How did you get introduced to the Enneagram?
My wife introduced me to the Enneagram. She heard about it through some friends at church and then began reading about it on her own time. From there she started listening to podcasts and going to conferences. I took the test and then started reading myself, as well as learning more from my spiritual director.
What is it like being a 6?
I think this question is kind of funny because knowing what I know about the Enneagram I want to say “I’m scared all of the time!,” but I don’t think that’s really accurate. I do, however, always go through every scenario in my head—even the most absurd—and then make sure that any decisions I make keep me as far away from disaster as possible.
I think I usually make good decisions. I have a good work ethic, do my best at everything I do, and try my hardest to not disappoint people. But, if I’m honest, I do a lot of this out of a place of fear. I think “being a 6” is most blatant in dealing with the day-to-day “life stuff,” for lack of a better term. So, sometimes I have difficulties dealing with impromptu problems—the roof needs repair, the car breaks down, my kids are sick. This leads me to thinking of all the ways that problem will lead to other, larger problems. “Where am I going to get the money to cover that?”, “I’m going to miss work,” “If I don’t say/do x thing, they’ll be upset at me.”
I also tend to want confirmation that I’m doing a good job. This means I can sometimes lack confidence in my ability and seek outside affirmation.
All of that sounds exhausting and supremely negative. I’ve heard that many people who think they’re sixes try and be another number because nobody likes to think of themselves as a fearful person. But, I think part of spiritual formation is owning who we are and learning what we can from that.
Can you share a personal story of your number in action?
Here’s probably the funniest story I can think of that embodies a 6. As we were about to hop in our car and go on Christmas vacation a few years ago I asked my wife a question I thought was quite rational: “Should we unplug the garage door after we close it.” My wife looked at me puzzled and simply said, “Why?” To which I replied, “Well, what if the plug shorts and the garage door opens? Then the door will be open the whole time we’re gone and everything we own will get stolen.” She simply said, “That’s not going to happen” and we drove off (after closing the garage door!). She was right.
How has the Enneagram helped you in the process of personal or spiritual growth?
The first thing it’s helped with is helping me name what I’ve always felt my entire life, namely the fact that if I’m not careful fear will drive all of my decisions. So, after encountering/reading about the enneagram, as well as getting spiritual direction, I’d say the enneagram has helped me grow by giving me language about myself. Because of this, I’m now able to work on the parts of my soul that have been wounded and/or drive my intentions and orient them toward God in a meaningful way. Ultimately, I think the enneagram has helped me know myself better and grow in ways in which I didn’t know I needed.
How has the Enneagram impacted your relationships (e.g., spouse, kids, friends, colleagues, etc)?
I think the enneagram has had a positive impact on my relationships, especially with my wife. We both are now able to better hear each other, as well as understand where the other person is coming from. It’s also helped me understand that people have very different motivations, all of which spill into their worldview, how they believe their religious beliefs, how they parent, how they process pain and loss, etc.
The only other thing I’ll say about relationships, though, is that if you are around a bunch of people that know the enneagram, I think it wise to avoid “typecasting” people or reducing them to a number. People are more than their number. While they may tend toward acting or being a certain way, people can and do change and grow. So, while I think I will probably always be a 6, that doesn’t mean I always act like a 6. One of the things that drives me nuts is when people tell me something like, “Well, you’re a six so you must be x, y, or z.” I’m not a 6; I’m a child of God. I’m a person. So, be careful when it comes to “typecasting” others, especially if you both know the enneagram. It can lead to unhealthy assumptions and painful experiences.