embark on a journey of self-discovery that transcends mere self-indulgence. Rather than encouraging self-absorption, it promotes self-awareness—a profound recognition of one’s strengths, limitations, and interconnectedness with the world. Through this process, individuals cultivate empathy, compassion, and authenticity, laying the foundation for meaningful relationships and service to others.

Indeed, the Enneagram’s transformative potential lies not in self-aggrandizement, but in self-transcendence. It empowers individuals to confront their inner struggles, embrace their inherent worth, and cultivate a deeper understanding of God’s presence within themselves and in the world around them. By aligning with their true selves, individuals become vessels for divine love and grace, embodying the virtues of humility, integrity, and spiritual discernment.

However, like any tool, the Enneagram can be misused when approached with a narrow focus on self-improvement or self-validation. When wielded superficially, it may reinforce egoic patterns or fuel a sense of superiority based on Enneagram type. Yet, such pitfalls do not negate its inherent value or potential for transformation. Rather, they underscore the importance of approaching the Enneagram with humility, discernment, and a sincere desire for growth and self-awareness.

That’s why it’s particularly useful to travel this path with others. Gurdjieff, a teacher of an early variation of the Enneagram of Personality, noted that “It’s not difficult to do this work alone. It’s impossible.” We are inherently social beings, and we need others in our lives who can walk alongside us, sharing the difficulties and joys of personal development.

And it’s great to have someone(s) who are at least a few steps ahead on the path who can lead the way with their wisdom and experience. If you’d like some mentoring in this area, contact me at heath@heathdavishavlick.com. It’s also very important to get wise and accurate information about this model of human motivation from the start. There are a lot of books on the market these days about the Enneagram, but my go-to for building an awesome foundation is Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson’s book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram. I’ve read a shelf-full of books on this topic, and I consider this one the gold standard. These two men learned the Enneagram early on in its evolution and have made significant contributions to it.

In essence, the Enneagram is not a selfish pursuit, but a sacred journey—one that leads individuals closer to the heart of God and the truth of their own being. It is a pathway to discovering the divine presence within oneself and embracing the fullness of one’s humanity. As we embark on this journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening, may we heed the wisdom of Merton and Augustine, recognizing that in finding ourselves, we ultimately find God—and in finding God, we rediscover our true selves.

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