The Enneagram and the Christian Tradition

A quick look at the Enneagram might lead the Christian to ask— what does this have to do with Christian faith? What does this personality schematic have to do with God, the Bible, Jesus, etc.? Most Enneagram descriptions compare it to Myers-Briggs or Strengths. None of which, at first blush, seem to have a significant bearing on our faith. However, if we look at the human personality through the lens of the Christian tradition’s perennial philosophy[1]then we see that the Christian tradition has a certain theology that sees our personality as a defense mechanism that guards against some of the things that are spiritually lacking in our lives. The tradition calls this defense mechanism many things— the ego, the egoic self, the small self, the persona, the imposter, the small mind. However, the basic message is the same. Namely, there is a “you” that isnot really you. There is a self that is not absolutely true, but is actually false.

Take a look at your social (or professional) media profile if you need help wrapping your mind around how this false-self operates in your life. This profile contains your interests, hobbies, activities, successes and perhaps skills all listed out for people to see. These web pages hold the best pictures from your favorite vacations and outings with cherished friends and family, as well as your educational and professional accomplishments and advancements. Your profile is a snapshot of your life, rather than your life itself. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that this is a modified, cleaned up, and distilled image that is more of a reflection of how you wish your life was or how you want your life to be perceived, than what your life is actually is. You probably haven’t listed your guilty pleasure TV shows on your profile and you probably haven’t posted the more mundane details about the last time you clipped your nails and how you disposed of the calcified shards. In this way, your profile is not only a metaphor for your false-self, it is also an actual artifact of your false self. 

Your personality, whether you want to describe it using Myers-Briggs, or the Enneagram, or Strengths, functions this way. It cleans up and broadcasts a version of our life that we hope will be worthy of love. The fact is, most days we don’t know in the deepest parts of ourselves that the God, whose Son died for us, loves us. Until we truly and deeply know this love then we will have a false-self that habitually tries to dress us up so that we can (at least temporarily and perhaps artificially) feel loved and accepted. 

So why would we use the Enneagram as a spiritual tool? We must expose our personality for what it is—our own personal salvation project whereby we say to God over and over again, “I’ve got this. I can get this job. I can get this person to like me. I can control this.” The Enneagram is one tool that exposes this pattern in our lives, so that we can wake up from our personality-induced slumber and run into the arms of the One who truly loves us.       

[1]The perennial philosophy earned its name because different spiritual thinkers “perennially” stumble upon it, thus adding to its credibility