Lately I have been wondering about the kinds of people who fit best into the Christian church, but also pondering the chicken-and-egg scenario: do those who fit best do that because they were naturally that way, or does the church change people-modify people- so that their personality fits better within the church? Since I’m me, I’ve been thinking about this within the context of the Enneagram.
Crash course on the Enneagram (look it up if you’re interested for more info at www.enneagraminstitute.com), though I intend to write more posts later on the types: The Enneagram is a personality typing system with spiritual roots and a whole lot of complexity. There are 9 basic types that are mapped out in a circle with complex lines between them. Each type has a core “sin”/ “passion”/ “issue that it gets stuck on” (if we’re avoiding religious language). This issue can be its greatest weakness, but it also its greatest source of strength once it is worked out. I put the passions in bold so that they stand out. If you recognize your type easily, the passion can definitely have an “ouch” feel to it… but you may also feel very confused about why that passion would result from that type. Don’t worry, I intend to have later posts getting more into that!! (Also, to cite my sources: I use Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso & Hudson, Personality Types by Riso & Hudson, and reference an Enneagram workshop I went to a couple of years ago that was super informative- if you start to get into the Enneagram, I recommend going to a workshop if you can!) The 9 types are divided into three different instinct centers:
- The Gut / Body / Instinctive Center (Types 8, 9, and 1): underlying feeling is anger
- The Heart / Feeling Center (Types 2, 3, and 4): underlying feeling is shame
- The Mind / Head Center (Types 5, 6, and 7): underlying feeling is fear
Here is a picture so you can see how the types connect. (yes, the lines mean something, but that’s for another day!).
Type 1: The “Reformer.” Need to be perfect, right, morally upstanding, self-controlled; can be moralizing and want to impose their superego’s standards on others. Resentment
Type 2: The “Helper.” Need to be needed, to be loving, giving, generous, try to earn love by giving love. Have a hard time letting others take care of them. Pride
Type 3: The “Achiever.” Image-oriented, want to be successful, doers, driven, ladder-climbers. Need to look good / achieve (in any given field, including homemaking!). Vanity
Type 4: The “Individualist.” Introspective, self-absorbed, moody, trying to self-actualize and be true to themselves; amplifies feelings and bases identity on feeling states. Envy
Type 5: The “Investigator.” Need to know (they try to gain security through the knowledge they gain), inquisitive, intellectual, withdrawn, limited energy for others. Avarice (similar to hoarding, greediness)
Type 6: The “Loyalist.” Seek belonging, being part of something bigger than themselves, very committed, anxious/worry about the future, can be either phobic/contra-phobic (acting recklessly to prove to themselves they’re not afraid). Anxiety
Type 7: The “Enthusiast.” Seek to fully experience life through lots of experiences/ keeping busy, avoiding pain, always looking toward what’s next, fun-loving but have trouble settling into the moment. Gluttony
Type 8: The “Challenger.” Need to be in control/ not be controlled, independent / reluctant to rely on others, forceful personality, confident. Lust (not sexual, but lust for control or power)
Type 9: The “Peacemaker.” Need to not make waves, easy-going, self-effacing, doesn’t want to bother others, find peace within through having peace outside, can ignore uncomfortable truths. Sloth (not the same as laziness… see below)
To not exclude myself from this exploration of religion and personality types, I will start with my own type 9, the “Peacemaker.” 9’s “passion” is slothfulness- not to be confused with laziness like we think of it, though that can be part of it, but more a reluctance to take your life by the horns and realize that only YOU are the person who can fully live your life. 9’s, I’ve noticed, tend to be interested in peacemaking endeavors and politics. At their best, they stand up strongly for what they believe in, bringing people together, doing reconciling and mediating work. They are often interested in spirituality, but as the Wisdom of the Enneagram (an EXCELLENT book!) put it, they are too eager to go towards the “white light” and try to skip past all the difficult, yucky parts involved in really deep spirituality.
Sometimes, to be honest, I question if that’s what I’m doing. The white light thing. I like my spiritual practices of journaling with my mug of coffee, of meditating. Of getting out into nature, of noticing the ducks and the muskrats, of thanking God for sunsets and sunrises. My spiritual practices that can be so intellectual, seminarian-style reading books about the Bible or Jesus or Buddhism or centering prayer, finding ways in my mind to tie these things together. Am I just being slothful? Am I doing what comes easy, what is comfortable? What are the ways in which I stretch myself? And the big questions: is this wrong? Is this right? Is this just who I was created to be? What is the balance between stretching and contracting that will allow me to be my fullest self?
The first time I went to a Quaker church, where the service was spent in silence punctuated by comments and stories from people who had clearly thought deeply about what they were about to say, but were completely content with the stillness and quiet, I said to my partner: “I think I found a church with my personality type!!” It was such a lovely, exciting feeling; this sense of belongingness (even with strangers). “Others think like I do? I thought I was the only one!” I’ve only spent half a year with the Quakers so far, but I hope to spend more time there. I want to see Quakers at their 9-ish best, working for peace, reconciling, mediating. Deeply centered in themselves, with a strong identity that calms and guides others.
Quakers are famous for being against slavery when it wasn’t cool, for being anti-war when it seemed all others were for the war. But that aside, in what ways do Quakers, if we are still comparing them with 9s, settle into slothfulness? Of not fully taking on their calling in this world? Of slipping into a comfortable silence every week and going home, content enough with the way they contacted God and happy to keep that inside? I don’t know enough yet about Quakers to say much about what the average Quaker does… but I hope to learn, to observe myself and them, with clear, unflinching, nonjudgmental eyes.
I want to be aware of the ways that they, or any spiritual group or denomination, are blinded by the hums and rhythms of their natural personality.The way that we can start to assume, when we are surrounded by people who think and act just like us, that this is the right way to be, or sometimes even the only way to be.
So that is some of what this series on the Enneagram and denominations is going to be about. Maybe you’ll see yourself in a type. Maybe you’ll see your church in a type (or multiple types). Are those the same type (that is, do you “fit in”)? Different types? What are the ways that your church or your spiritual practice enclose you in a safe way, and what are the ways that are limiting or blinding? I’d love to hear your continuing thoughts!