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Coming to Terms with the Enneagram

Updated: Jun 22, 2018

from The Enneagram Institute

My Enneagram journey started in 2008 when I was beginning my graduate work at Wheaton College. As part of our personal spiritual formation work, we took an in-depth assessment. It was one of the many tools we used that semester to deepen our self-awareness, discover new spiritual practices, and draw close to God.

To be honest, I was frustrated from the beginning—even as I took the assessment. I had loved doing the other assessments and exercises, but this one was different. While the questions for Myers-Briggs and even DISC were focused on strengths and interests—Which of these do you enjoy more? Which are you stronger at?—the questions for the Enneagram felt much more vulnerable and invasive, touching on fears and tendencies I didn’t necessarily want to admit.

When I finished, the results were more than clear: I was an 8. I set to reading through the insights provided as part of my assessment. I’ll never forget that first page. There was a small picture of a man behind a podium, his fist banging on the top. The Enneagram Institute describes type 8, also known as The Challenger, this way: “The powerful, dominating type: self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.” Something within me recoiled—this couldn’t be me. This assessment must be wrong! I thought. It was like looking into a mirror and only seeing the parts of me that I was most ashamed of, the parts I was most trying to hide. For years, I’d fought the image of being too loud, too brash, too dominating, too outspoken, too much—and this description threw it all back in my face.

Thus began a season of denying my Enneagram number. It lasted until 2015—a full 7 years. In that time, God did a big work in me. I found my voice again and began using it for the benefit of others—speaking against injustices, encouraging those who had been pushed down, and communicating clearly about important spiritual practices and ideas. I also gained some self-awareness and emotional intelligence along the way. I started to learn that being loud and outspoken and straightforward could be used for good and that those qualities weren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves. So when I happened upon my Enneagram results one day while cleaning out some old files, I was intrigued and re-read the results.

To my surprise, this time the description read like a dear friend who knew me inside and out lovingly telling me my strengths and potential blind spots. I could see how my intuitive tendencies could be used for railroading people or for building them up and righting wrongs—and it all depended on whether I allowed God to guide my steps. I could see my natural strengths of seeing the gap between the way things are and they way they should be, and I could see that my natural tendency of questioning the status quo could lead to helpful change. I was maturing in the “how” and “when” of my questioning, but I was embracing the fact that the questions themselves weren’t bad. And there are a lot of well-known 8s that prove that good can come from these gifts, including Martin Luther King, Indira Gandhi, and Winston Churchill.

Today I’m a proud 8, though if I meet people who are surprised by my number, I thank them. After all, 8s can get a bad rap, especially female 8s—women simply aren’t supposed to be the strong, outspoken type. So when someone is surprised by my number, I take it as a compliment, knowing that God has worked on filing down the rough edges that 8s are sometimes known for.

One of my favorite parts of the Enneagram is the way it explains the levels of development presented for each type. These nine levels quickly illustrate what your particular number looks like when you’re healthy or unhealthy. Once you’ve pinpointed where you’re at, you can actively work toward growing into the next level of health and maturity. In this way, the Enneagram serves not only as a mirror for self-awareness, but also a path for spiritual growth.

If you want to find out more about the Enneagram and your type, I invite you to attend our Intro Enneagram Workshop on July 14. Whether you’re brand-new to the Enneagram or you’ve already discovered your type, you’ll walk away with great insights from this workshop.

As a supplement to the workshop, you can also learn more about the Enneagram through these helpful books:

The Road Back to You: A thorough explanation of each type in an easy-to-read format

The Path Between Us: A guide to healthy relationships once you know your type

The Sacred Enneagram: Type descriptions with a focus on spiritual growth

Amy Jackson is founder and director of The Perch.

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