There is a huge craze today around a particular personality typing system. It’s known as the Enneagram.
Many are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, StrengthsFinder, DiSC profile and others. Needless to say, there are quite a few personal and professional typing systems out there to help people learn about themselves, as well as how to relate to others.
If you don’t know the Enneagram, I would at least encourage you to check out the Enneagram Institute’s website or listen to this Liturgist’s podcast episode as a thorough introduction.
I have been personally studying about the Enneagram for the past seven or eight months, through some introductory teaching at our college, the Enneagram website, the Liturgist podcast, the Road Back to You podcast, and now through Christopher Heuertz’s book, The Sacred Enneagram.
Coupled with my own reading and study of the eight core feelings, as expressed in Chip Dodd’s The Voice of the Heart, I have personally been interested in The Sacred Enneagram as a way to learn more about myself and others. I’m actually quite fascinated with understanding people, both from an anthropological (larger grouping) and psychological (individual) angle. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea; but I enjoy it. This probably touches in to a bit of my Input and Learner strengths on the StrengthsFinder.
In diving into the Enneagram, I am aware some may struggle with it from the outset. First, the Enneagram figure looks slightly nefarious. Some will see it and think it resembles some occult symbol!
I can only encourage folk to not be bothered by the shape of the Enneagram. The word itself simply means nine-sided figure. As you study it, you’ll see what is going on with the points and lines within the circle.
Also, when reading about the history of the Enneagram, which Heuertz dips into in ch.2 of his book, there may be a mixed bag regarding its religious connection. With that, I would personally offer that we not get too tied up in a view that says we must be able to connect it to the Christian faith or to see it as inappropriate for Christians to explore. There are a host of benefits in considering all personality types such as Myers-Briggs, DiSC, StrengthsFinder and, of course, the Enneagram.
Still, Heuertz and others do look to center it in the ancient Christian faith. I’d only say that we not try and work too hard to do this.
I have appreciated the Enneagram over and above other personality typing systems. My sense is that it’s a bit more holistic, not just typing who you are from a general sense, but also where you move in a place of health and a place of stress. For me, that’s important regarding personal awareness and growth.
However, in The Sacred Enneagram, Heuertz takes us further. His goal is to utilize the Enneagram in helping us grow spiritually. Thus, he offers what is identified as the Holy Idea and Virtue, or what we were created for within each type. For example, as a One, I long for the Holy Idea of Holy Perfection and the Virtue of Serenity. Both of these are good!
Not only that, but he also lays out where we can move in our sin tendencies or imperfections, particularly our Fixation and Passion. Again, for the One, my Fixation would be Resentment and Passion would be Anger (an unhealthy anger, since I would argue anger is a gift, as I have learned in The Voice of the Heart). I can attest that these are both deep sin tendencies for myself – and can topple a One if they don’t get their head around a healthy awareness of the eight core feelings as gifts.
As the book closes, we are shown how contemplative spirituality can help us grow, particularly through the practices of silence, solitude and stillness. As each Enneagram type leans into one of these preferred practices, it will help move them toward healthy growth in God. For the One, it is Stillness that helps move me toward Rest.
The Enneagram is a great tool. I recognize there are many out there who hold that it is a lens through which we are to view the whole world. Chris Heuertz probably falls into that category. Reading The Sacred Enneagram helps me see this. But, while I may not emphasize it as strongly as the author or other Enneagram teachers, I do see it as a valuable typing indicator, helping us understand how we perceive the world, how we relate to the world, and even how we can move toward healthy integration in life. And Heuertz proposes an added tool worth considering – how we can spiritually grow through knowledge of the Enneagram.