Updated: Oct 31
Back in May, I got the chance to be on a podcast called Healing Confessionals with my good friend Elyse Harper, LMFT. In it, we discussed the importance of understanding emotions from a Christian perspective, and highlighted the fact that there will always be confusion in the Church around what it means to be healthy psychologically. This also means we must never stop learning and seeking to understand psychological phenomena from a Christian perspective. And that perspective must be biblically sound, using the Bible as a foundation and lens for what it means to be living a healthy life.
With that in mind I want to write to you about the Enneagram. It's not a new personality assessment, but it has recently re-emerged here in the Midwest. Specifically amongst the Southern Baptist and more evangelical leaning denominations. So despite the fact it may feel new, the Enneagram has been around for a long time. The first I came into contact with it was in the early 2000's as a youth intern in the United Methodist Church. But if you believe some Enneagram connoisseurs, it's been around a lot longer, as far back as the turn of the twentieth century. Either way, the Enneagram always causes scuttlebutt wherever it goes. That's because it's particularly good at what it's designed to do. And often attracts ardent followers.
Much like the DISC, or the Meyers Briggs, or even the 4 Animals personality assessment created by Trent and Smalley, which was widely used in many churches throughout the United States for many years. The Enneagram gives a framework for the understanding of personality. For many there has also been a spiritual element attached to it that makes some Christians uncomfortable. That, along with the pentagram looking symbol The Enneagram uses to illustrate personality shifts during seasons of health and stress, causes concern for many. And no doubt, when any personality assessment moves from the realm of a helpful tool to an absolute truth, I get uncomfortable as well.
Why Are Personality Assessments Important?
That being said. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Personality assessments are helpful in creating empathy and understanding in group and marriage counseling. They are helpful in understanding strengths and weaknesses of a team or team member. And they are also helpful in individual and couples counseling.
This is because well designed personality assessments have the ability to simplify complex human characteristics like cognition (how we think) and emotion (how we feel). This simplification can grease the wheels of human interaction and lead to substantially less conflict between different personalities.
The Enneagram and the Bible
As I stated above, the Enneagram is a great tool. But that's where it ends. And I think the majority of people understand this. So I don't want to give a lot of attention to people who misuse personality assessments or who don't like them for one reason or another. Haters gonna hate.
That being said, It should come as no surprise that the Enneagram is not in the Bible. It's not in the Greek, and it's not in the Hebrew. And it's not in any version either. Not King James, not New Living Translation, and not even the The Message. (Insert chuckles for all my friends who don't appreciate Eugene Peterson's great work.)
All laughs aside. Because the Enneagram is not directly mentioned in Scripture doesn't mean it can't provide value. There are a lot of wonderful modern inventions that are not in the Bible. Like chemotherapy, automobiles, and even, dare I say, iPhones. And as in the case of each of these modern inventions, people have mishandled them and abused them. And that abuse has done harm and caused pain to others. But we don't let our fear of such abuse squelch the usefulness of the tool. That would be foolish.
Your Mental Health Matters to God
Instead, the wise person seeks to understand the world through godly principles (2 Peter 3:17). And you can use the Enneagram to learn about yourself or your spouse and still keep your "God card". And if you want to learn about the Enneagram I recommend looking into Beth McCord and her institution Your Enneagram Coach. I have utilized she and her husband's book Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage in my work with couples and found it to be helpful.
Never forget, your mental health matters to God. He cares about your psychological well being. And learning about your personality is a good way to create mental stability and encourage the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Especially when trials and tribulations come your way.
This means no matter what we're using. Whether it's a personality assessment, an iPhone, or a car. We do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And if we have questions about the legitimacy of an object or the value of some new modern invention. We can take our fears and concerns to the Bible for direction and guidance. If we are still confused, that's okay. Take your concerns to a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor. God loves the truth and He is not in the business of hiding it from us.
About the Author:
Dr. Corley is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) in Missouri and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Kansas. He specializes in marriage counseling and trauma recovery.
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