Newly married, I did not fully comprehend why my husband always had to buy a new tool every time he worked on a project around the house. He would always say that having the right tools to do the job makes all the difference in how long it takes to do the job and how well it gets done. Years later, after seeing this principle applied to the projects my husband completed and also doing my own projects, I can say this is a valid point and something to consider.
This same principle of having the right tools can also be applied in our personal lives. As Christians, made in the image of God, as we learn more about ourselves and our personalities, we learn more about our Creator, God. There are several personality tests available to help us learn more about ourselves, but most of them focus on external behaviors. Consequently, these types of tests don’t give us the tools we need to do our inner work and experience personal growth.
An ancient personality test, the Enneagram (en-ne-a-gram), works differently. It doesn’t reveal what a person does or their external behavior. The Enneagram reveals why we think, feel, and behave certain ways. It illuminates our heart’s intent—our core motivations—and it helps us see where we are, where we are heading (on our best path or veering off course), and how to get to our healthiest destination.
While the Enneagram does give us the tools to aid in internal change, which can ultimately lead to external change, we need to remember that the Enneagram cannot save us. Only Jesus can save us and bring true, lasting transformation through a relationship with Him.
Looking at the Enneagram through the lens of the gospel helps us know if our hearts are aligned or misaligned with the truth of God’s Word and helps us see our need for Jesus all the more.
Let’s look at three ways the Enneagram can be used as a tool for personal growth so we can learn more about ourselves and begin our inner work:
1. Emotional Growth
There are nine personality types within the Enneagram inventory. Each personality type has its own unique perspective of the world. You can think of it like nine different colored eyeglass lenses. If your lenses are green, you see the world in green. If you have purple lenses, you see the world in purple.
When we realize that other people see the world differently than we do, it gives us eyes to understand others at a deeper level. We are then better able to have patience, empathy, and compassion and extend grace to others, as well as ourselves. These tools carry over into our personal and professional relationships.
Each Enneagram personality type has four core motivations that are the basis for why we think, feel, and behave in particular ways. They include our core fear (what we are running from), our core desire (what we are running toward), our core weakness (what we struggle with), and our core longing (the message our heart longs to hear and experience).
Our inner worlds are complex, and using insights gleaned from the Enneagram can increase our emotional intelligence and our ability to self-regulate when needed.
2. Spiritual Growth
We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and each one of us is unique. Each of us has a role to play within the Body of Christ. We reflect God in individual ways. Each of the nine Enneagram personality types brings something of God to the world. There are many attributes of God reflected in each type, but this list reflects the primary personality types:
Enneagram personality type 1’s bring God’s goodness to the world.
Enneagram personality type 2’s bring God’s love to the world.
Enneagram personality type 3’s bring God’s productivity to the world.
Enneagram personality type 4’s bring God’s creativity to the world.
Enneagram personality type 5’s bring God’s insight to the world.
Enneagram personality type 6’s bring God’s faithfulness to the world.
Enneagram personality type 7’s bring God’s joy to the world.
Enneagram personality type 8’s bring God’s protection to the world.
Enneagram personality type 9’s bring God’s peace to the world.
The Enneagram also reveals sin problems and blind spots. When we discover these problem areas, we can make changes to align with the truth of the gospel.
Discovering some of these areas that aren’t so pretty can bring up shame, guilt, and condemnation. (Jesus took care of all of this on the cross.) It’s important when we see these things in our lives that we acknowledge them, ask God to forgive us, and then give them to God and ask Him to help us live as His beloved children. Ephesians 5:8 reminds us, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
3. Physical Growth
The Enneagram reveals how we naturally process, react, and respond to life. There are three Centers of Intelligence (head, heart, gut), and although we all have access to all three centers of intelligence, we have a dominant one that we go to first.
As an Enneagram personality type 5, I’m in the head Center of Intelligence, also known as the head triad. This means that my first response to the information I receive and situations I am made aware of is to think about what’s practical, what I need to know, what needs to happen, etc. This allows me to remain calm in a crisis, think about what makes sense, and not get caught up in the emotion of the situation that may keep me from taking the needed action.
Being aware of this default response for my personality type also helps me recognize when I’m caught in “analysis paralysis” and not taking action to move forward on a project or whatever needs to be accomplished.
The Enneagram also shows us how we respond when we are stressed. While stress may look different for each of us, we can all agree that we experience stress regularly. Learning the triggers for your personality type and being aware of what it looks like for you specifically equips you with tools to cope with stress.
When stressed, our reactions are usually not enjoyable for those around us. When we are aware of what is happening inside us, we can own it and apologize to those we have affected with our actions. We can confess that we want to change and ask God to help us respond in a better way. The situation may still be difficult to navigate, but this awareness will keep it from escalating. You may even find that you experience peace that you never felt in previous situations that were similar.
The Enneagram can make us aware of our strengths, weaknesses, struggles, triggers, and defense mechanisms. It can help us with communication and conflict in personal and professional relationships.
Awareness is always the first step to growth. We can’t experience personal growth emotionally, spiritually, and physically when we are unaware of when we are off course. The Enneagram, from a gospel-centered perspective, is like a flashlight shining the light on what it looks like to be healthy and what it looks like to be in an unhealthy place.
This ancient personality test, the Enneagram, is so much more than just taking an assessment and learning your personality type or being able to tell others your “number.” If you stop there, you’ve missed the tools available for personal growth and transformation of your internal world.
Doing your own inner work is what equips you to invest in your children and grandchildren and point them to a relationship with Jesus. It’s what equips you to impact others in your circle of influence. It gives you the tools you need to be a light in a dark world.
Gospel-centered Enneagram coaches can guide you through the various layers of your personality and equip you with tools to navigate your thoughts, feelings, and actions. These tools are so valuable as you learn to lead yourself in health as God’s beloved child.