I found the Enneagram six or seven years ago. I was in a dark place. I had no job. I had no prospects for a new one. I was lost, disoriented, confused. Just a few months prior, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to pastor a church. I left engineering to do it. This work gave me life. The people gave me hope. Finally, after years of pencil pushing, shackled to an 8-5 existence, I found work I loved and enjoyed. Now, here I was, four years removed from my first day as a pastor, burnt out, cynical, exhausted. I had worked at two churches in that time, and I’d just assume someone club me in the nuggets than work in a third.
How did this happen? Why wasn’t this working out? I was so sure of my plans, so convinced of my future.
Into this mess came the Enneagram. I don’t remember how I first stumbled across it. But I picked up Richard Rohr’s book on this ancient tool, and with enough pessimism to fill the Atlantic, began reading. At the time, I was allergic to new ideas. I blame my Christian upbringing for that. The red flags started with the cover though, as I stared at this strange symbol that resembled something from The DaVinci Code. I wasn’t sure if this book would teach me something new or cast an evil spell on my soul. I was already in a dark place, though, so I shrugged my shoulders and concluded my life couldn’t get much worse.
Almost immediately I knew I had stumbled on something that would change my life, something of infinite worth. I looked around, like a man who found a buried treasure and wanted to ensure no one else laid eyes on his precious jewel. How had I lived the first twenty-some-odd years of life without someone mentioning the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is so powerful because it reveals the primary wound we suffered as children, and the persona we created to cover our wound.
All of us needed to hear something from God that we didn’t. That’s how our wound formed. We created a false narrative about ourselves or the world (I must be good or my presence doesn’t matter or I’m defined by what I do), and ignored the truth God already proclaimed over us.
To heal, we must begin to breathe in the primary message we missed as children, our healing message from God.
Each type has a core message from God, something they need to hear to find healing. If God were to approach each of us, this is the message we would hear, the words God would speak to our souls, to heal the deep wounds we’ve carried from the time we were young lads. I want to share these messages with you.
Healing message: You don’t have to be perfect to be good. You’re fully loved despite your imperfection.
Ones have a strong moral compass. But they’re also color blind. They tend to see the world in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. You get the idea. This comes from their childhood wound, an impulsive addiction to do-goodedness.
Most ones attach their worth to their deeds. They believe they must do good to be good, which is a dangerous game because you never end up doing enough good to feel like you’re good. So, the message God wants ones to hear is they’re loved just as they are, because of their imperfection.
Healing message: Your giving doesn’t determine your worth. You’re wanted and loved just as you are.
Twos are all about relationships. They can enter a room and determine your needs without saying a word to you. The problem is that twos often find their identity in their giving. They have no idea what they want or who they are apart from meeting the needs of everyone around them.
So, God comes to you, twos, to remind you that you’re loved just as you are. Find out what you want from life. Devote time and energy to the man in the mirror. God loves that man or woman very much.
Healing message: Success and upward mobility will never give you peace. You’re worth is found in who you are, not what you do.
Ian Cron says, “Being a three and living in America is like being an alcoholic living above a saloon.” America is a three country. Transformation is very hard for a Three in this country. We champion the values that inhibit their growth: success, achievement, efficiency. Threes are the go-getters among us. They work long hours. They struggle with failure. They often attach their worth to what they do. That’s why they need to hear this healing message and allow it to sink deep in their bones. Success will never, ever fill the longing in your soul. It’s an empty pursuit.
Healing message: You aren’t missing anything. Don’t be ashamed. We see you. We love you.
Fours believe God created them defective. They lack some internal wiring that the rest of the world has. So, most fours wrestle with envy. Fours are also emotional. Fours often mistake emotion for identity. They ride the waves of the latest feeling. As you can imagine, this creates a lot of instability, which leads to insecurity, and, ultimately, shame.
Fours, God didn’t create you with a missing piece. God loves you with all his being. He looks down on you and sees you and smiles. You are loved. Let this truth be your guiding light.
Healing message: You will never find capital-l Life by detaching from reality. Don’t run from the present. God has given you everything you need to live fully in this moment.
Fives see the world through a lens of scarcity. They fear they don’t have the physical and emotional resources to engage fully with reality, so they detach and sink into their mind. Fives can appear distant and aloof.
But this is all a defense mechanism against pain. Fives believe they can avoid emotional and spiritual pain by withdrawing. They don’t realize, though, that running away from life is its own form of suffering. The only path to healing and wholeness is to engage fully with reality. God gives us everything we need not live fully in every moment.
Healing message: Nothing is outside of God’s grasp. Everything will be okay. You are safe.
I know sixes almost as well as I know my own number, nine. I’m surrounding by them. I have siblings and in-laws and best friends who are sixes. I also have two kids with strong six energy. Sixes are loyal and, like ones, often follow the rules. But sixes do it for a different reason: fear. Sixes are motivated by fear and anxiety and worst-case scenario thinking. To be honest, I feel bad for sixes. With the 24/7 barrage of fear-based news stories and social media timelines and so on, it’s a tough time to be a six.
More than ever, sixes need to remember that they’re safe. Not that bad things won’t happen, but that everything belongs to God and falls within his grasp. So, in the end, everything will be okay.
Healing message: You have everything you need. You don’t need to manufacture peace and joy. They are already inside of you. Rest, and be.
Sevens see the positive sides of life. They’re fun and adventurous and spontaneous, always up for a good time. Sevens are also allergic to anything negative. They avoid hard and difficult situations and emotions. They believe they can outrun pain and suffering or color over it with shades of orange and yellow.
Like all numbers, their behaviors are a defense mechanism. For sevens, they believe they can find True Life by avoiding the dark parts of this life. This leads many sevens to appear disingenuous and superficial. Sevens must understand that you can’t avoid suffering. Pain is built in to the human experience. If you want to find wholeness and healing, you must learn to embrace the light and the dark, the good and the bad.
Healing message: Wearing an armor of toughness to avoid emotional intimacy isn’t courageous. It’s cowardly. To find true strength, you must take a chance on vulnerability.
The tone of this healing message sounds harsh. That’s by design. Eights appreciate this no non-sense, straight-to-the-point vernacular. Eights have big energy. You can feel the presence of eights before you see them. They have this energy, though, because they’ve had to develop a persona of strength to cope with their childhood wound.
For eights to heal, they must learn to embrace intimacy and vulnerability. This takes courage, lots of courage. But, with a lot of patience and practice, it is possible.
Healing message: The absence of conflict is not the presence of peace. Your presence matters. Your voice has value.
Full disclosure: I’m a nine, and I hate it. I love it somedays, but I mostly hate it. I wish I had the assertiveness of eights or the ambition of threes or positive energy of sevens.
My whole life, I’ve wrestled with insignificance, this feeling that my life, my voice doesn’t matter. What’s the point? Many nines ride the coat tails of their significant other and call this a life. It’s not. You’re not alive if you’re siphoning energy from those closest to you. God wants nines to know that he created them with a unique purpose. He gave them a voice, and he wants them to use it. So, nines, use it.
The Enneagram can and will transform your life, if you commit to doing the work. If you’re unfamiliar with the Enneagram, here are a few books you can read to get started:
The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile
The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr
The Enneagram by Helen Palmer