A Christian Perspective
The growing popularity of the Enneagram has caused Christians to start asking whether it’s a helpful tool or whether it’s too conflicted in its origins. Before we dismiss the Enneagram because of the origin or the symbol that reminds us of a pentagram, let’s see if we can come up with some helpful answers to the most critical questions some people are asking.
We need a “knowledge of God and of ourselves.” But this pursuit must be balanced. Self-awareness is not the end but the means to cultivating a deeper union with God our Father and others. Your temperament and personality influences everything you do—from sleep habits to study habits to eating style to the way you get along with other people. Humanly speaking, there is no other influence in your life more powerful than your personality or combination of temperaments. That is why it is so essential to know you and to be able to analyze other people’s personality and temperaments, not to condemn them, but so you can maximize your potential and enable others to maximize theirs.
Unlike other personality tests that seek to describe only our characteristics, the Enneagram’s aim is to reveal our core fears and needs. It reveals the God-substitutes in our lives. As Tim Keller points out, “The most profound kind of self-knowledge you can know is the particular strategies you have for running and hiding from God.”
As listed on the Enneagram Institute’s website, the nine types include:
- Enneagram 1: The Reformer is principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic.
- Enneagram 2: The Helper is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing and possessive.
- Enneagram 3: The Achiever is adaptable, excelling, driven and image-conscious.
- Enneagram 4: The Individualist is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed and temperamental.
- Enneagram 5: The Investigator is perceptive, innovative, secretive and isolated.
- Enneagram 6: The Loyalist is engaging, responsible, anxious and suspicious.
- Enneagram 7: The Enthusiast is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive and scattered.
- Enneagram 8: The Challenger is self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational.
- Enneagram 9: The Peacemaker is receptive, reassuring, complacent and resigned.
Therefore, the Enneagram can be a window into understanding the triggers and difficult behaviors of yourself and of others. Also, how you may be projecting your own shadow onto someone else. It is also helpful because it makes general sins specific to us. God can use the Enneagram to place crosshairs on some of the root sins and strategies in our lives. Therefore, the Enneagram is meant to be a tool that frees us from the false self and opens us up more deeply to the transforming work of God’s Spirit. And, from there, it becomes a tool that allows us to love others more effectively, with more compassion, understanding, and intention. Our blind spots are powerful deterrents to our spiritual growth. To the extent that we remain unaware of what is motivating us, we are not free. “If I am hiding behind a blind spot, I am unconsciously trying to keep God, others, and myself from the love that God offers. Knowledge of the Enneagram has led me into a self-awareness that has drawn me closer to the heart of God.”
We must remember the Holy Spirit, not self-awareness, fuels sanctification. As the Apostle Paul said, even the most self-aware person in the world has “the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out,” Romans 7:18. Self-awareness is not enough; we need the power of the gospel. Pastor John Fooshee teaches that a Christian does not live for their perfection, acceptance, success, significance, wisdom, security, joy, strength, and peace but from Christ and His Kingdom.
The Enneagram is not a one-stop-shop or a quick-fix tool. It is simply a tool for growth, that, like other discipleship resources can lead to deep insights about ourselves, our relationships, and God by opening our hearts in new ways to the Spirit’s work of moving us from the “old self” to the “new self”, Paul wrote, “in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self that is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth,” Ephesians 4:22-24.
The Enneagram is a framework that helps us see ourselves as we are and as we could be if we allow God to continually renew us and form us into people who are healthy and whole, and who reflect their Maker in glorious ways. There are benefits; such as: awareness at the level of motivation, increase consciousness and confidence, compassion for self and others and increase productivity and motivation. Our goal or purpose in life is to become Christ-like and to be equipped to fulfill Jesus’ commandment: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing then in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching then to observe all that I have commanded you” Matthew 28:18-20. The Enneagram is a tool that God can use to prepare us for life’s journey to fulfill His Commission.