The Enneagram and The Road Back to You

I googled the term the first time I heard it, not even sure how to pronounce it.

Enneagram:  “Any – a – gram”

Named for a nine-sided polygon, the Enneagram distinguishes and describes nine facets of the human personality, nine different ways of being, nine unique manifestations of the image of God on this planet.  In The Road Back to You, Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile provide a clear, humorous, and sensitive road map for the journey of self-discovery that happens while studying the Enneagram.

Here’s a summary of all nine types and connections:

capture

It’s important to note that with the Enneagram, motivation determines type.  So, for example, if I believe that a friend is feeling sad, I may reach out to her with a phone call for various reasons:

  • If I call because I see myself as a champion of the sad and despondent, I may be an 8.
  • If I’m motivated by a desire to comfort and to create a safe space for that friend, I am likely a 2.
  • If I join my sad friend in her place of sadness and mirror the entire range of her emotions, I am probably a 4.

The way we take in information has a huge impact on the way we see the world, and the Enneagram provides a framework for understanding this, as well as a new vocabulary for expressing ourselves, for living alongside others, and for delighting in the mystery of our individuality.

To be honest, I’m not entirely settled on my Enneagram number.  I kept hoping that Ian and Suzanne would say, “And if every time you read about one of the types, you think you ARE that type (or at least have all its weaknesses), then you are a _______.”   (They didn’t say that — ever.)

It’s also important to understand that the Enneagram types are not convenient pigeon holes for filing yourself and all your friends into neat little Bento boxes, and this is one of the strengths of the concept.  Because human beings operate at all levels of health and dysfunction, not all Type 1 Perfectionists are on a mission to make over the entire universe in their own image.  Not all Eights are bent on world domination.

If you are curious about your type, you can take an online quiz, but then you will need to do some further reading and research to discover what significance that number has for you.  Suzanne and Ian have also produced a podcast with an abundance of helpful information.

Additionally, it’s important to note that each Enneagram type will manifest characteristics of a neighbor number.  This is referred to as your wing.  For example, when I took the online test, it determined that I am most likely a 3 with a 4 wing (3w4).  If I were a 3w2, I would be much more charming and intimate, but I would also drive my friends crazy trying to be the star of every show.  As a 3w4 (if that’s what I really am), I am introspective and more authentic than the 3w2, but also more conflicted.

Of course, knowing all this won’t change who I am, but it does give me an understanding of the raw material I’m working with so that I can get out of my own way and become a God-honoring version of a 3w4, trusting for grace to deal with the weaknesses, and capitalizing on the strengths that are there.

The Ennegram is also a helpful tool for understanding how others are viewing the world.  Suzanne and Ian have said it well:

“The Enneagram shows us that we can’t change the way other people see, but we can try to experience the world through their eyes and help them change what they do with what they see.”

The authors have also provided a “field guide” for understanding the other types with a “What It’s Like to Be a _________” at the beginning of each type’s chapter.  Eye-opening!

It is clear that the Enneagram doesn’t just provide numbers attached to numerical excuses for us to stay in our present ruts or unhealthy behavior patterns. Understanding my weakness and frailty is true self-awareness.  It is also a call to spiritual transformation.  Thomas Merton has said, “For me to be a saint means to be myself.”  While this may be overstating the point, it’s not by much, for if my efforts to “be a saint” pull me into a personality that is not my own, but rather some concoction of traits that I’ve admired in those I consider to be “saints,” I’m doomed to jettison myself out of that ill-fitting craft and conclude that sainthood is just not for me.  The beauty of self-understanding is the knowledge that saints come in all types and sainthood is as various and multi-colored as the creative genius of God.

The Road Back to You begins and ends with a blessing for the journey, words spoken over those who are about to wake up to the wonder of discovering the true self, and to find more of God in the process:

“May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”

Amen.

Let it be so.

//

This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of Intervarsity Press in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The amazing graphic showing the Enneagram is a creation of Lisa Burgess of LisaNotes, and it is used, gratefully, with her permission.  Be sure to hop over to her place and read her great series on the Enneagram.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

34 thoughts on “The Enneagram and The Road Back to You”

  1. Michele, I would have had to google the term, too! Thank you for saving me the time and for the insightful book review. You have piqued my interest. I will have to check out The Road Back to You.

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    1. I was in the middle of a book discussion on FB when someone proposed that a certain character was a Type Whatever on the Enneagram and I was stumped. So, I had to open another window and read quick to even know what they were talking about. Funny how our horizons get broadened in spite of ourselves.
      I hope you’ll get a chance to read the book or do some online research. The podcasts are so informative and entertaining as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are the second person who has reviewed this book. I took the online quiz to find out who I am but am learning that I need to read the book to get the full picture. :lucky for me my son and daughter-in-law have the book because they are reading it as part of a church staff right now. I find personality tests fascinating but I appreciate the warning that we will never fit into a neat and tidy box.

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  3. Hi, Michele! Glad to be your neighbor again on the linkups! (We both get up early! I remember when the idea of the enneagram came out about 15 or 16 years ago … The friend who introduced it to me “was an 8” … with a strong sense of justice. I do love books that help us explore how God wired us so that we can be more effective … and understand others better.

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  4. What a wonderful review of both the book and the Enneagram. Love this: “Knowing all this won’t change who I am, but it does give me an understanding of the raw material I’m working with so that I can get out of my own way and become a God-honoring version.” Exactly! Working with the Enneagram has already helped me in my own self-knowledge but also in relationships. I’m still not positive of my number either; either a 1 or a 5, but I’m leaning toward 5.

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    1. Thanks, again, Lisa, for allowing me to borrow your helpful (and beautiful) image for my review. I have noticed that my intro to the Enneagram has impacted on the way I view others — funny, but I think it makes me more curious about what makes them tick because the book has given me some questions to ask myself about them.

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  5. I took the test several months ago when Lisa (Lisanotes) reviewed the book. I can’t remember what I am, though 😉 It is a fascinating concept! I think Lisa even went to one of their seminars if I remember correctly. I like that they stress understanding over perfection, etc. I was glad to read your perspective and review! Thanks, Michele!

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    1. Me too! And I was so helped by Lisa’s image that I asked if I could borrow it for my review because it shows the connections between the various types. She’s a sharp reader and writer! Thanks for reading along with me, too, June!

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  6. I have been through so many high level corporate “personality” exams in my former days as an executive, that I struggle with the fact people like to place us in little boxes. We grow and we change and we grow from that change over the years and I’ve seen time and time again former employees who went down crazy roads when they learned their “type.” But this is me and my experience in the business world. I haven’t read a book like this just for “fun.” Maybe it would make a difference? Either way, you have done a GREAT job laying out what the book is and what it isn’t. As always, great review! 🙂

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  7. Michele,
    When I saw your post (and admit that I do not know what an Enneagram is or means) I am SO GRATEFUL for your review because now I am enlightened! I love this Cliff Notes version of the book although I’m not so sure I want to take the personality test/quiz — I have a phobia about them since I always feel so bad to see what I’m not! Thank you for making me a little wiser today, friend! xo

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  8. I am very intrigued by this Michele. What I like most about what you have shared is that it “will help you to understand how others are viewing the world.” I think when we seek to understand before attempting to “help,” we can be better servants for Christ. I enjoyed Lisa’s post when she first introduced this to me but you have continued to give me food for thought. I hope you have a fantastic week and a blessed holiday season.

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  9. The term – it’s a mouthful, that’s for sure. I find this type of information interesting. Maybe because of the personal insight it gives, I’m not certain. It sounds as though this is a good read, one that’s helpful for personal insight as well as understanding others. I’m visiting today via both #thoughtprovokingThursday and #heartencouragement Thursday. Merry Christmas, Michele!

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    1. Kristi, I was impressed that the concept offers help for understanding ourselves as well as others — and offers the understanding that we are not our number, but the number helps us to identify our unique wiring.

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  10. I’ve heard of the Enneagram but wasn’t really sure how it worked so I appreciate your summary. It sounds interesting- it definitely helps to understand ourselves more so we can appreciate our strengths and identify the areas we need to work on.

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  11. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing! I agree that knowing ourselves and all our intricacies is key to becoming the MASTERPIECES God created us to be! Off to take the quiz…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m so glad you spelled out that term! I had no idea how to pronounce it either. I love your book reviews! You are very thorough and insightful. Giving me enough information without “spoilers”, so that I can make a well-informed decision on whether or not to purchase this book. You wouldn’t be any like to be a reviewer for Interviews & Reviews http://www.interviewsandreviews.com would you? 🙂

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