You Are Doing The Enneagram Wrong

People can’t get enough of the Enneagram. Two of our daughters have taken multiple tests, share memes and posts related to their Enneagram type, and like to discuss their type frequently. Podcasts and books abound discussing the Enneagram and how our knowledge of the 9 types found in it can shape our work, relationships, and potential success. I am attending a conference in September and an intensive workshop on the Enneagram is already sold out.

The fadishness of The Enneagram means that we can lose sight of the true value of this particular personality marker. Unlike other personality inventories, the Enneagram numbers are not designed to be a fixed style (like Myers Briggs) but help explain why you do what you do. In other words, the best use of the Enneagram is to help a person become a more whole and integrated version of themselves, taking in some of the best aspects of the other number types to be the best version of ourselves we can be. Our Enneagram number has its positives and its negatives. In our best moments, we take on the best characteristics of our type but their is a dark side to our type that is unhealthy and can be damaging to ourselves and others.

For example, I am predominately a 5 which means that I can be perceptive and full of insight but when I am not doing well I can be stingy, greedy, and unwilling to extend myself in useful ways. What I see many people who have started dabbling in the Enneagram do when they find out their type is to over identify with it and use it to label themselves and others. They spout off about their type and treat it like a limiting, predictor of the future that everyone should take notice so that we know what to expect in all situations. I refuse to let our 11 year old take any kind of Enneagram quiz because at her age, nothing is set in stone and I don’t want her as a pre-teen already thinking that she is this kind of person or that kind of person with little hope for growth or transformation.

The best resources on the Enneagram are ones that discuss it as a tool of transformation. As a 5, I collect knowledge and observe but my best version is becoming a person that is generous with myself and my time so that my knowledge is shared and let loose for the benefit of others. I have to be more vulnerable and transparent. It is not about losing my characteristics but enhancing them and transforming them with traits that may be easier for other Enneagram types. Each Enneagram number has a shadow issue that is not intended to stay and fester but be changed so that more virtues are present.

So go take all of the Enneagram tests you can find but use the knowledge you gain to begin Growing Up. Take that awareness as a means to discover more of yourself so that you can love God and love others to the best of your ability. Remove the 21st Century tendency toward narcissism and instead find a way to become a better you for the benefit of those around you.

*Jan Johnson‘s work on the Enneagram was helpful in formulating this post. Other resources I would recommend are The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels and Virginia Price and Donald Miller’s interviews with Ian Cron on the Building a Storybrand podcast.

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