This post was originally published on February 6, 2019, with my full support of the Enneagram.
However, in light of additional study and conviction, I no longer advocate for use of the Enneagram.
The content below has been revised to explain my position.
Have you wondered what all the hype is about the Enneagram?
Maybe you first heard of the nine-type (times infinity) personality assessment made popular by Ian Cron’s book, The Road Back to You. Or maybe you’re like me and heard about the Enneagram years ago. Back then, I dismissed it as some voodoo pop psychology.
It might be fair to say that the Enneagram does fall in that camp because of its origination. The Enneagram lacks scientific evidence without a biblical foundation and potentially a pagan influence:
Echoes of a false, Gnostic theology are heard in enneagram teachings, though its occult roots are masked. The lack of scientific research into the enneagram system is an additional cause for concern. (source)
Unfortunately, the full history of the Enneagram was not mentioned in Cron’s book and I did not think to do some research before jumping in with both feet. I’ve since discovered that there is enough evidence to suggest that the originators of the Enneagram had close ties with the occult, mysticism, and pagan practices, which should give us great pause.
Unfortunately, mainstream Christianity has adopted the Enneagram as harmless.
With many of my coaching clients mentioning their Enneagram Type in our sessions and the number of well-respective Christians referring to their Enneagram type, I ignored the check in my spirit and plunged deeper into study and advocacy of the Enneagram.
I grabbed Cron’s book and did his free assessment, which landed me in the camp of people who can’t figure out their “number.” Out of frustration, I looked for another assessment and found The Enneagram Institute and the RHETI assessment. I was thoroughly impressed with Riso and Hudson’s focus on emotional health for each Enneagram type. It provided hope for continuing in the path of emotional healing and offered reasonable explanations to the struggles I’ve seen in myself, my loved ones, and clients.
I continued to study the Enneagram with Suzanne Stabile’s, The Path Between Us, which was incredibly helpful in understanding how each type relates one to another and became quite the conversation connector in my family.
But there was another check in my spirit.
Instead of looking at myself and others through the lens of God’s Word, I found myself type-casting.
That’s so 2.
Oh my word, I’m such an 8.
If she would only understand her Type and do something about it.
If you’re an Enneagram junky, you know exactly what I mean. If not, let me explain. The Enneagram Institute describes each personality type with these following brief description:
Type One [The Reformer] is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
Type Two [The Helper] is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.
Type Three [The Achiever] is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
Type Four [The Individualist] is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
Type Five [The Investigator] is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
Type Six [The Loyalist] is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
Type Seven [The Enthusiast] is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
Type Eight [The Challenge] is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
Type Nine [The Peacemaker] is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.
For each type, the Enneagram conveys how a particular personality functions in optimal emotional health and feelings of security compared to being under emotional stress and dysfunction. On the one hand, it is super helpful to see that our propensities to respond a certain way in situations is not crazy but normal and that we have the opportunity to choose a better response by stewarding our emotional and spiritual health. On the other hand, God did not design us to see ourselves through the lens of types or define ourselves by our behavior. That’s a modern-day cultural norm, which is totally inconsistent with Scripture, and can lead to making excuses, placing blame, and ignoring convictions instead of walking in humility, confessing sin, and extending grace with love.
God calls us to define ourselves according to the identity He gives us as a result of the cross.
That identity is a result of being made in His image.
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NLT)
That identity comes through being adopted into His family by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:4-6 NLT)
That identity calls us chosen, holy, and dearly loved.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12 NIV)
That identity calls us to holiness in a set apart life because of who He is, not because of who we are.
When personality assessments dominate our thinking about ourselves and others, we’ve forsaken their ability to be an effective tool by allowing it to become our doctrine and our god.
But I also believe that God is kind and gives us tools to understand His design and embrace His work more fully.
I cringe as I read those words now because it should say:
I believe that God
primarily ONLY works through JESUS CHRIST, His Word, AND the Power of the Holy Spirit — that work is irreplaceable. But AND I also believe that God is kind and gives us tools to understand His design and embrace His work more fully, AS LONG AS THOSE TOOLS DON’T REPLACE OR CONTRADICT HIS WORD OR THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Friend, if you read this original post, I am sorry.
If I distracted you from hearing directly from God with all my chatter about the Enneagram, I’m sorry.
If I pushed open a door for you to explore the Enneagram when you had a check in your spirit, I’m sorry.
I ask for your forgiveness!
I still believe that when we understand our wiring, specifically our strengths and weaknesses, giftings and passions, relational preferences and learning styles, we’re better equipped to take up our part in the body of Christ and co-labor with God in His purposes. But I also believe we need to be wiser about the way we go about exploring those insights.
Throughout the Scriptures, we see a clear call to pursue unity in community and to bring our gifts forth for the benefit of the body of Christ as a whole. In Hebrews 12:14, Paul urges to “make every effort to live in peace with everyone. . . “. Fulfilling these mandates it is no easy feat. But by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, we can move toward each other in love with grace and mercy, compassion and patience, humility and forgiveness.
Nothing compares to the Spirit of God working in the people of God.
That is the end goal, of course. We want to see God fill us, move us, and transform us not only as individuals but also in our families and workplaces, our churches and communities. So while a personality assessment may seem like an individualist undertaking, it can actually be incredibly valuable tool for moving toward one another with greater understanding and purpose.
As a coach, I’ve witnessed many of my clients benefit from using the Highlands Ability Battery, which is more than just a personality assessment because it is not subjective and is linked to a career database. It also has scientific credibility without pagan roots.
These clients, like myself, walk away with a deeper understanding of how they fit within their family of origin, present-day family, and workplace. They gain insight into how their wiring is impacting their marriage, motherhood, and missional work. It’s a profound experience and one I highly recommend for anyone in any stage of life. However, it needs to stay in the place of being a tool and not the tool.
The best tool for understanding the people of God is studying the Word of God.
Everything we need to know about our propensity to sin, our struggles with our identity and emotions, the battle against temptations and distractions, and the best way to interact with each other is found in the Word of God.
Everything we need to know about how to live in this world and engage in healthy relationships with others is laced throughout the Scriptures.
We don’t need to add to it. We don’t need to take away from it. We simply need to be in it.
So before we go exploring another personality assessment, let’s make a deal that we’ll go deeper into the Word and ask God to fill us will the Holy Spirit who is our best counselor, guide, and advocate (John 14).