What’s Your Number? {Book Club}

My family gathered a few days after Christmas from all different directions to celebrate together. We played games, laughed and talked and shared gifts over the course of two wonderful days. Our conversations turned to personality, and we stayed up late one night comparing our different Enneagram types, digging deep into how our numbers manifest in daily life. Those who did not yet know their number took a test online to find out, and the conversations continued over meals and down-time moments. Some of us came alive, sharing our favorite Instagram posts and asking questions or sharing experiences. Others got into the discussion for awhile, but then felt like the Enneagram had rather overstayed its welcome.

If you identify with either one of those experiences of loving personality discussions or not so much, I hope you will find your place this month as we discuss The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Don’t give up just because you don’t want to be put in a box, or can’t figure out your type. We need each of you, to help us understand your perspective and remind us of the beauty and diversity of the ways God has formed us and how He continues to do so.

If you have read this far and are wondering what in the world all this Enneagram talk is about, no fear. This week we are reading chapters 1-2 which provide an excellent introduction and explanation. Here’s a quick overview given by Cron and Stabile: “The Enneagram teaches that there are nine different personality styles in the world, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type or number has a distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves.”

Motivation is a pretty key word in that description. As you get to know the different types and examine your own life, don’t just look at what you do. What spurs your daily actions and decisions? These underlying fears and passions and motivations can help point you to your type.

Let me interject here with a little of my story. I LOVE anything related to personality typing and have found a lot of freedom in my self-discovery journey. When I first figured out my Enneagram number (from reading this book by the way), I only saw the negative. Really, does that have to be my type? But at that time I was really an unhealthy version of my type, which is something we’ll look at as we go along. One of the things that I need to hold on to, and what I want to give you as well is this gift: no type is better or worse than another. Even at our worst, we are valuable and worthy. Sure, there might be some important growth that needs to take place. There’s space for that too, and that’s one of the beautiful things about a journey with the Enneagram.

The authors add in a few more tools to help understand the Enneagram and find your type, which include traids and wings. Triads break the types down into three sections, and helps us understand how we experience or process life. When you encounter new information or a new situation, do you turn to your gut, your heart or your head? Wings describe the number on either side of your type and are sort of like salt and pepper. They don’t change your main type, but add in a little flavor, and I think this is part of what adds so much diversity to the Enneagram. Sure you and your friend might both be type 9s, but one might add in some of type 8 as their wing and the other more of type 1.

This week let’s all pay attention. Maybe your know your type already and maybe you don’t, but don’t rush the process. Set aside some intentional time to pause and reflect- what motivated you to make that choice or move in a certain direction? From the brief description of all nine types in chapter two (pages 25-26 in the print book), was there one that sounded most like you? Is there something about that type that delights you? Or makes you feel uncomfortable?

Feel free to share in the comments, and let’s make this space a place of grace and encouragement! What stuck out to you from these first two chapters? What questions do you have that we need to talk about as we go through the next few weeks?

Photo by Paul Bergmeir on Unsplash

Here’s the plan for the rest of the month:

January 15- Chapters 3-5

January 22- Chapters 6-8

January 29- Chapters 9-12


  1. Ruth January 7, 2019

    I find personal quality tests really interesting, and each one has helped me be more self aware in different ways. Enneagram has so far been the least helpful, but that may be because I encountered it last. That said, rereading this book will probably help me. I’m a one with a pretty strong 9 wing. But his comment in one of these introductory chapters to think about yourself when you were 20 is really helpful to me (and I think I missed it on the first read). Because I was a much stronger one then–I had much higher expectations for myself! I’ve learned some things since then and so (thankfully) don’t feel the negative side as strongly (or maybe, I’m better at telling those voices to be quiet).

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Ruth, thanks for sharing your thoughts and journey with us! I hope there can be some new nuggets that you glean reading this book again! Next week we’ll be talking about types 1 and 9 (and 8) so it will be great to get your perspective!

    2. Abigail Zhao January 9, 2019

      That’s really cool, Ruth. I’m definitely a 1 from reading the book and some descriptions, though at first it felt so negative, like am I really such an angry person. But it helps to realize it’s just my motivations. I don’t know my wing yet. I started reading the book during Christmas break, and couldn’t help finishing it already.? The Instagram enneagramandcoffee gives some fun insights.

      1. JOCELYN V January 12, 2019

        I’m a 1w2 and have also found it helpful to realize there is more depth to my anger that needs investigating. As I’ve observed myself and thought through different situations I have realized the shame that Ones often feel at our imperfections and how it leads me to anger. Also the impatience I fight because I value “doing things the right way” or doing things well.. The enneagram really just puts words to many emotions and thoughts I’ve had floating around for years but never quite been able to connect.

        1. Sarah Hilkemann January 12, 2019

          Jocelyn, thanks for sharing this experience! I hope you will continue to find freedom and grace as you discover the amazing intricacies of your creation by God.

  2. Jill January 7, 2019

    I started reading about Enneagram a few years ago. I too have done a bunch of different personality type things. But since I switched from a long time role in financial services to cross-cultural life as a missionary, I felt like I wasn’t sure who I was. And most personality tests left me thinking “I know banker Jill was like this, but who is this new Jill, in a new environment”. The Enneagram has been so helpful for me, to understand how I think and what motivates me. And I love that Enneagram shows you how you can be when you are healthy. It was also helpful for me in how I relate to others. For example: Previously I encountered other people who were work-aholics like me, I assumed I knew why they were work-aholics, or that their motivations were the same as mine. And now I better understand that each Enneagram type does actions for different reasons. It has helped me judge others less, and have more compassion on myself and others.

    Can’t wait to read this book again along with all of you.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Jill, these are great insights!! I totally get what you are saying about understanding yourself in one role versus your cross-cultural role. I’m figuring out the same thing just who I am back in my passport country. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts as we go forward!

  3. Michele January 7, 2019

    I’m still trying to figure out my type, and have been remembering my early twenties and trying to take online freebie tests from that perspective. I’ve been looking into it for around 7 or 8 months now, listening to Ian Crohn’s podcast (which I recommend, btw), and one thing I’m beginning to learn is how much I’ve changed in the past 25 years. I’m looking forward to the discussions here and hope to find my type and a better understanding of myself and others this month!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Michele, I’m so glad you are joining the conversation and pressing on in the journey of self-discovery, even if you don’t have it all figured out yet. It would be interesting to know if life overseas for an extended period of time affects our typing, if we have to adapt and play a number of roles that would outside our comfort zone. It will be interesting to see what we all discover together as we go along!

  4. Rachel Kahindi January 8, 2019

    I haven’t read much about the enneagram – and I think I first heard about it here at the Velvet Ashes blog. I have figured out that I’m a 9, but that’s about it! I’m interested to read about the healthy, average, and unhealthy sides of personality.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Rachel, I hope this is a fun exploration experience for you! We’ll be talking about type 9 next week and I’ll be curious to see what you think! ?

  5. Karen January 8, 2019

    I’ve read about, taknen a course on and discussed the Enneagram for several years. I think it is full of helpful and encouraging insights, but have been overwhelmed at the amount of information for each type! I’ve set it aside each time thinking – later. With this group to journey with, I think the time is now. I found reading the first three (I know I read ahead!) understandable, accessible and helpful!
    I’m a Seven with an 8 wing. I find it really helpful to recall the levels – healthy, average and unhealthy – as I read, assimilate and try to understand. I’ve been getting daily Enneagram snipits for Sevens for several months and am pleased that I find myself in a healthier state than in my younger years! Proof of maturing and growth as it were! That’s encouraging to me.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Karen, I definitely understand that it can feel overwhelming! I hope doing it with this group won’t feel that way. ?

  6. Carolyn January 8, 2019

    I love the enneagram and have found it to be very useful in team and marriage dynamics. But, like you said, there are a few on our team who would like me to just shut up already about it, so I’m looking forward to reading and discussing it here.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Carolyn, yes, this is a free zone for Enneagram talk!! ? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  7. Kara January 8, 2019

    When I first came across the Enneagram in my 20s I really disliked it, all I could see was the negatives and how bad it made me feel. Thirty years later I think I am finally ready to understand and this book has had the best introductions that I have come across. In fact, I read the whole book this week.

    When I read the summaries of each type I was sure I was a 6, but when I got to that chapter it most definitely was NOT me. Eventually after a few hours of looking and re-reading I went back and looked at the descriptions of how each type sess themselves and realised that I am a 4 with a 3 wing. It was like something clicked and I saw and understood more of what the author meant when he described 4s. It will be interesting to think more about this over the next few weeks.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Kara, I’m so glad the book has been so helpful!! It will be fun to have your perspective as we move through each week.

  8. Lisa O'Brien January 8, 2019

    I’ve heard about Enneagram for awhile, and have had some friends really into. For some reason I had kind of rejected even looking into it. I don’t know why exactly…maybe my general opposition of fads? Even so, I was curious. Plus, living as an expat, I feel like I have changed, and don’t always recognize myself compared to who I was when I was younger and in my home country. Despite all the personality tests I’ve taken and administered over the years, I thought it couldn’t hurt to explore this. Afterall, it may give me some insight into these changes with time, experience, and environment. So, when I saw it was coming up for the book club, and my brother sent me an Amazon gift card for Christmas, I decided to dive in. I’m excited to keep exploring and understanding more as we read!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Lisa, I totally get you on the fad thing! I was so surprised when I read the Enneagram is really old. ? I am so glad you are reading along and I hope it will be helpful!

  9. Karen January 8, 2019

    I enjoy personality tests and thinking about these things, even though I’m still not sure that one of these descriptions necessarily fits me (I can see 2, 3, or 6 as possibilities, especially when I try to think back to when I was 20!). Using personality tests has helped me a lot to understand my co-workers and clients … I try to look back at them quite regularly to remind me how to approach a particular person (does this person tend to like lots of details? Do I need to start with the big picture? etc.). I liked this author’s statement that who we REALLY are is the person God created, and that these “personalities” are more like our preferred coping mechanisms, coming from a sinful nature and in a sinful world. That makes a lot of sense. I do think that among these options, I have tried several of the different sinful options at different times, which leads to my identifying with different numbers, but anyway, I do think there is a lot to learn here, whether I am entirely one “type” or not.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Karen, that’s definitely a good reminder- that we are sinful people coping with a sinful world! I’m just thankful that God gave us the gift of diversity, even it means doing the hard work of understanding each other. ?

  10. Bayta Schwarz January 8, 2019

    I love personality tests and have a few friends who rave about Enneagram. I’d been wanting to find out more for a while so was very excited when this book was chosen for book club! Right now, I’m a bit frustrated as the book is taking a loooong time to arrive 🙁 Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be able to catch up!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 8, 2019

      Bayta, that’s too bad that your book is taking so long to arrive! Just jump in when you can! ?

  11. Elizabeth January 8, 2019

    I read this book about six months ago and am excited to reread it with this group and follow the discussions. I think I am a 6 but not 100% sure so looking forward to exploring this again and hopefully be able to learn more about the enneagram and myself along the way!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2019

      Elizabeth, so glad to have you along for the journey! I am gaining a lot from re-reading the book this month and I hope you will too! 🙂

  12. Regina Chari January 9, 2019

    I have SO many thoughts. I read this book a while ago… soon after it came out. I have had a LOVE/HATE relationship with the enneagram. As a therapist, I LOVE it. I find it surprisingly accurate and so helpful in terms of moving into healthy behavior. I am an 8 with a very strong 7 wing. So strong in fact that it took a long time to type. In tests I score even EVERY TIME for 7 and 8. Ian and a few others have been so helpful in getting to the motivations (and therefore the type.)

    That being said… I didn’t want to be an 8. I love how Ian talks about 8’s — as he loves so many women 8’s and is very gracious with us. So clearly I would have preferred to be a 7 🙂 But alas, I am an 8.

    This has helped me immensely to understand some of my struggles (especially within the church) and why i am so often left feeling misunderstood.

    I am so thrilled to have a chance to read this again and to talk about it, especially in terms of serving cross culturally.

    1. Abigail Zhao January 9, 2019

      That’s really cool, Ruth. I’m definitely a 1 from reading the book and some descriptions, though at first it felt so negative, like am I really such an angry person. But it helps to realize it’s just my motivations. I don’t know my wing yet. I started reading the book during Christmas break, and couldn’t help finishing it already.? The Instagram enneagramandcoffee gives some fun insights.

    2. Abigail Zhao January 9, 2019

      Regina, that’s fascinating. I think I might know my husband’s type, but he’s not interested in Enneagram right now so not pushing it. Just curious. ? I would guess the church tends to value certain types more than others. I’m just beginning to,find the insights helpful, as a strong 1. It’s interesting that my sister is an 8, and her husband a 9. We’re all in the Anger Triad. Can’t wait to discuss insights from this book with everyone!

    3. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2019

      Regina, thank you for sharing this journey with us! I definitely understand that initial feeling of not wanting to be your type. And yet there can be freedom and grace as we press in deeper to understand the intricacies in God’s creation of each of us. As I’ve been reading the chapter on 8s (which we’ll talk about next week) I’ve been impressed and feel the authors help me understand the gifts that I hadn’t seen before- I’ll just be honest, 8s usually intimidate me! 🙂 But we need you, and your strong 7 wing, and your perspective and wisdom.

  13. Elizabeth Roettele January 11, 2019

    I love the Enneagram! It needs to be said that it is NOT a personality test.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 12, 2019

      Elizabeth, that’s definitely a valid point! I hope you’ll continue to join our discussion as we go along.

  14. Phyllis January 13, 2019

    I think I first heard about the Enneagram on Velvet Ashes. VA comments helped me figure out my type. I read the Rohr book and listened to some of Ian Cron’s podcasts. Then I kind of left it. I hate to be a downer, but I’m coming into this book a bit skeptical. I read/heard so much about how the Enneagram is better than other personality tests, it helps you grow and become more healthy, etc. I haven’t seen that. Of course, I’m open to finding it, maybe in this read….

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 13, 2019

      Hi Phyllis, thanks for your honesty! There is no perfect personality profile, and the Enneagram is hopefully a helpful tool in the journey- but it also doesn’t have to be! I hope you will continue to join in the discussion as we go along!

  15. Heather January 15, 2019

    I am about a week behind, sorry, but I’m making it! A short-term visitor gifted this book to us when they visited last fall and I was excited to see it was the VA pick, I’ve only participated twice before. I find I am starting this book with such mixed up feelings about myself. Living nearly seven years cross-culturally in a culture I struggle to embrace, I’ve felt I’ve lost myself. I am looking forward to reading on. We are approaching a major transition back to the States and I feel I need this self-awareness in order to survive it and in order to return to the field and not make the same mistakes. I’m afraid that I’m type three, the performer, and it seems like a terrible mix with the call I feel to missions. Looking forwrd to a deeper understanding and hoping to also see the positives.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 15, 2019

      Heather, you are welcome to join the discussion whenever you can! I’m glad you are reading along with us. 🙂

      Thanks for your honesty about where you are emotionally as you read! My hope is that as you learn more about Type 3s and the gifts that you bring, it will be life-giving rather than discouraging. I look forward to what the Father shows you, especially in this season as you get ready to transition, and hope you’ll share that journey with us.

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