If you’re like me, it’s impossible to see a personality test and not take it. Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, Five Love Languages, Process Communication Model—I’ve pursued many. And those don’t even include the BuzzFeed quizzes that tell me which Frozen character I’m most like.
I know I’m not alone. Our collective quest to discover the shape of our individual personalities shows what a mystery we are to ourselves. In the Christian tradition, however, a spiritual understanding of personality and “the self” serves as a journey to God rather than just a fun pastime.
Know Thyself, Know God
The Enneagram is easily my favorite model for discovering personality. Though you can find a more in-depth explanation of the Enneagram elsewhere, it is essentially a personality-typing model of ancient Christian origin that looks at one’s underlying motivations rather than outward traits. It examines these by determining that everyone is one of nine types (ennea means “nine,” gram means “symbol”).
The origins of the Enneagram go back to the Desert Fathers when a monk named Evagrius Ponticus composed a list of eight primary sins plus one unnamed sin (later further refined to the seven deadly sins). In its modern form, the Enneagram was articulated in the 20th century as a tool for self-understanding and spiritual transformation. It only recently gained broader cultural attention.
Though the Enneagram is gaining popularity, people can often have a negative reaction when engaging it. Why? Leigh Kramer, a Christian Enneagram coach, puts it simply in her talk with Tsh Oxenreider: “You have to really confront your junk.”1