What Should Christians Know about Enneagram Types?
- Hope Bolinger Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 29 Oct
Although a number of personality tests have gained popularity in the past few years, the Enneagram seems to have acquired a following in the Christian community. On my college campus, “What’s your Enneagram type?” became the equivalent of the phrase, “What’s your sign?” Students used their personality types from the Enneagram as a measure for compatibility.
The Enneagram is a personality test that categorizes those who take it into one of nine types. Although people may have traces of all nine of the types, their personality will most often fit into one dominant category, which is your Enneagram type.
The Enneagram personality test seems to have divided Christians into those who absolutely love it and those who oppose it. Perhaps one of the reasons for its popularity comes from its ability to make us feel as though we belong to a group of people simply by the number we attach to ourselves. When we become self-aware, we can know how we work personally, and can fulfill our callings to the best of our ability. The more we know ourselves, the better we work, essentially.
The opposition to the Enneagram test may come from Christians who are wary about us developing certain maladaptive traits simply because we see those traits listed under our personality type. For instance, I’m a Type 3 (more on this later), often motivated by success. But if I see on the description of Type 3 that 3s tend to have a fear of worthlessness, I may adopt that fear.
Not to mention we can run into a danger of elevating the test on too high a pedestal and forget our true identity rests in Christ.
What is an Enneagram?
The symbol for the Enneagram originated during the time of Pythagoras, but the overall system of the 9 personality types was formed by Oscar Ichazo in the 1960s and 70s. The Enneagram tries to help people discover their strengths and limits, so they can thrive in their given field.
In other words, the Enneagram seeks to make people more self-aware.
Scripture does have some things to say about self-awareness. Without self-awareness, we might trick ourselves into thinking we’re something we’re not (Galatians 6:3). Proverbs 4:3 encourages a vigilant heart, and 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to test ourselves.
How Does the Enneagram System Work?
A circle with nine distinct points form the Enneagram circle shown here:
Everyone, according to the website above, is born with one of the 9 parts of a dominant personality. Various environmental factors will play into that specific type, but we won’t often shift from that personality. So if I was born a three, I’ll likely stay a three my whole life.
All the types have positive traits and maladaptive ones, and none is better than the other. Consider this parody music video on the Enneagram personality types.
Through a series of questions, a user will determine which of the nine types they best fit with. A person also can sometimes have a wing—a personality type that isn’t the dominant one, but the second most dominant one.
For instance, I am a 3 wing 4. The 4th personality type is my second most dominant.
How Do I Take the Official Enneagram Test?
You can find a number of Enneagram tests online or in books. Although many will argue about which test is the most accurate, one should try multiple versions of the test to ensure accuracy.
Here are a few online versions of the Enneagram test:
The tests vary in the number of questions and time it takes a user to complete them.
Good Reasons for Christians to Discover Enneagram Types
Although the test is secular in nature, Christians do have a few good reasons to take the Enneagram test. The Enneagram can help us determine our strengths and limitations. For instance, a two personality type might realize they have a strength in hospitality (Isaiah 58:7), but they also realize they have limitations such as a need to be needed, which turns into a desire for others to love them (Galatians 1:10).
We can determine not only where we fit in our call vocationally, but also how to best serve others and lead them to Christ.
The Enneagram can also help us to relate to one another. If we understand someone better, we can communicate and meet their needs better. Scripture encourages empathy (Romans 12:15). If we want to share the Gospel, we have to understand our audience.
Enneagram Type 1: The Reformer
Ones have a very distinct sense of justice and morality. They always want to find ways to improve circumstances or situations, hence the title “the reformer.”
They have strengths such as dependability, reliability, and innovative thinking. However, they can fall into weaknesses such as impatience and perfectionism.
Ones can potentially grow by acknowledging not everything goes to plan or structure, and can learn to trust God during the moments where everything is in chaos (Psalm 46:2).
Enneagram Type 2: The Helper
Twos have a heart for others. They crave strong relationships and will do whatever they can to give to others.
Their strengths lie in their selfless, caring hearts and generosity. However, they can run into weaknesses such as the need to people-please to win people’s affections and possessiveness.
Twos can potentially grow by realizing we can’t please everyone through our acts of hospitality. Jesus performed miracles and healed many and was still hated by many.
Enneagram Type 3: The Achiever
This type places a strong emphasis on accomplishments. Driven and adaptable, they fit into leadership roles easily.
A three’s strength lies in their diplomacy and hardworking attitude. However, they can spend too much time focusing on their image and get overly competitive.
Threes can grow by understanding that sometimes failure happens. That doesn’t make you any less of a child of God if you don’t accomplish something you wish you had (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist
Highly creative and emotional, fours love to express their individuality. They tend to want uniqueness and to stand out. At their best, they can be innovative, creative, and inspiring to others. However, at their worst, they can become self-pitying or self-absorbed.
Growth for fours can come through acknowledging that yes, Jesus created us as unique individuals, but what connects us all as humans doesn’t make us less unique. God made us all in his image (Genesis 1).
Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator
Deep thinkers, fives often observe the world around them in ways others don’t. They have an insatiable curiosity and want to expand their knowledge as much as possible.
Fives, at best, can problem-solve and see the world in brilliant ways others haven’t, simply by their observations. Yet, they can stumble into problems such as isolating themselves or detaching too much.
They can best grow by engaging more with others. What comes to mind, with fives, are the Jewish groups of Essenes during Jesus’ time. Brilliant thinkers, most of their thoughts didn’t see the light of day because they hid away in caves.
Instead of being an Essene, allow for others to hear your thoughts.
Enneagram Type 6: The Loyalist
Excellent problem solvers, sixes can “troubleshoot” issues and find solutions. Thriving on security, they can be suspicious at times of anything that can be a potential threat to that security.
Sixes at best are extremely hard-working, dependable, and great helpers. But they can also run into issues of paranoia, stress, a don’t often react well to criticism.
Sixes can grow by exploring their existing insecurities and knowing that they have security in Christ.
Enneagram Type 7: The Enthusiast
Spontaneous and energetic, sevens want to experience new adventures. They constantly seek ways to fulfill their needs.
Sevens can roll with the punches and embrace spontaneity, whereas other types might get stuck in the imbalance. They also excel at having joyful spirits. However, they can encounter problems such as disorganization, impatience, and can follow their impulses too much.
This type can find growth through recognizing the adventurous aspects of even the mundane areas of life. Not everything can operate on spontaneity, but Christ’s plan far excels any side-quest we can create.
Enneagram Type 8: The Challenger
Dominant and assertive, type eights don’t beat around the bush. They will tell you exactly what they’re thinking.
People who have an eight personality type excel at helping others reach their potential and inspiring others. Yet they can, at times, have a disregard for others’ feelings and can often fail to be vulnerable.
Eights can grow by learning to speak the truth in love. We need both to communicate truths effectively.
Enneagram Type 9: The Peacemaker
Peacemakers, as indicated in the title, keep the peace. Supportive, they try to avoid conflict wherever possible.
Nines can help heal divisions among other parties and love those who feel unloved. However, they can also be too complacent at times and overlook items that do need addressing.
They can grow through also learning to speak the truth in love. Eights have the truth part down, and nines have the love part. Both types simply have to learn how to combine them.
Cautions for Relying too Much on Your Enneagram Identity
We should with exercise caution regarding the Enneagram test.
First, we should take any truth assertion outside of Scripture with a grain of salt (Psalm 119:105). Because of its secular nature, the Enneagram doesn’t have completely infallible truths.
Second, we can get too obsessed with this test and cause more divisions based on which type we fall under (Romans 16:17).
Third, we can elevate this test to the point where we see it as an idol. This test may reveal our strengths and weaknesses and inspire our actions. But we do have to realize that just because we were born a certain way doesn’t mean God can’t orchestrate change (Acts 9). God can change hearts (Jeremiah 24:7).
You Are More than Your Enneagram Type
As stated in the parody video, every type matters equally. Furthermore, you are more than your Enneagram type. Your identity lies as a citizen of heaven and child of the Most High. Any other label placed onto you does not compare with these things.
However, self-evaluation can help us with our spiritual growth. If we understand we operate a certain way, we might better determine good ways to develop our quiet time, prayer life, ministry, and evangelistic efforts with others.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Gerasimov174
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.