by John Mark Comer
Before you meet, you will need to familiarize yourself with the Enneagram, which is a theory of personality that’s been used as a tool for spiritual formation for over a thousand years.
Here’s a few ways to do that:
1. Go to an Enneagram conference and sit under an Enneagram expert, such as the “Know Your Number” conference Bridgetown Church hosted with Suzanne Stabile:
2. Read The Road Back to You by Cron and Stabile, or another Enneagram book.
3. Take the test and spend some time reading up on your type from their site.
4. Talk with a therapist or spiritual director about the Enneagram.
- The more time you put in, the more you’ll get out of this Practice!
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief last week’s Practice in triads (15-20 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
- Did you listen to the teaching? What did you think?
- How do you feel about the Enneagram? Is the idea of being labeled with a number off-putting to you?
- Did you figure out your number on the Enneagram?
- What’s your initial impression of the Enneagram as a tool of self-discovery?
Transition back to one large group (5 minutes)
Ask a few questions about the last week’s Practice:
- Any stories from the last week’s Practice that you would like to encourage the whole group with?
- Any “aha” moments of breakthrough?
- Any highs or lows?
Read this Overview
On the road to discovery our identity and calling we quickly bump up against the wall of sin. Sin is a bit of a loaded, religious word, but all it means is to “miss the mark,” to fall short of the life that God has for you.
Richard Rohr defined sin this way: “Sins are fixations that prevent the energy of life, God’s love, from flowing freely. (They are) self-erected blockades that cut us off from God and hence from our own authentic potential.”
So if we want to experience God - the source of life - and reach our full potential, we have to find a way past the “blockades” in our life, i.e. our sin. But our “sin” is more than just our behavior; it’s our shadow side, which Pete Scazzero defined as “the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than-pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.”
The tricky thing is that we are often blind to our own shadow side. The human capacity for self-deception is staggering.
One tool that followers of Jesus have used for over a millennia and a half to reveal and repent of our shadow side is the Enneagram: a theory of personality test that deals with your root sin and root motivation.
Part 3 of our Practice is the Enneagram. It’s not for the faint of heart; but it’s a giant leap forward on the road to self-discovery.
Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)
Have somebody read Ephesians 4v17-24
Talk about the following questions:
- Notice what Paul says about the “way of life” we learned from Jesus and how it taught us to “put off our old self.” How would you define our “old self” vs. our “new self”?
- Paul writes of our “old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” How does this view of our desires square with our culture’s message to “be true to yourself” and “follow your heart”?
- What’s an example of the desires of your “old self” vs. the desires of your “new self”?
Do this Practice as a Community right now: (10 minutes per person)
Hopefully you’ve all figured out your number on the Enneagram. If not, no worries. We’re a Community and this journey takes time. It’s never too late to start.
Here’s the Enneagram…
Here’s an exercise:
- Go around the room and, if your’e comfortable with with it, share your number.
- Read the short description below of your number to the community.
- Share the main thing you’ve learned from your number.
- Share your least and most favorite thing about this self-discovery.
- If you want, share a next step you want the community to hold you accountable to.
- After each person is done sharing - take a minute as a community to “bless” them. The Enneagram can be an emotional journey! Community makes all the difference.
- This should take about 5-10 minutes per person.
The Nine Enneagram Types:
Type One: the Perfectionist (A.K.A, the Reformer)
- “Ethical, dedicated and reliable, they are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame.” (Descriptions from The Road Back to You)
- Root sin: anger.
- “Ones feel a compulsive need to perfect the world. Keenly aware that neither they nor anyone else can live up to their impossibly high standards, they experience anger in the form of smoldering resentment.” (From The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg)
- Root motivation: the need to be perfect or good.
- Healthy and mature Ones: Call others to the good, the beautiful, and the true. An inspiring vision of what is possible. The Nelson Mendelas and Martin Luthers and Pauls of the world.
- Unhealthy and immature Ones: Self-righteous, judgmental, hyper-critical, racked by their “inner critic” and just a total boor. The ultimate Pharisee.
Type Two: The Helper
- “Warm, caring and giving, they are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and not avoid acknowledging their own needs.”
- Root sin: pride
- “Twos direct all their attention and energy toward meeting the needs of others while disavowing having any of their own. They secretly believe that they alone know what’s best for others and that they’re indispensable reveals their prideful spirit.”
- Root motivation: to be needed.
- Healthy and mature Twos: Loving. Warm. They make you feel like a million dollars and they love to help you.
- Unhealthy and immature Twos: Manipulative, use flattery to get you to want and need them, enmeshed, etc.
Type Three: The Performer (the achiever)
- “Success-oriented, image-conscious and wired for productivity, they are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure.”
- Root sin: deceit
- “Threes value appearance over substance. Abandoning their true selves to project a false, crowd-pleasing image, Threes buy their own performance and deceive themselves into believing they are their persona.”
- Root motivation: the need to achieve and look good to others.
- Healthy and mature Threes: Amazing leaders, they are driven to grow and help others grow, and they achieve so much.
- Unhealthy and immature: Vain and image-consciousness. They often brag or cut corners or step on others to get ahead.
Type Four: The Individualist (The Romantic)
- “Creative, sensitive and moody, they are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings and avoid being ordinary.”
- Root sin: envy
- “Fours believe they are missing something essential without which they will never become complete. They envy what they perceive to be the wholeness and happiness of others.”
- Root motivation: to be unique and special.
- Healthy and mature Fours: Creative, imaginative, strong inner compass.
- Unhealthy and immature Fours: Melancholy, racked by comparison, undisciplined, a loner.
Type Five: The Investigator (The Thinker)
- “Analytical, detached and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others.”
- Root sin: avarice (which is similar to greed, but what you hoard isn’t money; it’s yourself)
- “Fives hoard those things they believe will ensure they can live an independent, self-sustaining existence. This withholding ultimately leads to their holding back love and affection from others.”
- Root motivation: the need to be competent and capable.
- Healthy and mature Fives: Smart, well-read, thinkers, logical, truth-tellers.
- Unhealthy and immature Fives: Aloof, withdrawn, hide away, waste copious amounts of time learning about things that don’t matter.
Type Six: The Loyalist
- “Committed, practical and witty, they are worst-case-scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security.”
- Root sin: fear
- “Forever imagining worse-case scenarios and questioning their ability to handle life on their own, Sixes turn to authority figures and belief systems rather than God to provide them with the support and security they yearn for.”
- Their root motivation is: the need for security and support.
- Healthy and mature Sixes: Faithful through thick and then. Steady at the helm. Calm.
- Unhealthy and immature Sixes: Fearful and isolated.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
- “Fun, spontaneous and adventurous, they are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences and to avoid pain.”
- Root sin: gluttony, not just of food, but of life.
- “To avoid painful feelings, Seven gorge themselves on positive experiences, planning and anticipating new adventures, and entertaining interesting ideas. Never satisfied, the Seven’s frenzied pursuit of these distractions eventually escalates to the point of gluttony.”
- Their root motivation is the need to escape emotional pain.
- Healthy and mature Sevens: A contagious love of life. They spread joy everywhere they go. Full of energy. They make great leaders.
- But unhealthy and immature Sevens: Can’t deal with emotional pain. Given to addiction. Need to be the center of attention.
Type Eight: The Challenger
- “Commanding, intense and confrontational, they are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable.”
- Root sin: lust
- “Eight’s lust after intensity. It can be seen in the excessiveness they evidence in every area of life. Domineering and confrontational, Eights present a hard, intimidating exterior to mask vulnerability.”
- Root motivation: the need to be in control of their own life.
- Healthy and mature Eights: Strong, just. Stands up for the oppressed. Charismatic. An example of a healthy eight is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Unhealthy and immature Eights: Angry. Overbearing. Intimidating. A bull in a china shop. Come off as rude. An example of an unhealthy eight is Osama Bin Laden.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
- “Pleasant, laid back and accommodating, they are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others and avoid conflict.”
- Root sin: sloth
- “For nines, sloth refers not to physical but to spiritual laziness. Nines fall asleep to their own priorities, personal development and responsibility for becoming their own person.”
- Root motivation is: the need for peace
- Healthy and mature: Chill, calming to be around, wise. Makes everyone feel understood. A leader of peace.
- Unhealthy and immature Nines: Passive aggressive. Avoids conflict at all costs. Lazy. Distracted.
Before you call it a night, read over a few ideas of exercise to do on your own, if you want to continue on the journey:
You can spend years of your life learning about your number on the Enneagram. Your shadow side won’t go quietly into the night! It will go kicking and screaming. So here’s a few ideas of how to stay on the Enneagram path:
- Read a book on the Enneagram. Our favorites are The Road Back to You by Cron and Stabile and The Enneagram by Richard Rohr.
- Talk about your number with a therapist or spiritual director who has expertise in the Enneagram.
- Listen to The Road Back to You podcast for case studies of your number and that of your family and friends.
- Spend extended time talking about the Enneagram with your Community or close friends.
- Journal what you’re learning about yourself and the questions you still have.
- Spend time in listening prayer asking God how he sees you.
That’s it for this practice!