I have taken nearly every personality test there is: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, StrengthsFinder 2.0, DISC profile, Hogan Personality Inventory, The Birkman Method, Kolbe Index, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, True Colors, and the list goes on. I’ve even taken the Rorschach Inkblot Test for extra measure!
So when it came to my own self-knowledge, I thought I was pretty highly self-aware.
Then I discovered the Enneagram. At first, I thought it was just another personality test. Yet the more I read and studied the Enneagram, the more I came to believe that it was a tool unlike any other I had come across before. It’s not uncommon for people to feel as though personality profiles often stereotype or pigeonhole people into “boxes” (see my last post for more about this). But the wisdom of the Enneagram shows us that we are not our personality types.
The Enneagram is the journey, not the destination
The final destination of the Enneagram is not to “know your type.” In fact, when you discover your type, the journey has just begun. That means self-awareness is not the primary goal of the Enneagram. Rather, self-awareness is the gateway to spiritual transformation that leads to greater wholeness by being reconciled to yourself, your neighbors, and to God.
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, the theologian and pastor John Calvin writes about this phenomenon: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess … consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” He goes on to say that “the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.”
It can expose your sin
But becoming self-aware is rarely a pleasant experience. The Enneagram exposes what the Apostle Paul calls your “old self” (other names might include shadow side, false self, blind spots, or deadly sin).
As author and seminary professor Chuck DeGroat once tweeted, “The Enneagram has people of all stripes talking about besetting sin patterns. Can you imagine that? It takes sin far more seriously than any contemporary psychological tool. …Is it perfect? No. …But can it reach a new generation with accessible language and invitations to repentance and surrender? Absolutely. You might just find Jesus when you didn’t think you were looking.”
The Holy Spirit can use the Enneagram for sanctification
But the Enneagram doesn’t end with just revealing your unique compulsions and root sin. It also shows you the path toward greater wholeness and healing. It doesn’t just call out your “old self”; it helps you put on your “new self.”
In their book Becoming Us, Beth and Jeff McCord emphasize this same truth: “If you hear nothing else, please hear this: The Enneagram is an insightful tool, but the Gospel is the transformation.”
The Enneagram is a simply a tool, albeit a powerful one. When used in conjunction with Scripture as our map, the Holy Spirit as our guide, and Christian community as our companion, it can help you to live in the freedom of being the person God created you to be, instead of reacting to people and situations out of the default impulses of your “old self.”
Is your heart a mystery to you?
Are you trying to figure out how the gospel might reveal your heart’s core motivation to make a real difference in living as a beloved child of God? Join the upcoming online course Enneagram Made Simple: Transforming the Way You Live, Love, and Lead. This eight-session course is for anyone who wants to use the Enneagram to know yourself better, improve the quality of your relationships, and discover more fully the person God created you to be.
Sung Kim is the founder and lead pastor of Grace Church, a multisite church based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that is reaching a young, diverse, and progressive population in and around the University of Michigan. He is also the Chief Operating Officer for the Reformed Church in America. Previously, he led the RCA's leadership development ministry. He is a certified Enneagram coach, church planting trainer, and CoreStrengths facilitator. He is an ordained minister of Word and sacrament in the RCA. You can connect with him by email at email@example.com.