There are probably as many personality tests out there as there are personalities, and they all have strengths and weaknesses in their support of the pursuit of a transformed life. The Enneagram, in this sense, is one of many, but it also makes some extraordinarily powerful and unique contributions to the work of conversion—the work of understanding self and seeking change.
Ian Morgan Cron brings a wide range of perspectives to bear on the Enneagram. As a novelist, songwriter, Episcopal priest, and teacher, he draws on a rich personal skills and insights to walk the reader through the use of the Enneagram in the spiritual life. Co-author Suzanne Stabile is an international recognized Enneagram master teacher, and her deep exploration of the ways this ancient system can impact both personal and communal lives enriches the book in multiple ways.
Here Ian and Suzanne answer some of the questions that you too might have when you read the book. Enjoy this chat with the authors!
So, speculate for a moment. What number do you think Jesus was and why?
All the numbers. Jesus represents all numbers; it has been said in Christian Enneagram tradition that the Enneagram is the face of God. If you read the Gospels and you’re Enneagram literate, you’ll find that Jesus has stories specifically addressing each of the nine ways of seeing the world.
I loved the individual stories you tell, especially your own story of self-discovery. Why do you think the church has been so negligent of the need to know the self?
The church thought it was selfish and self absorbed as opposed to self-awareness. I can’t imagine how we can know who we are in relationship to God if we can’t know ourselves for who we are.
I imagine most people who pick up this book will jump to their own Enneagram number, or perhaps read the number of a spouse or child. How is the fuller picture of the personality types important for self-understanding?
The reason I teach the Enneagram is to increase compassion and civility in the world. If your only understanding is about your own number then it limits rather than adds to. My teaching is taking a direction toward asking the question about what would be best for the common good. We have individuated ourselves to such a degree that we’ve lost sight of the necessity for belonging to a great community and finding meaning in our lives by contributing to a larger community.
It’s a great read, with a puckish sense of humor throughout. Can you comment on the ways that humor partners with lament in the process of self-discovery?
There are two sides to everything. There is a humiliation in learning about yourself, in discovering what other people know about you. The Enneagram is smart enough (wise enough, deep enough) that it almost insists that you laugh at the caricature that it presents of you when you’re at your lowest, most average place. Humor with compassion gives us the courage to look at ourselves honestly. What you cannot acknowledge, you cannot change. And looking at the most predictable, habitual patterns within each number lends itself to a story of folly but not one of self-deprecation.
How do you think the Enneagram as a personality typing system compares or contrasts to other popular ones, like the Myers-Briggs?
I think they’re all good and each has its place. As a spiritual wisdom tool, the Enneagram names us, weaknesses and strengths, and at the same time provides us with information and opportunity to do something about what we’ve learned.
In your conclusion, you write this, “Every number on the Enneagram teaches us something about the nature and character of the God who made us.” In what ways has the Enneagram changed your perspective of God?
I grew up believing that I needed to be a good girl. I tried really hard to do that. What I discovered is that God wants me to be me. I don’t have to become something I’m not. I get to be myself in the world; I’m just challenged to be my best self.
You don’t include a test for the Enneagram in your book. How can we determine which type we are?
I have not found the online Enneagram tests to be accurate because they lack the ability to measure motive, the key factor of discerning one’s Enneagram number. That is the reason we wrote the book. The Enneagram has been an oral tradition for centuries. Anyone who has the opportunity to hear the Enneagram taught orally by a qualified Enneagram Master teacher will greatly benefit from that experience. The narrative approach has a lot of value because the Enneagram is deceptively simple and nuance is very important. That nuance is best represented in stories.
How can the Enneagram prove beneficial for Christians who are seeking to grow in their faith? In their self-awareness?
The Enneagram helps you know yourself so that you better understand yourself and others —and, in the context of relationship and participation, know God. In a time when dualistic thinking often trumps compassion, the wisdom of the Enneagram provides both understanding and a path for more Christ-like behavior.