In the last few years, as personality typing and testing has reached an apex in popularity, the Enneagram personality framework has become increasingly popular. Unlike the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and tests like it, the Enneagram focuses on the core motives that make up our personality and behaviors. It can be extremely helpful for understanding both yourself and those around you, improving understanding and communication between yourself and others.
As believers, we do have to examine everything we embrace before embracing it—and the Enneagram is no different. Following are a few things to know about the Enneagram, its history and its purpose for Christians today.
- The Enneagram was not founded by the Catholic Church or created by Satanists. I’ve heard both of these theories in the course of studying the Enneagram. The symbol and thought processes behind it have been around since ancient Greece, the first hints seen in the work of Pythagoras. Early Christian mystics wrote more on these concepts found in Enneagram material (perhaps why people claim the Catholic Church as the origin). The Enneagram we know today was founded by Oscar Ichazo, a man who by all accounts was a New Age follower and spiritualist.
- The Enneagram helps us understand personality, but it is not an end-all. Christians and unbelievers alike make a mistake when their Enneagram results become their sole way of interacting with the world. Using your personality as an excuse for negative behavior denies the very purpose of the Enneagram itself, which is to grow in emotional, spiritual and mental health. We should be cautious with any personality test. Our primary way of understanding ourselves is in light of what Christ has done for us and what the Spirit continues to do in our hearts. The Enneagram is helpful, but it is not an end-all.
- Just because something has pagan roots doesn’t mean it’s completely unhelpful. Using the Enneagram is going to be a personal decision between each person and God. For some, the roots of the Enneagram make it unhelpful. For others, the sheer amount of self-reflection makes it unhelpful for their season (for some, this quickly turns to selfishness). Listen to the Spirit’s leading on this! As you pursue God’s conviction for your life, remember that others may be at peace with Him to explore what this framework can tell them about themselves and how they can communicate better with the people around them.
Apart from Jesus, no personality type is enough. We will always be incomplete without Him. We can’t hope to become our healthiest selves through the Enneagram alone, because it does not offer an eternal hope or sanctification. But it can show us some weak points in our personalities, which, once exposed, teach us where we need the Spirit’s work. Don’t turn to the Enneagram instead of to Scripture. Use Scripture as the lens through which you view the Enneagram.
I am an Enneagram Three: I have a tendency to be a people-pleaser, overly confident, even aloof. I fear feeling shame, and I’ll cover my shame with confidence. Taking the test told me this and I know that it’s true from personal experience! But the solution to my fear of shame? Romans 8:1: “Now there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” The solution to my people-pleasing? Galatians 1:10: “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Keep Scripture first, Enneagram second, and you’ll have the discernment you need.