what is the enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality typing system that consists of 9 basic personality types. No one can prove how it works, or know exactly how long it’s been around,  but so many people have found it to be scary-insightful to our inner lives.

The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing tool, that is so old no one really knows where it first originated or why. In the 40s-50s a philosopher and his psychologist friend breathed new life into the Enneagram and made it into what we know today.

The Enneagram uses a symbol to represent 9 different personality types and how they interact with each other. These 9 personality types are numbered simply to tell them apart and have no greater than or less than value.

How the Enneagram is different from other personality tests is that it is much more fluid than say, Myers Briggs, DISC, or Strength Finders.

Your Enneagram type is based on your motivations instead of behaviors, so one individual might “act” very differently from another individual of the same Enneagram number but both of their core motivations are the same.

These motivations are:

  • Integrity
  • Love
  • Worth
  • Authenticity
  • Competency
  • Security
  • Satisfaction/Freedom
  • Autonomy
  • Peace

The other fluidity is with the arrows that attach each number to 2 other numbers. One of these numbers is the number this number would gain positive qualities from while they grow, and the other they would gain negative qualities from when they’re in a season of intense stress or disintegration. This allows for big personality changed in different seasons of life, which I am sure we have all witnessed from ourselves and others.

So what do we do with this as Christians?
The symbol itself turns many people off to the Enneagram, however we have found we can use the Enneagram as a tool to expose blind spots in our lives, as well as help us to understand and have grace for those around us. As Christians we will not make excuses for our sin using the Enneagram, we do not worship the Enneagram's wisdom, because all wisdom comes from God alone, and we do not berate or judge people based on what number they identify with.

How do I find my number?
You can take an online quiz, but for the most accurate results you're going to have to do a little work. It'll be worth it I promise. The Enneagram Institute online is a great place to start, as well as the book: The Road Back to You. Read the "I am" statements at the beginning of each chapter and just see what you relate to the most, give yourself some time to digest the information, and if you still don't know what your type is that's ok! By reading the descriptions below you might just recognize some of you friends or families members and gain more understanding about them too!

learn more about each type

The Perfectionist

If you want something done right give it to a One. Aptly named the Perfectionist, Ones are the most reliable and perfection driven number on the Enneagram.

They’re your coworker who always points out what needs to be fixed, they’re your neighbor with the perfect grass, and they’re the lady who told you to be quiet in the movie theater.

Very early on Ones collect a set of rules. These rules are first and foremost imposed on themselves, if they break a rule their inner critic (a loud voice, they assume is their conscious) will chastise them harshly. Then these rules are imposed on everyone else. Since these rules make so much sense to Ones (wash your hands before eating, use your blinker, throw trash in a garbage can, as examples.) it’s nothing short of infuriating when they observe them being broken.

When Ones are healthy they’re responsible, pragmatic, helpful, and kind to themselves and others. When Ones are unhealthy they quickly become critical, moody, angry, and disconnected.

Ones deadly sin is Anger, and when you live in a world so rife with problems you feel the need to fix, you would probably be a little angry too. But since anger is on most Ones “don’t” list, this anger is manifested more as a constant underlying frustration. .

If you know/love a One, try to notice something they do exceptionally well and tell them how much you appreciate it. .

If you are a One, one of the best things you can do is extend grace to yourself and others. No one is lying in wait for you to mess up, no one's life goal is annoying you, and letting go of some of that frustration will aid in a much more productive life.

The Helper

Twos are that one lady who seems to live at your church, They’re the person who’s always first to sign up to bring meals or go to a celebration, and they’re the almost over-helpful next door neighbor who offers help that you could never repay.

Called The Helper, by many enneagram teachers, Twos have an ability to foresee your needs like no one else, and they love meeting those needs and being helpful if they can. When healthy Twos are generous, kind, sure of themselves, and empathetic.

When unhealthy they can be possessive of their loved ones, manipulative, and angry when criticized. .

Twos will meet your needs because they want to instill a type of indebtedness in you. They usually aren’t aware of this manipulation until it’s too late, and they’re already angry with you when you didn’t reciprocate their grand gestures. Pride might seem like an odd deadly sin for these giving individuals, but it's something they struggle with. They tend to think everyone else is more needy then them, and thus having no appearance of needs makes them superior.

If you know a Two don’t take them for granted, but thank them wholeheartedly when they offer help. If the help might be overstepping or unneeded assure them that you’d rather have their company than gifts, or that them offering help means a lot, but the task is something you need to do yourself.

If you are a Two, I want you to stop yourself the next time you give either help or a gift and release the recipient of any obligation to repay you. Making this a habit is a great step to stopping that anger before it comes. It’ll take a lot of practice, but it’s true that it’s better to give freely than to receive only out of obligation.

The Achiever

3 - The achiever

It can be argued that no number gets as much done as Threes, that is why they’re so accurately called the Achiever. Whether it’s the task at hand, climbing the cooperate ladder, or charming your socks off, don’t underestimate a Three. .

Threes do whatever they need to do, in order to manifest what their vision of success is, because they’re afraid of failure.

Healthy Threes are some of the most likable people, they’re charming without being fake, genuinely interested in you, and have energy for days. Whereas, an unhealthy Three will be horribly un-self-aware, changing their personality to fit what they think you want them to be, taking whatever attention they can get, and never admitting mistakes.

Threes deadly sin is Deceit, but most Threes would claim their personas aren’t deceitful, they’re just a way to make people at ease. This might be the true intention, but what you have done here is deceived yourself into thinking your personas aren’t hiding what you think people don’t want to see...which is the true you. Yes, hidden under the charm, achievements, and glamour is someone who’s just afraid they won’t be loved and accepted.

So if you know/love a Three encourage them when they aren’t putting on their impressive voice, and tell them that you love them when they’re being themselves.

If you are a Three, I want you to know that you are fully known and fully loved in Christ. He’s not impressed by you, but maybe more importantly he’s not disappointed in you, he loves you.

The book of Ephesians, Mark Driscoll “I am” sermon series, or Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry , are great places to be reminded of this truth if you’re struggling to believe it today.

The Individualist

Fours, also known as the Individualists, are the least common Enneagram number, and as we thrive on being special, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fours are your favorite band’s lead singer, whoever invented being “emo”, and the friend on Facebook who isn’t afraid to express their emotions and makes everyone uncomfortable.

Fours are usually highly creative, sensitive (although they can wear the “I’m a bad a$$” mask pretty well), self-absorbed, and tend to stand out in some way. When healthy they’re empathetic, great listeners, in-tune to their creativity, and are comfortable with themselves enough not to be shoving their specialness down everyone's throats. When unhealthy, they’re moody, self absorbed, instigators of drama, and can become addicts.

Fours deadly sin is Envy, but it’s not envy for what you have… its for how easy it is for you to be you. Fours feels like something in them is missing, and that everyone else has that something. There's a deep longing in Fours to find that missing piece, or at least be special enough that people won’t recognize they’re fundamentally flawed.

They are in the Heart triad because their emotions are both their greatest liability and their greatest strength. Wherever there's a Four, emotions aren’t very far away. Unlike most numbers they don’t seem to have the ability to suppress emotions, but need to deal with them head on in the moment. This can lead to a lot of sulking, tears, and emotional outburst. Others might be able to avoid these reactions by not feeling things so intensely in the moment, but processing them later.

If you know and love a Four, encourage them when you see them thriving in creativity or are thinking of others before themselves.

If you are a Four I want you to do an Envy check in your heart today. Just scrolling down social media who are you tempted to want to be? Whose success makes you angry? Call that feeling Envy. A lot of times we are tempted to make ourselves feel more special in order to drown out the voice of Envy, but really we need to be disgusted with the voice of Envy and call it what it is, a sin.

The Investigator

Investigators, also known as Fives, are the quintessential introvert of the Enneagram. They’re your uncle who doesn’t talk much, that awkward teacher who was obsessed with photosynthesis, and the girl who looks like she wants to leave the party...because well she does.

Fives can be introverted to their very core, hoarding what little energy they have like it’s Smaug’s treasure. They are the least emotional number in the Enneagram, and are a wealth of knowledge when interested in a topic.

They are not easily offended, calm in crisis, and spend a lot of time thinking.

Fives deadly sin is Avarice, which basically means greed. However it’s not referring to the greed of wanting what they don’t have like you might think, but it's their tight grip onto what they do have. Avarice also comes into play with their relationships. Fives can be very emotionally withholding because of how much it can cost them to give of themselves socially/emotionally. A lot of this withholding is done out of fear that they don’t have the reserves it takes to function in this world, hence why they’re our last number in the Fear triad. .

When Fives are healthy they can balance their gift of observation with participation. They keep a healthy balance of alone time and maintaining relationships, as well as having an objective viewpoint, from which they can give some great unbiased advice.

When they’re unhealthy....well you may just never hear from them. No one knows how to go off grid like a Five.

If you know a Five you can love them by giving them time alone (I know that sounds weird), and by giving them practical gifts, as Fives tend to ask for not-fun gifts like money.

If you’re a Five can I encourage you to not hoard the gift of yourself from us? You have so much knowledge and know-how, and we need you. Step out and teach a class, don’t just observe but get involved in your church, or try to set aside time each week to check in with how your significant other is doing emotionally

The Loyalist

On the Enneagram Sixes are called the Loyalists. Sixes are the soccer mom frantically slathering her child in sunscreen, they’re your Facebook friend that’s always posting about product recalls and restaurant health inspections, and they’re your loyal childhood friend who’s never left your side.

Sixes are the most trustworthy, loyal, and diverse enneagram number. They defend their beliefs, family, and ideals much more fiercely than they will defend themselves. They can be loud or quiet, meek or fiery, ambitious or very satisfied with the status quo. All these variables can make Sixes hard to type if you have them in your life, but two main threads that run throughout their life will be fear and loyalty.

Fear is a double whammy in Sixes lives being both their deadly sin, and their triad emotion. You can see this play out heavily in their lives, as they’re usually worst case scenario thinkers.

When Sixes are healthy they’ll be aware of this fear and counteract it with God's truth, but when they aren’t healthy they’ll be a ball of anxiety. They’ll distrust themselves and look outward (usually to authority figures) for security and guidance.

If you know a Six, message them today to thank them for being a rock in your life, and if next time you see them they’re rattling off worst case scenarios remember they need to be motivated, not discounted.

If you’re a Six I want you to identify one anxiety you have, (it may be hard to focus on just one, but try) then take your bible and a journal and hand write out bible verses that calm your heart towards that anxiety. You can leave them in the journal or put them up somewhere you can see them daily... it’s up to you

The Enthusiast

Sevens are the fun uncle of the Enneagram. They’re spontaneous, enthusiastic, upbeat, and usually very extroverted individuals. Appropriately they’re named the Enthusiasts. When healthy, Sevens focus their energy on their talents, goals, brightening moods, and maintaining relationships. We all know a healthy Seven and they’re the BEST!

On the other hand when Sevens are unhealthy they will be scattered, irrational, and irresponsible, chasing anything that’ll give them a momentary high to the cost of all else.

What motivates their upbeat attitude, and on the go lifestyle is fear. Fear of missing out, fear of choosing the less fun option (leading to indecisiveness), fear of not being busy enough to distract themselves from pain, and fear of conflict.

The deadly sin associated with Sevens is gluttony, but don’t mistake this as only being for food. Gluttony can be anything you use in excess to numb yourself from the outside world, and it’s that excess that’s sinful.

If you know a Seven, take some time today to thank them for being who they are, and for the work it takes the liven up almost any situation!

If you are a Seven, (you’re probably going to hate this homework, but stick with me!) spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal areas of gluttony in your life. It says in the Bible (1 Cor 10:13) that where there is temptation God provides a way of escape, so let him guide you to your way of escape as you draw close to him.

The Challenger

Eights are the only Enneagram type that you can literally feel walk into a room. They are the football coach with confidence for days, the boss that's very presence inspires everyone to sit a little taller, and your best friend who you know has a soft heart, but everyone else thinks is insensitive.

Eights aren’t called the Challenger for nothing, with an energy and confidence about them that few can beat, an Eight won’t bow away from a verbal spar. In fact they’ll often drop a controversial bomb on a conversation just to stir things up, and see if anyone has the guts to stand up to them. Eights can also be known as the advocate, this is because of their fire for justice, and standing up for the underdog. Wherever there's a protest against ill treatment, you’ll probably find more than a handful of Eights shouting the loudest.

When Eights are healthy, they are great leaders, loyal friends, and a champion for anyone who can’t stand up for themselves.

When unhealthy an Eight will be vengeful when wronged, bullies in conversations and work environments, and will keep people at arms length so that they won’t be hurt or betrayed.

Eights deadly sin is Lust, but not a sexual lust, a lust for intensity. Not that all intensity is bad, but an Eights lust for intensity will often lead them to making mountains out of molehills, using people as tools to gain their desired end, and if an Eights need for intensity isn’t being met they’ll create drama to obtain it.

If you know/love an Eight, keep in the back of your minds that there is no one an Eight distrust more than someone who won’t shoot straight with them. Give them respect by telling them what you think, and challenging them back!

If you are an Eight, I want to tell you that the world would be such a different place without your presence, and we need you to get the ball rolling most of the time.

One thing you can pay attention to this week is how much you are listening vs. talking. This can be a blind spot to most Eights, and it might be wise to ask a trusted friend if they feel heard by you.

The Peacemaker

Our resident Peacemakers, Nines, are the least controlling number on the Enneagram. If you know a Nine you’d probably describe them as a sweetheart, generous, or just genuinely a very nice person. .

Nines are great listeners, easy-going, generous, and traverse through life at their own pace. Nines have a unique ability to merge with others, feeling what that person feels and sometimes adopting their pain like it’s a stray cat. Being conflict avoidant drives much of how Nines operate, they’ll do almost anything (including avoiding voicing strong feelings/opinions of their own) to avoid conflict. However, they are in the anger triad, and although they’re often unaware of their own anger, it bubbles under the surface of their sweet disposition. They can feel like their seeming inability to create boundaries is often taken advantage of, the world just doesn’t value them like it values other people, and the anger about slights like these builds over time until they explode. Nines are sweet, but once you’ve seen a Nine angry you won’t soon forget it.

More often unhealthy Nines are passive aggressive, asserting their wants and desires in the most non-confrontational way they can. Unhealthy Nines also procrastinate like no one else, indulge in mind numbing behaviors to escape everyday tensions, and focus on others feelings to avoid feeling their own. (Sloth, their deadly sin being a big player in all of these unhealthy behaviors)

Healthy Nines, learn to express their wants and feelings without fear, have habits in place to avoid procrastination, and balance their caring merging nature with a healthy amount of “no”

If you know/love a Nine, when they do make a stand respect their decisions. It is also helpful to give them options when you want them to make a decision.

If you are a Nine, I want you to know that you’re so loved and needed in this world, not just for your goodness but for YOU, and your feelings won’t scare us away.

Working to rise above conflict avoidance can be a long journey, but God doesn’t make you walk it alone. The Boundaries book by Henry Cloud, can be a helpful place to start, but practice is key.

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