The Enneagram: What it Is, What it Isn’t and Where it Takes You
I was surprised to meet resistance in the Christian community when I began to talk about the Enneagram. I discovered there are all sorts of rumors and fallacies floating about. One person who is quite intelligent and whom I respect in other matters thought that it involved astrology! It seems appropriate, then, to set the record straight before saying more about it.
The word “Enneagram” comes from the Greek; “ennea” means nine, and there are nine personality base models described in this system. The Enneagram is a personality model that studies where the attention goes by habit, what we believe habitually, and how habit takes us out of the present. The way I see it, this model describes the ways in which we’ve lost connection with God, with ourselves, and with what is real –AND it describes how to reconnect. In this way, it is not merely descriptive but prescriptive as well, and that is what makes the Enneagram so practical and useful in daily life.
The origins of the Enneagram are diverse and ancient. Some of those origins are Christian, but that does not make the Enneagram a “Christian” model, any more than the fact that other aspects of its origins are not Christian makes it “unChristian.” The truth is always true, and all truth is God’s truth. Meaning that if something is true, it’s because God made it to be so. Meaning, no need to freak out! There’s nothing occultic or blasphemous going on here.
The Enneagram symbol is not a pentagram. “Penta” means five, and the Enneagram has a nine-pointed symbol that has nothing to do with what a five-pointed star sometimes means. Each of the points refers to one of the nine personality types – that’s all. The lines moving among the points show critical connections to other personalities, which I’ll discuss later. A Godly, well-meaning person suggested that I change the symbol to a cross to make it more palatable. I had to stifle my laughter. That would never work as a symbol, because the idea of a symbol is to visually represent an idea as effectively as possible, and leaving those lines out won’t cut it.
Also, the suggestion reminds me of all the ways humans try to simplify what is necessarily complex, cling to what is familiar and fear what is not. In this way, Christians tend to water down or sentimentalize things, or else reject them outright. And yet, if I thought that making the Enneagram symbol into a cross would help more Christians embrace it, I would do it. My goal is to help people of any faith to become their true selves.
Because that is where the Enneagram can take you, if you will let it. The Enneagram reveals the core lie you’ve been believing all along, the lie that created and drives your personality and causes you to make the decisions and take the actions that you do. It exposed all the little tricks you use to make yourself feel safe or strong or good, and it does so with incredible compassion. With daily practice, you will begin to encounter your essential self – and I hope you’ll believe me when I say that this is life-changing.
For those of you ready to begin the journey, I recommend this book: The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. It was one of the first books I read on the topic, and after reading many more books, I still consider it the best and most thorough introduction to the Enneagram and its implications. In fact, I just today picked up a copy at a flea market for $3.00, with the intention of giving it to someone. If you would like it (and you are not related to me; sorry, family!), email me with your address. I’ll send it to the first person to respond.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.