A lot of people I know are into the Enneagram. I skimmed Richard Rohr’s book a few years ago, but did not absorb enough to keep up in conversations when people throw their numbers around. A couple of weeks ago Circle of Hope hosted an Enneagram workshop with Suzanne Stabile at Circle Spaces at 1125 S. Broad St. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was hoping to learn more about what my friends care about. Since the pastors and spouses were comped tickets, it made sense to take advantage of the opportunity. Around 200 people came from all over the East Coast to participate in this day-and-a-half-long workshop. It was great to pack out our space and the team hosted it well.
I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did while learning about a system of classifying personality types. Suzanne was an entertaining speaker who taught with stories, so it was easy to follow along and stay engaged. I took notes and gathered useful insights about these nine particular profiles of personalities that often demonstrate common behaviors, emotions and motivations. Despite her encouragement not to do this, I recognized people in her descriptions and automatically started categorizing people I know. By the time I went to lunch on Saturday (Veracruzana’s stuffed jalapenos tacos—yum!) I had already fallen into the cringe-worthy behavior that I have experienced from others in the past. It is easy to classify friends, co-workers and family members with your ‘inside’ knowledge as if you are an expert, privy to special knowledge that gives you power. Believing I have more insight into someone else than they have of themselves because I know about their ‘type’ is bound to be damaging to relationships. No one can be contained or defined by a tool. And yet it was easy to fall into that trap—especially when I could identify so readily with being a Two! Seeing myself made it easier to see others.
My lunchmates drew me back to the best use of the Enneagram. As a tool for self-reflection and awareness, it can be very useful for personal development. More than one person shared their story about how revelatory it was to see themselves and their patterns reflected so clearly. It can be validating and illuminating. It helps people reflect on and recognize their motivations and the fact that people around them are not motivated the way they are. Becoming self aware and others-aware creates healthier people who have a better chance at relating in healthier ways. I am all for that!
But we can’t stop there. The danger of any self-help movement is that self-discovery and emotional intelligence will not save you. One’s journey towards wholeness and healing is marked by internal work and often aided by tools, but is not ultimately centered on the self. Jesus is the true liberator and healer. Finding ourselves in him will be what truly leads us into our fullness and enables us to love and relate well. Circle of Hope is a church that values contemplative practice, mental health, and spiritual development. We are partnering to be on mission together and need to understand ourselves and those around us in order to relate across differences. People are finding the Enneagram helpful and I am glad. But I really want them to find Jesus among us because his love is the source of grace that we need both to be transformed ourselves and to then offer that kind of transforming grace to others.