Tuesday, February 6, 2018

lessons from the enneagram


I'm just a little over a year into knowing the Enneagram and I can say that it has for sure changed me. The Enneagram is not a religion. It's not a cult. It's not the only tool you'll ever need for the rest of your whole life in order to be successful. But it certainly is beneficial.

I wanted to share some of the things I've been learning (or re-learning) in the past year.

People aren't living life AT you

Walking around constantly offended or with our feelings hurt really is exhausting. I've realized that part of the reason we can lean in that direction is because sometimes we think people are living their lives AT us. Just to stir the pot. Just to cause a ruckus. Just to see what we'll do. Just to throw us a curve ball. Just to make us mad. When really, it's most likely not the truth at all. I guess there's the rare exception of some really unhealthy folks that maybe live life like that. But for the most part, that's a lot of work and it's just not how most people operate.

People aren't being spontaneous AT me just to see what I'll do. People aren't not following the rules AT me just to watch me squirm. No, there are people who are spontaneous. There are people who don't care about rules. Those people exist, and they exist whether I'm around One-ing all over them or not.

(For more reading on people living life AT you, check out this old blog post by Glennon Doyle.)

There aren't just two kinds of people in the world

I know this seems like a pretty elementary observation, but I think we can forget it. It's not People Like You and People Not Like You. It's not People Who Do This and People Who Don't Do This. Humans are way more complex. 

When others walk into the same room that you walk into, they notice different things than you. I notice error most of the time. What's missing? What needs to be fixed? What can I improve? You may notice the needs of the people in the room. You may notice who seems to have the most powerful presence in the room. You may notice if it feels safe or not. We are all so different and it's so wonderful. We have unique motivations, fears, and defense mechanisms. We all see the world through such different lenses, and allowing yourself to explore what those are is so helpful in understanding the people around you.

Motivation is far more fascinating than behavior

Why I am organized as a One is different than why an Eight is organized. Why I might say "I don't care where we eat, you pick" is different than why a Nine would say it. I like to do the right thing because it frees me from guilt and blame while a Six might like to do the right thing because they are extremely loyal to systems, beliefs, and authorities. A One and a Three both like to be productive and get things done. However, Ones typically care about the best way of getting something done whereas a Three is mostly concerned about getting the job done in the quickest way possible. Getting to the "why" of things has been eye-opening. 

We need to be able to show love in various ways to others

As a One, it feels like love to me when I am helping someone organize something or fix something or make something better. I feel like I'm showing them love because it truly feels loving deep down in my core. And certain people will receive it that way! But others might not. It might come off as criticism or it might feel stifling to their way of doing things. So I have to be careful about that. I have to tread lightly and read the situation. When is it time to assert my opinion? When is it time to stay quiet and wait to be asked for my input?

If I can tell that my desire to take charge is not what is needed, I have to be able to adapt and find other ways to be helpful in a situation. Sometimes I need to be a sounding board. Sometimes I need to offer multiple ways of doing something and allow that person to decide what's best for them. Sometimes the best way I can show love to someone is by shutting my mouth and simply offering my hands. "Just tell me what to do and I'll do it." Just because I have my favorite ways I show love doesn't mean those are always the ones I need to access.

You have permission to grow and change

The beauty of the Enneagram is that it allows for growth. Once you figure out your number, you aren't put into a box. Instead, you learn about the wing that might add a different side to your personality. You learn about the different characteristics you take on of other numbers when you are in times of stress or in times of security. The Enneagram is a hopeful thing! You have all the freedom in the world to learn, grow, and change. And the Enneagram helps us figure out some practical ways we can do that.

For example, the fact that I had my 3rd baby, sold our house, packed up and moved out, moved into my parents' house, and bought another house all within about a month's time didn't feel very much "like me." When it was all happening back in February/March of 2017, I kept saying, "I know, it's crazy. It isn't even like me!" But the truth is, it was me! Without having the exact language for it at the time, I was accessing some characteristics of a Seven. I was going with the flow, okay with the unexpected, and able to be a little spontaneous and adventurous. It's information like this that can be so helpful as we're learning about who we are and who we want to be.


If you haven't taken the assessment, I hope that you are encouraged to give it a shot. I honestly believe God dropped the Enneagram into my lap at just the perfect time. I mentioned in this blog post last month how he began working the concept of identity into my mind and heart this past year. The Enneagram was the catalyst for that. It has been a place of softening, and we all know Ones need a good dose of that. It has helped me see other people the way Jesus sees them. It has taught me to value people and their ideas, pasts, and perspectives more. The Holy Spirit is using the Enneagram in my life to make me more like the person of Christ. I'm the first one to say I've got a long ways to go, but I am so very grateful for the work of God in my life and the way he has opened my eyes through the Enneagram.

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