Happy Enneagram Anniversary!

Dec 09, 2022

Tomorrow marks my 31st Enneagram Anniversary. I’ve now known about the Enneagram for more than half of my life.

It means a couple of things. 

First, I’m old.

Second, the Enneagram stuck.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality assessment the same year I learned about the Enneagram. I’ve also taken StrengthsFinder, the NEO PI-R, and the DISC. All of them were helpful and gave me insight into who I was and how I interacted with the world.

So, why has the Enneagram remained significant to me? 

I learned about the Enneagram on a Silent Retreat with American author, laicized priest, and public speaker Brennan Manning. I shared a house with five other men and Brennan. Each day we would spend hours devoted to contemplation and prayer, take walks down rural lanes, and gather for dinner. Brennan would lead a small worship service, reading a chapter from one of his books and serving communion. It was a holy time.

We were allowed to speak one hour per day during our time of spiritual direction with Brennan. That was it.

I came into that retreat burned out. I was just starting my second year in ministry with Young Life, and I was anxious, shut down, and working too much. Even though I knew my behaviors weren’t helping me, I couldn’t seem to change. 

Although the ministry was successful, I felt like a failure.

The gist of what I shared with Brennan was this: “I know I’m overworking. I know I’m tired. But I can’t seem to stop. The harder I work, the less satisfied I am.”

He replied, “You need to learn about the Enneagram.” 

“What’s the Enneagram?” I said.

He explained that it described personal habits and fixations, strategies we automatically incorporate that eventually no longer work. My strategy? If you have a difficult problem or situation, just set your nose to the grindstone and gut your way through it. Be tough and don’t let your emotions get in the way.

At age 30, that strategy finally failed me. 

Brennan let me know how to spell the word, “Enneagram,” (Ennea is the Greek prefix meaning “nine”) and suggested a book. (You can see my notes above) I quickly discovered my type, which explained so much of my present and past behavior. Then I began the work.

Even though I started with the Enneagram in 1991, its insights and lessons still resonate. I believe these lessons will be the same for me at age 90, as they are at 60, as they were at 30. I still get stuck. I still over-identify with what I do as compared to who I am. I just don’t get stuck as long and can own my shortcomings.

It’s been an amazing journey, and I look forward to 30 more years of growth.

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