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
Elizabeth Wagele, The Enneagram of Parenting