The Enneagram: What it Is, What it Isn’t and Where it Takes You

Enneagram symbol

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.

4 Comments

  1. Glo on June 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    This post was linked to another blog that I like, so I checked it out. This is really good! As I read, I thought, “wow. My sis-in-law is a solid Christian, as am I. She has taught me a lot about the Enneagram; very sound and helpful.” I see nothing ungodly about the Enneagram, and in understanding ourselves and those with whom we have relationships. It’s good to become more healthy, and the Enneagram helps so much, explains so much about why we are the way we are. There are layers and layers to who we are, and the Enneagram reflects/allows for that well. As I scrolled down to a couple of previous posts and skimmed them I thought, “wow. This sounds just like my sis-in-law.” And it is! Good good job Sis! By the way, already have the book…! 😉



  2. Heath on July 2, 2014 at 4:04 am

    Thanks, Glo! I’m so glad you see the value in the Enneagram, and I hope that you are a forerunner of the people I will reach in the future. 🙂 You are a fantastic sister-in-law whom God has blessed me with.



  3. kasandra99 on March 2, 2015 at 12:16 am

    KUDOS…to you. The Enneagram is full of personal intelligence for grasping the inner essence for understanding how we “roll or don’t” excuse the slang. I have derived great benefit over the years and use it in my work almost daily. Also, have the book and many more before this was published on line , so a good 20 or more years ago. This is one of the best personality and archetypal paths for understanding yourself and others that I have found.



  4. Heath on March 2, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Thanks so much, and I agree! I have never found a system so accurate or with such far-reaching implications. It doesn’t just say, “Here’s what you’re like.” It says, “Here is what your personality is like, and it’s not who you actually are. Here is how to move toward who you actually are.” I so appreciate your comment, because I love finding others of my “tribe” who are getting freedom with the Enneagram. Blessings on your journey.



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