Ennea…what? If you have been around Ouachita lately, you might have overheard some unfamiliar vocabulary or maybe even phrases like, “What number are you?” or “So, you’re a 9, wing 1? Well that explains a lot!” or “I’m having trouble figuring out if I’m a 2 or a 4.”
Enneagram is a strange word for a helpful tool. The origin is not completely clear. The traditional concept of the Enneagram seems to combine varying ancient wisdom traditions. At the core of the Enneagram, there are nine driving motivations, which some link to the original nine divine forms used by the Desert Fathers. These forms later evolved into what are now known as the seven deadly sins. The Enneagram involves an unusual diagram labelled with the numbers 1-9 and a series of lines connecting the numbers. The nine numbers are each tied to these original divine forms.[i]
The Enneagram is a personal assessment of your motivations. The Enneagram is not a quick magazine personality quiz. It is not meant to be a fun way to type and describe your friends, but it can help if you are having trouble understanding your roommate, spouse or coworker. When you put in the time to read and research what number fits you best, it can be useful for personal and spiritual growth. It gives insight into weaknesses you might not have even realized you had. Working through these personal issues can benefit you in every relationship – love, life, school and work. Understanding ourselves better often leads to a better understanding of those around us.
The Enneagram can help us to understand why some of our relationships are more successful than others, as well as how to best meet the needs of those closest to us, and leading us to more successful relationships in every area. When our daughter first started at Ouachita, she and her roommate started reading about the Enneagram. Learning her roommate was a 2 deepened their relationship; she discovered her roommate thrives on helping others, but she also has a tendency to sacrifice herself for others. This encouraged our daughter in ways she could be a good friend to her roommate by ensuring she felt appreciated and valued.
So what makes the Enneagram different from other quizzes and personality assessments we have used in the past? Most personality assessments deal with actions: Would you prefer to go to the Battle of the Ravine or stay in the dorm? The Enneagram is different. It forces us to look deeper, under the surface, at the motivations behind our actions: Why do you want to stay in the dorm?
For example, if you walk into the campus gym, you might see a room full of people working out. But, just from that observation, you usually can’t know the motivation behind the workout. Maybe one person is there because they were told by their doctor that working out is the right thing to do to stay healthy and avoid the freshman 15. Someone else is there to help keep their pledge brother accountable for their fitness goals. Another is there because they believe looking physically fit helps them look more successful in a job interview. Someone else came because they heard about the creative dance workout class. Another is there because time on the treadmill gives them undisturbed time to think through and process their day. The motivations can all be different, but the same action took place: they all went to the to the student center to workout. The true motivation behind the action is something only each person can know for themselves.
New and exciting information can help us grow and learn about ourselves. It can also tempt us to shift our identity to a number. I would encourage you to use the Enneagram to strengthen your identity in Christ; Christ is the perfect representation of each number. The Enneagram points out our weaknesses. When we identify our weaknesses, we are given a greater awareness of our actions. This should lead us to a greater dependence on Christ as we grow closer to Him. Instead of saying “I am a 5. I prefer to be alone, so I think I’ll just stay in the dorm” when you feel that tendency taking over, you could try something new. Yes, the Battle of the Ravine might be fun!
I encourage you to take a look and see for yourself what all the talk is about. Some great places to start are www.enneagraminstitute.com and Ian Cron’s bestselling book “The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery” where he says, “The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.”
By Sadie L. Dodson, a 1997 Ouachita graduate with a Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Louisiana. Sadie is married to Dr. Joey Dodson, associate professor of biblical studies at Ouachita.
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