To Thine Self Be true
“We are made for transcendence and endless horizons, but our small ego usually gets in the way until we become aware of its petty preoccupations and eventually seek a deeper truth. It is like mining for a diamond.” -Richard Rohr
This Summer, I was introduced for the first time to the enneagram, and I am feeling inspired! For all of you novitiates to the enneagram, it is an ancient personality tool that encourages self-awareness both of ourselves and the people we do life with. Many of us are hesitant to investigate who we truly are for fear that the person we project in the world won’t match up with the one God knows us to be at our core. My introduction to the enneagram came in the form of the New York Times bestseller, The Road Back To You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Apparently, Parnassus Bookshop cannot keep the book on their shelves. I could literally write a dozen blog posts on the enneagram. If there were 25 hours in a day, I would set up a booth on my street corner with the sole purpose of matching people to their destined number because I believe the enneagram not only can help us smooth out our own rough edges and invite more understanding and health in our intimate relationships with family, colleagues or friends, but also I believe in the search to discover ourselves, we find God!
Following is a rudimentary lesson on the enneagram. At its most basic, it is a geometric diagram of nine interconnected personalty types. We each have one number or personality type that calls to us the loudest. It is believed that your unique and destined personality was set by the age of five. Our personality is the vehicle from which we engage with the world; good, bad and ugly! We are assigned a “wing” number that sits either to the right or left of our primary number on the diagram. We share many of the same personality traits with our wing number. The arrow pointing away from our number (oh so revelatory and humbling) is who we “shapeshift” into when we are under stress. Woe to us and anyone who crosses our path when we are meeting the world from that number. And finally, the arrow that points toward us is the number we become when we are operating from our best self.
For an introduction to where you most likely fall on the diagram, take this easy short test. It may be helpful for your spouse, parent or close friend to also take the test for you. Answer questions with the first thing that comes to mind. The test will give the top three possible numbers that line up with your personality.
After taking the test, go to https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions for a quick intro to your personality type. You can study the diagram for your wing, stress and happy number.
I see the enneagram as a tool to cut through the red tape or patterns that have been set over the years, whether through heartbreak, disappointments, or necessary coping mechanisms. The goal is to become so intimately aware of who you are and figure out what is required of you to live the best version of you. Or better said, who God knows you to be. I love what the spiritual seeker in 2 John 2:2, says “There is a truth that lives within us that will always be us.” With the enneagram’s help, we pull back the curtain on our unique personality, celebrate our strengths, study our flaws, and are made aware of what we do under stress. With great spiritual discipline, we figure out how we can be the healthiest and most peacefully-grounded version of our number. Ultimately, God is looking for a human being who is fully alive, vibrant and love-focused. I admire how the poet Laura Esquivel articulates the divine task set before us, “To dream while awake, to keep watch asleep, to live while dying, and to know ourselves already resurrected.”
It has become so apparent to me that I cannot expect to have a flourishing spiritual life unless I have something solid to build upon. That has to be my soul. My ego is, to borrow from the Gospel of Matthew, a house built on sand. The goal is to strip ourselves down to what Thomas Merton calls our “secret beauty” and then live from that sweet space.
When we function at our best, we give ‘human’ a good name. We dream. We hope. We enjoy life. We are love. Our lives shine with purpose and meaning. But let’s face it, we all have a membership card in the communion of saints and sinners. We are a work in progress, a resurrection waiting to happen, a caterpillar on the verge of flight. What I have learned in the enneagram is the limits of my ego and how if allowed, it will blight out the facility of my soul. St. Paul’s words in the Epistle to the Romans often rings true in my ears, “So often I do not what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” The problem is who drives my truck: my soul or my ego. To truly live means a constant letting go of what no longer serves us so we can live freely and abundantly.
I adore what St. Catherine said, “My deepest me is God.”
The enneagram is a bit like mining for gold. First, we must recognize with gratitude our unique personality. It is God-given. Celebrate it, while also mindful that it is flawed. If we are not careful our ego can overshadow our shimmering self. We must metaphorically put on our boots and get down into the muck of who we are, knowing that somewhere underneath it all, we will find a golden nugget. Studying my enneagram, it was revelatory to see my default under stress. I can allow circumstances and frustrations to dim who I am and diminish the relationships that are most important to me.
So how do we excel in our number? We turn to spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. We invest in self-care in times of stress. We practice humility and ask for forgiveness when we slip up. We lean into God for answers because no one knows us like the Beloved or has more invested in our meaningful life here on earth.
I hope you experience as many “a-ha” moments about yourself as I have. Not only is this exercise helpful for yourself, but illuminative for your marriage, your parenting and your spiritual growth!
Live in Hope,
P.S. Can you guess my number?