formation friday: enneagram love (and hate)

kathyescobar formation friday, healing, identity, spiritual formation, the refuge 46 Comments

rwandan proverb for enneagram

i know so many people despise personality tools. they hate how they put us in boxes and label us and limit us.  i get that, but i think they can be really helpful tools to better understand ourselves, too. a few years ago i intersected with the enneagram, which in some christian circles is considered somehow taboo because of its jungian roots, but i can honestly say that out of all of the personality tests i have ever taken it has been the most helpful–and the most annoying. if you haven’t taken it before, there’s a free test available on the enneagram website. the free one might not be the most accurate but it’s a good start. i’m not saying it’s the end-all and the be-all, but  in terms of spiritual formation and personal transformation, the ennegram can be an amazing tool.

but it also sucks.

here’s why:  it somehow nails the potentially destructive, dark parts of us in a way that cuts right down to the truth. there’s no skipping around how it “reads our mail” and busts us on the ways we try to cope with pain and relationship with others and the world.

this is exactly why i think it’s such an incredible spiritual formation tool.

it’s amazing how much resistance exists in the church to healing & self-awareness & honesty. honestly, i think we’re scared of it and would much rather stay on the surface than dig into the depths of our heart together. but God’s pretty clear that our hearts really matter–clean cups on the outside is not the point.

the biggest questions leaders have asked me over the years are centered around “when are people going to get healed and move on?” and “why are we talking about our problems when there’s work to do in the church?”

here’s why:  we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  

and there’s an awful lot of us running around in the church who are truly disconnected from ourselves. we are fragmented, insecure, and do not feel loved, secure, valued, worthy for all kinds of reasons. and a lot of us have been taught that the best solution for healing was another bible study or to go get fixed by ourselves with a christian counselor or buck up and serve. i am not saying bible studies aren’t so important or that counseling isn’t incredibly valuable or that serving isn’t something we need to do freely. but i do think that when we separate out our personal work from spiritual formation in community, we miss out on so much.

a lot of you already know a ton about the enneagram.  for those of you who don’t, i wanted to share it for this formation friday as a possible tool to consider for ongoing spiritual formation.  it’s also fresh on my mind because every day i get these little “enneathought” emails that continually piss me off because they are so annoyingly true and remind me of how hard it is to become a healthier person over the long haul of our lives. healing & transformation is kingdom work, and it doesn’t just drop out of the sky.  we have to participate. and it usually hurts.

but it’s a good hurt (why does that always make me think of john cougar mellencamp?).

the enneagram isn’t meant to shame us or to highlight all of our imperfections and weaknesses and huge character defects so we’re left flayed open on the table. rather, it’s to help us better integrate these darker parts of ourselves and become more honest about it. what’s in the dark can never be healed, but as it’s brought into the light, transformation can happen. and at the same time, it reminds me of “what could be” in terms of greater health. i look at it this way: as i am becoming formed into a whole person instead of a fragmented one, i am also being more transformed into God’s image.

that’s always been the idea–that God’s spirit would be forming us into our truest selves.   

this transformation can’t happen when we don’t acknowledge important truths about what’s in our dark. our weaknesses, our motivations, our insecurities, our crazy-brains.

and this transformation can’t happen when we don’t acknowledge important truths about our light.  our unique awesomeness, our gifts, our strengths.

also, transformation is always centered on relationship with each other. relationships are the places where we sort out all kinds of stuff that needs sorting. it’s where we stumble & bumble & start & stop & learn & love & fail & succeed & practice & try & learn & learn & learn & learn some more about ourselves, about others, about God.

this summer my amazing friend & life coach/therapist phyllis mathis did a 2 week enneagram workshop for our community. we had a huge turnout of people who truly wanted to engage with it; we learned so much about ourselves and each other in the process.  it’s laid the groundwork for so many other conversations about life together in community.

for our workshop, i created a brief summary chart below that breaks down all of the 9 enneagram types along with some of the different characteristics of each. the enneagram site has far more comprehensive tools. i am a 2, a helper, with a 3-wing, which is the achiever. as i said, this chart inspires deep love-hate feelings! but i have found this summary super helpful, not only just for my own type but also for better understanding my family members, teammates, friends in community.  it has opened me up to so much more grace for myself and for others, too, and to really see the strengths & light in each and also acknowledge the dark.

to download the pdf:


for this formation friday, consider what’s convicting, challenging, hopeful, helpful from what you read.

yep, i love the enneagram, i hate the enneagram.

i’d love to hear your thoughts (and what your enneagram type is!)

have a great weekend.  love, kathy