The Way The World Works: Enneagram Nines

In the classic artwork that charts out the Enneagram, nines sit atop the diagram as a clue to the nature of the human condition. This type might be seen as a prism of sorts because it holds the condition of each of the other types inside it. From it the light is scattered across the Enneagram in various shades. Therefore, each Enneagram type can be seen as a variation on the loss of connection with the image of God, and the nine represents in the most direct way one who has fallen asleep to the person God has made her to be. We have all forgotten our true identity as God’s beloved children, and seen through the lens of the Enneagram, there are nine ways of walking through life oblivious to the true nature of the world and our identity in it. In other words, all of us, like type nine, have fallen asleep, but the nine has made forgetfulness and sleepwalking the hallmark of their internal world and their external persona.


Type nine’s personality is animated by its passion—laziness. We generally think of laziness as a refusal to do what it takes to move forward in life. While that might be a superficial symptom of the nine’s passion, the nine’s laziness is fundamentally directed toward themselves. Nines may have a very busy life, both internally and externally, but they are lazy about paying attention to their inner lives. As one Type nine friend admitted to me recently, “I’m always working, but I’m never working towards anything.”

When you have lost track of what is going on inside yourself, the most obvious external symptom will be confusion over which tasks in life are most important. Nines get caught up in many projects (mostly for others). All projects seem equally important and they feel pulled in many directions and they become overwhelmed. When they eventually move forward in life, they tend to follow the path of least resistance. I once asked a nine how she came to decide to remain at the same university for both undergraduate and graduate work. She told me simply, “I was already here.” In conventional terms, she wasn’t lazy at all. On the contrary, she was pursuing a master’s degree in computer science, yet she chose to exert as little as effort as possible within the confines of her graduate school education. Even her choice of words, illustrate the muted, concrete thought-life mentioned above—“I’m already here.” Finally, my friend’s words also illustrate the nine’s preference for things to be easy and non-conflictual. There was something undeniably easy about remaining in the same town and the same university for this young adult.


Nines are not only characterized by the fundamental human condition of forgetting our true identity, they are also especially susceptible to the fundamental source of healing for all humanity—God’s love. Of course, we all need God’s love. For this reason, each of the number-specific balms discussed in the following chapters will be a specific aspect of God’s love. Further, the belief that we are not significant, which exists in all of us from time to time, responds to God’s love in a particularly powerful way. Thus the nine’s balm is in some measure a balm for all of us.

When we know in the deepest, most compelling part of our being that the Creator of the universe is not only love, but the architect of a love-infused reality, we will be saved from the dread of our own insignificance. If God has created a loving world, then we are set free to experience our significance. If God’s love can capture our imaginations, perhaps we can begin to perceive our world through a radically reformed filter, one that dares to imagine our identity as God’s beloved child.

Scripture tells us we are beloved of God. Personally, I’m not sure these words mean anything to me most days. I grew up in a loving home and went to church where I heard of God’s love often. I heard about God’s love before I understood the pain of neglect, rejection, betrayal or hatred. For me “God’s love” was a trite, passé phrase before it ever landed in the tender wound created by my felt absence of love. If you are like me, you might want to stop, take a deep breath, place yourself in Jesus’ shoes. Place yourself, if you can, in a memory where you felt insignificant as you read this scene from the Gospel of Matthew:

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”(3:13-17).

What the Father says of the Son is also true of you. You are God’s beloved child. This is the most real thing about you. It means you matter.[i]

Notice how God’s presence comes upon Jesus as a dove. These gentle creatures symbolize what nines desire most: peace. In the Hebrew Scriptures, a dove brings an olive branch back to Noah, signaling the end of the flood and a sign of the peace to come. These scriptural moments remind us that, contrary to common perception, God originally created a peaceful world born of love.

God’s presence also descends upon Jesus as a gentle light. The Son of God himself experienced God’s love as the gentle energy, perhaps not that different than the gentle energy nines seek to embody. Jesus says of himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). The Gospel of Luke describes the coming Christ as evidence of “the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:77-79, italics mine). Notice the promise, the use of a gentle morning light for those who seek and embody a gentle energy, guidance for those who struggle with priorities and the promise of peace for nines who value harmony above all else.

[i]Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming(New York: Doubleday, 1994).