The {Less Travelled} Road Back to You // Lessons from the Enneagram

I’ve been quiet over here – it’s summer, you know. But while I haven’t been writing, I have been reading and listening and thinking.

You know our ultimate dual-mandate: to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves? I’ve long considered this a three-pronged mission. For we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. If we hate ourselves, what capacity do we have to love others? Unlearning a negative view of self is a life-long process, and imperative to aligning with Jesus’ best.

And it seems to me we must understand ourselves in order to love ourselves. The true nature of Rachel that God knit together in my mother’s womb is something I want to embrace fully. In other words, I want to be the best version of myself. Healthy, whole, walking down an ever-brightening path. (A beautiful tandem of becoming students of our own hearts is that we also grow in our understanding of others, able to extend grace and freedom instead of judgment and unforgiveness; able to make God famous by the ways we love each other.)

For this reason, I’m a big fan of studying personality types. DISC, Myers-Briggs, Flag Page, Life Languages, what your favorite 80s sitcom says about you, whatever. Love me some online quizzes. So last year when I started hearing about the Enneagram, I was immediately intrigued.

The Enneagram is a game-changer. Reading through the nine type descriptions and listening to The Road Back to You podcast the last few months, I am still narrowing in on the type descriptions that best fit me and my husband. I’m even planning on buying the book (drastic, I know)!

I resonate with the Helper (type 2: caring, interpersonal people-pleaser) and the Individualist (type 4: introspective, overly-sensitive lover of beauty). Enneagram descriptors show how you operate in times of growth and times of distress, providing rich insights into each type. Interestingly, 2s lean toward 4-ness in growth, and 4s lean toward 2-ness in distress. According to these descriptions, I’m either a 2 living the dream, or a 4 having a hard time. I hope to God it’s the latter. (Surely this makes me a 4.)

They say that women in the South are often pigeon-holed into Two-ness by culture. Same thing for women reared in traditional church settings. The Individualist in me hears this and jumps up, raising both hands, almost squealing in delight… then punching in anger.

I’ll save women in the church for another day.

Personally, this tool is helping me untangle a difficult year in surprising ways. In the process I am discovering a clearer picture of who I’m created to be and what I have to give the world.

We often ask the question, “what does the world need from me?” (Or maybe only 2s ask that question?) Holding a deep love for the church, I also ask, “what does the church need from me?”

It occurs to me that’s an unhealthy question.

Particularly if I’m a 4, the better question is: “What do I have inside me, and what beauty can I make of it?” I find immense freedom in this; in considering not the end consumers, but the initial treasure and its innate value. In remembering I am more than what I do, more than what people see me do. I am more than a second-class servant, more than a housewife, more than a coordinator. I don’t have to bend myself into being helpful just because that’s what the culture expects from me. Whoops! I am getting into what I said I’d save for another day. 

Here’s what I’m realizing: it’s not about what people need from me, because whatever I give they will consume it all, and either praise me or ignore me, and both would be unhealthy in my current state. Also, I am really good at making myself into whatever or whoever people need. A skill I’d like to unlearn, because there will always be immense need, and spending myself on something that isn’t really me is no way to live.

I’d much rather live out of my true self, and trust that God will be meeting needs through me in beautiful ways. I long to know His pleasure not for what I do, but for who I am… for I am His, and He is mine.

If you are still reading and that makes any sense to you, let’s meet at the pool one afternoon and talk through it all! 🙂

 

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