Categorizing our world is an embedded practice in our lives more than we think.
As we go to the library to find a book, discuss different animal species with our kids, browse the paint swatches at the local home improvement store, garden in the backyard with different kinds of seeds, or study systematic theology, we begin to realize that it’s almost impossible to live without classifying the gifts God has given us.
The Enneagram is helpful in the same way. Yes, it could feel “boxy” if we are rigid about the labels, but with wings, stances, and paths of “integration” and “disintegration” the Enneagram is the most dynamic tool currently available.
Christian Enneagram author Marilyn Vancil notes that the personality Types of the Enneagram should be viewed like the primary colors of the color wheel. We start with primary colors, then secondary colors, and mixing those leads to an infinite amount of hues and shades.
Creating a distinction between the personality types helps us to remember that we all see the world differently. Pastor Andy Stanley, when interviewing Ian Cron on his leadership podcast, explained that the reason he thought Enneagram categories were helpful for his staff team is that it was a reminder that there are “9 Normals.”
All of us naturally think that the way we see the world is “normal” and forget that there are other ways to see the world that we hadn’t previously thought about. The Enneagram allows us to take off our individual lenses and try on someone else’s, hopefully leading us to hold our perspectives with more humility and interact with others more empathically.
For example, my wife, as a Type Six Loyalist, sees potential danger everywhere through her lens, whereas mine only has an “optimism” shade. This is why, for example, the process of buying homes has been so problematic for us in the past: where I see potential, she sees problems. But the Enneagram has helped me to put on Lindsey’s lens and see the situation differently. Whereas I once was skeptical of her “pessimism,” I’ve now learned to happily embrace her protective personality. It’s saved me more than a few times.
Where the Enneagram can lead to pain and hurt is when we say to someone, “I know you’re a Two” or “You are being such a Six” or “You did that because you’re an Eight.”
Remember, don’t put people “in a box” but rather remind them of their identity in Christ.