The Enneagram and Me

The room was dark when I scooped up the scattered shoes and sprinkled them into the bench by the back door. The host of the podcast I was listening to asked the guest what her enneagram number is. With the precise measure of self-deprecation that charms, she answered that she is a Three.

There it is again! What is this thing? Innie-a-what? Where do I go to figure this outie?

I searched the podcast show notes where the hosts had indeed placed an enneagram crumb. I picked it up along with a book (see below). I’m still picking up crumbs. It’s a trail worth following.

Finding My People

Shepherd, my ten-year-old, is intense. He was born wide-eyed and reaching. His energy is boundless, and his drive for stimulation and interaction is bottomless. He’s magnetic, and it’s easy to be drawn into his field.

But him and me? Our poles repelled all too often. I imposed the limits, and he fought them. That looked like defiance on his part and rigidity on mine.

He reached for me first (as he should!) to share his adventures and all his words, but bumped into the bottom of my barrel before he even got the plug secure in his. Impasse. Exhaustion. Fear. Anger. Shame. Repeat.


I didn’t approach the enneagram with this complex relationship in mind, but it quickly became both a mirror and a window.

Bird’s-eye View of the Triads and Types

Ennea means nine in Greek, and gram means point. So an enneagram is simply a nine-pointed figure. In the personality system, each of the nine points represents a unique way of viewing, processing, and interacting with reality.

The numbers are grouped into triads. Each person will be most at home in one number, but the enneagram is dynamic, and the triads help show what’s shared and how.

Heart triad: Twos, Threes, and Fours. The heart is the processing center for your experiences and the seat of your motivation. You feel your way through life.

Two: The Helper. You love, and demonstrate how God is Love. Pride happens when your love gets disordered. Humility is the grace that saves and the fruit you produce when you’re healthy.

Three: The Achiever. You get it done, and demonstrate that God Works. Deceit happens when you become unwilling to fail. Truth is your saving grace and good fruit.

Four: The Individualist. You are creative, and you demonstrate that God is Beautiful. Envy happens when you think others have something fundamental that you are missing. Equanimity is your way home.

Head triad: Fives, Sixes, and Sevens. The mind is your processing center. You think your way through life.

Five: The Observer. You are wise, and you demonstrate and deliver Godly wisdom. Greed happens when you endlessly accumulate knowledge and fail to engage others. Detachment is the grace that allows you to bring treasures out of your storehouse.

Six: The Loyalist. You are faithful, and you prove that God is Faithful. Fear happens when you think of all of the ways the things that you value can fall apart. Courage is your grace and way forward.

Seven: The Enthusiast. You are joyful, and you prove that in God’s hands are pleasures unending. Gluttony happens when you fear you can’t have enough or experience enough. Sobriety is your grace and glory.

Gut triad: Eights, Nines, and Ones. The gut is your processing center. You intuit your way through life.

Eight: The Challenger. You are powerful, and you prove that God is omnipotent. Lust for power happens when you become uncomfortable with your vulnerability. Innocence is your grace and real power.

Nine: The Peacemaker. You are peaceful. Sloth happens when you sense a threat to your calm. Action is your antidote and the way you experience and dispense God’s Peace.

One: The Reformer. You are good, and you prove that God does all things well. Anger happens when you insist on perfection in yourself and others. Serenity is the grace that restores you and allows you to share good things.

The Rest of the Story

I am most at home in One space, and I encounter Shepherd most often in Seven space. When I’m doing my work to take good care of self and soul, which is say, when I am healthy, I am at ease instead of on edge with Shepherd. I can make him laugh first and hardest, and I know now how important that is.

I see love in his eyes when he looks at me, and I have grown from a long-suffering kind of love to deep affection for him and the way God crafted him. When we crash, I can help us both understand what’s happening and what might be the way forward. Shepherd sharpens my iron, but even better than that, he brings me joy.

Are you familiar with the enneagram? If so, what has been your experience with it? If not, are you interested in it? Which crumb will you pick up next?



Alice Fryling, Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram

Christopher L. Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile- The Road Back to You: book and podcast

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson-Book: The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Website: The Enneagram Institute

Elizabeth Wagele, The Enneagram of Parenting


Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash


  1. Lisa O'Brien January 16, 2019

    I love how you broke down each number…beautiful.
    Also, I’m beginning to realize how I’m a One, and how this can be challenging for my kiddos. I felt what you said about you and your son. I still haven’t identified what numbers my boys are, but I’m sensing some of that repelling.
    I’d love to hear any tips you’ve learned as a One Mom of Non-One children!

    1. Kimberly Todd January 16, 2019

      Hi Lisa, reading your comment, two things come to mind.

      We One parents have so many gifts to offer our children, but we often fail to see them because the running internal narrative is tuned to our screw-ups and shortcomings. We know we fail to love our children perfectly, and it feels like the fate of all things hangs on that failure. With me? Gifts: our kids likely live in a relatively clean and/or tidy environment; they likely eat mostly healthy food; they probably have engaged attention and help in their education, homework, and extracurricular activities; they are likely read to regularly; and their questions about the faith are probably answered with care and sincerity. I think when we can gentle the inner critic with some truth-telling about our giftedness, that gentleness gets turned outward to our loved ones, especially the little ones.

      Second, we Ones will burn it all down to be right and preserve what we perceive to be right, true and good. This does not serve us well as parents. When I feel my resentment, resistance, and tension rising, I often take a deep breath (or several) and tap into what my higher value is in that moment. Is it to fight a “good” fight, or to connect with my people? That awareness and simple practice can be a game changer.

      Thanks for being here today.

      1. Lisa O'Brien January 16, 2019

        Thank you SO much for these thoughts! I have already caught myself several times over these past couple of weeks reacting to something (or thinking about reacting to it), then thinking how it is so clearly the negative side of my Oneness coming out. So, now I’m on a quest of recognizing the positives and minimizing my unhealthy reactions/tendencies.
        Thanks again for your insights!

        1. Kimberly Todd January 16, 2019

          A worthy quest. ☝???

          1. Amy Young January 17, 2019

            Kim and Lisa — thank you for the gift of your conversation!

  2. Ruth January 16, 2019

    Kim, I enjoyed reading this! Juliana is also a 7, and I also struggle with getting overwhelmed by her energy and intensity. I remember discussing our oldest children and if we somehow made them that way. ? I guess not. I’m a 4, I discovered. Can you see that in me? I read through all the types and changed my mind about 4 times, but when my friend finally said, “you are definitely a 4 and here are all the reasons why,” I started to see how that was really true. I love how you described it as showing that God is beautiful. ❤️❤️

    1. Kimberly Todd January 16, 2019

      Hi Ruth, I can see you as a 4. How beautiful, and what a good friend you have. I’m curious what number she is with that perceptive analysis. Have you read Alice Fryling’s Mirror for the Soul? She is a spiritual director and a 4 herself. It might be a boon for you.


  3. Danielle Wheeler January 23, 2019

    I’m late in commenting here, but just wanted to say how much I appreciate your insights here, Kim. These may be the most concise yet deep descriptions I’ve read of the types. The Eeneagram really is a gift for parenting. Thanks for helping us all see how.

    1. Kimberly Todd January 23, 2019

      Thanks, Danielle. It would be hard for me to overstate how much learning the enneagram impacts me in my most intimate relationships. ?

  4. Amy July 15, 2019

    I would encourage you to research the roots of the Enneagram. It is pagan and new age. Please do your research.

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