Can Christians Use the Enneagram as a Tool for Spiritual Growth?

Throughout history, Christians have utilized many spiritual disciplines to grow their faith and become more like Christ. The Enneagram is an insightful tool that can be used for spiritual growth. When viewed through the lens of the gospel, it reveals our inner motivations, explaining why we do what we do and helping us realign our hearts with God's truth.

The Enneagram is different from other personality tools because although it reveals our unique strengths, it also reveals our inner fears, weaknesses, insecurities, and sinful tendencies. In fact, without grace, the Enneagram could be downright depressing because it illuminates our hearts' intent, which is not always flattering and causes us and others pain and frustration. The Enneagram helps us see that the nature of our problem is always the problem of our heart.

You can think of the Enneagram as an x-ray that shows what's broken, but that's all it can do. It can't heal us. We need the actual healer––the doctor who can mend and put us together and help us stay whole and healthy. Our only source for healing or transformation is through Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection, which is applied to us through the Holy Spirit.

Through Christ, we are set free. We are his most cherished and beloved children. When we believe this is true, our healthy personality traits pour out. But when we start to forget, there are consequences. It is as though we live as orphans, believing we're alone and need to fix and control our lives. We stumble and even harm others.

In Romans 7:15, Paul says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Perhaps you can relate. You know what the Bible says will bring you life, but instead of following that path, you get off track and find yourself cycling in and out of the same unhealthy habits and thought patterns. You go into the world to seek solutions, but ultimately, your inner world needs attention.

So, how do we practically use the Enneagram to stay aligned with God's truth and live as his beloved child? One simple way is to practice AWARE. AWARE is a spiritual exercise we developed that combines a gospel-centered Enneagram with daily times of silence and solitude. This practice is not always easy, but if you stay committed, it will become a powerful tool for your spiritual and relational growth. AWARE stands for:

A - Awaken to your thoughts, feelings, and inclinations. This step is only possible if you intentionally carve out time for silence and solitude, which is difficult to do in our fast-paced society. You can start with as little as five minutes daily and build up from there. As you awaken to your inner world, pay attention to the thoughts you are ruminating on. Do you feel any tension or pain in your body? What could your body be revealing about your inner world?

W - Welcome these experiences without judgment. This is key to the practice of AWARE. Too often, we ignore, stuff, or shame our complex emotions when, in reality, these parts of our hearts are trying to help us. Unfortunately, they are unequipped to do so, but that doesn't mean their intentions are bad. What story do the wounded parts of your heart need to tell? By welcoming all the parts of your heart, you are showing them the same compassion and acceptance Christ shows you.

A - Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. In this step, you ask for God's wisdom so you can hear his truth about you and your circumstances and let go of the false messages and unhealthy strategies you usually turn to.

R - Receive what is true. When you recognize that you are God's beloved child, you can self-lead your heart back into alignment with the gospel. Here you will finally find rest and the heart transformation you've been searching for. It can take time for the wounded parts of your heart to accept this truth, so be patient and show yourself grace.

E - Engage with yourself and your relationships in a new way. Living life as Christ's beloved child will not only positively impact you, but it can also dramatically change your relationships. When you're no longer trapped in unhealthy cycles, you can approach your relationships with more understanding and compassion. As you can see, this exercise has far-reaching implications beyond your own spiritual walk.

As you learn more about the Enneagram and your Type, you'll discover that the Enneagram is like an onion. Your personality has many layers, and you are so much more than one number! To help you understand the six main parts of your Type, we've developed the Enneagram Internal Profile (EIP). You can learn more about EIP in our new book More Than Your Number: A Christ-Centered Enneagram Approach to Becoming AWARE of Your Internal World. Each EIP layer reveals something new about your unique personality, and you can apply the AWARE exercise to each one, depending on what part is showing up during your spiritual practice.

Humans have a long history of only focusing on outward behaviors. We put on personas, trying to look better or do better, and we're drawn to people who seem to have it all together. But God cares more about our inner life, our heart's motivations—WHY we do what we do. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

By the grace of God, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us become aware of our hearts and bring our personality Type back to God's truth so that we can experience the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As the gospel penetrates our hearts, we can find soul refreshment despite life's burdens or trials. Time and time again, we've witnessed a gospel-focused Enneagram land on people's hearts in a new way that frees them from unhealthy strategies and false messages and leads them into the arms of Jesus.

Can Christians use the Enneagram as a tool for spiritual growth? I think it's pretty clear by now that our answer is yes! So, if you're looking for a spiritual practice that illuminates your heart's motivations, helps you see what is wrong, and reveals how Jesus satisfies your longings, look no further than a gospel-based Enneagram. And by combining the Enneagram with the spiritual practice of AWARE, you can finally understand your complex self, strengthen all your relationships, and fully live out who God created you to be!

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/George Muresan

Beth McCord (Type 9: Peaceful Accommodator) and Jeff McCord (Type 6: Faithful Guardian) are best-selling authors and co founders of Your Enneagram Coach (YEC), one of the largest Enneagram platforms in the world and the only one of its size that teaches people how to use the Enneagram from a faith-based perspective. Their podcast,Your Enneagram Coach, has more than 3 million downloads since launching in April 2019. More than 2 million people have taken their online Enneagram Type assessment, and more than 2,000 people have enrolled in their Become an Enneagram Coach program. Their latest book is 'More Than Your Number: A Christ-Centered Enneagram Approach to Becoming AWARE of Your Internal World.'

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