I’ve been reluctant to admit it too publicly, but I’ve been exploring a personality typing system called the Enneagram. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It divides people into nine basic types and identifies the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of each one.
There are other systems, of course. You may have heard of Myers-Briggs; Taylor-Johnson; StrengthsFinder; DiSC Assessment—the list is lengthy. Seems like everybody is at least a little curious to know about themselves. Just why do I do what I do? That question could be unhealthy if it causes me to become self-absorbed and self-centered. On the other hand, to be self-aware isn’t such a bad thing. John Calvin, in his Institutes proposed that “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God” and then went on to suggest that the converse was also true. The point being that when kept in balance, self-knowledge is probably a good thing. It keeps me from operating on impulse without knowing why.
So, back to the Enneagram…
Let me go on record: For me this thing is disconcertingly accurate. Somebody crawled into my head and took detailed notes about what was going on in there, assigned a number to it and published it for all the world to see. If that feeling is likely to bother you, then don’t explore the enneagram. I’m a nine, by the way, and looking for a cure (I’m kinda kidding. I think…).
The reason I bring it up is that it might be helpful to the church. How? Simply this: If God has created us with personalities, He must know how they all work best together. Maybe if we understood ourselves better we might be able to navigate the relationships that are required of us in the close-knit community that the church is supposed to be.
Look at it this way. Jesus was the fullest embodiment of all the personality types. God the Son would have all the types in proper proportion and manifest them in the proper way at the proper time. Jesus is the complete man—the perfect ‘one through nine.’ He would have been the best reflection of the love of His Father (Enneagram 2); the compassion of God (Enneagram 4); the perfection of the Father (Enneagram 1, the reformer); the peace of God (Enneagram 9, the peacemaker); the joy of God (Enneagram 7, the enthusiast) and on it goes. None of us can claim to have that same fullness packaged in our hearts.
Apparently, we tend to have one of the pieces. It is as though when Jesus ascended to the Father, He sent His Spirit to implant in us a facet of His personality; a small reflection of Him–a piece of the mirror– for us to discover and then polish to its full luster. If we can do that as the community of the church we can reflect the personality of Jesus together. Without each other, the image of God in the world is incomplete. As Paul remarked, “we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory into glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Could these words apply to us collectively; to the church?
Sadly, most of us are not aware enough of ourselves to see how important we are to the Imago Dei in the church. We function out of habit without recognizing the strengths we have and without being wary of the weaknesses. Perhaps this is where these personality systems can help. Maybe as we learn about ourselves, we can present a clear image of our part of the character and personality of Jesus. If we all do that, then together we can reflect Him so the world can see Jesus in real time.
There are numerous Enneagram assessment tools on the internet. Not all of them come at it from a Christian perspective, but many do.