Few things are as therapeutic as the sound as you run your hand through huge plastic bin of Legoes. Each time we visit my parents house, my son was to build stuff from the bins of Legoes there. And we can never find the one particular piece we’re looking for. When we comes to spiritual practice of confession, the naming of sin can be a lot like that. The Enneagram can be a helpful tool in helping us name and expose the sin in our hearts so that we can experience healing and forgiveness.
There are many different forms that a practice of confession can take. It might look like the Ignatian examen. It could look like a band meeting, in the style of the early Methodists. It might be a more formal ritual, such as the Roman Catholic confession. Whatever it looks like, confession is an essential practice for experiencing inner freedom and healing. The deeper we go with God, the more aware we become of sin in ourselves.
But how do you know what to confess? Oftentimes it’s clear to us. We catch ourselves in the moment of weakness. We lost our temper. A sarcastic comment crossed a line from fun banter to biting criticism. We indulged a moment of lust. But there are other times it’s not so clear. In his book The Band Meeting, Scott Kisker writes, “In our band, we use the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride) to remind us of struggles during the week we may not have noted otherwise.”
It’s in this way that the Enneagram proves useful. The Enneagram is a tool for spiritual formation that provides nine different ways that human beings reflect the image of God. Each of the types is also related to one of the classic seven deadly sins (with deceit and fear added to the mix). Each of us is capable of acting out in any possible way that humans do. But knowing our Enneagram type can help us get to the source of why we sin the way we do.
I resonate most with the Five. So, when it comes time for my self-reflection prior to a confessing time, I immediately look for places where I was ungenerous with my time and attention. I consider where I hoarded and overly guarded my social energy. I look for where I may have been unaware of my emotional wake or retreated into my mind when I needed to engage. It’s not unusual that I discover that other ways I act out tend to be symptoms of this deeper issue of greed.
Here are some ways that each Enneagram type can self reflect and get to a deeper source of brokenness so that you can know a deeper healing and freedom in your community.
Ones are most prone to anger. If you identify with the One, how might you give in to an all-or-nothing attitude, especially in regards to your finances or your health? In what ways may you have set unrealistic expectations for yourself and others, possibly leading to outbursts? Have you let your “inner critic” loose on those around you?
Twos are vulnerable to pride. It may take the form of self-flattery, a sense that only they can fix the world. If you identify with the Two, where do you experience feelings of martyrdom? Where have you been an enabler, minimizing the faults or dysfunction of loved ones because “they need you”? Where may you have pursued someone as a close confidante out of your own neediness?
Threes are given to deceit. More than other types, they can be prone to wearing a mask for others, minimizing their true selves so that they can advance in others’ eyes. If you resonate with the Three, where have you been desperate for attention or stretched the truth to impress someone? Where are you making sacrifices in relationships for the sake of accomplishments or appearances?
Fours display a propensity to envy. The grass is greener on the other side, especially when it comes to happiness. If you relate to the Four, where are places you feel emotionally overwhelmed, possibly to the point of irresponsibility? Where may you be succumbing to shame and a fear of rejection? Where does your misery reach out for company?
Fives are given to greed, being over vigilant with emotional and social boundaries. As mentioned above, if you relate to the Five, are there ways that you avoid social contact? Are there places you valued information more than a person? Are there relationships where you’ve withdrawn without notice?
Sixes struggle particularly with fear. They crave safety and security and worry it could all disappear at a moment’s notice. If you see yourself in the Six, where do you exaggerate your anxieties? Where might you be settling in an uncomfortable situation because you can’t imagine any other way? Are there places you doubt yourself or are openly defiant of an authority figure?
Sevens are vulnerable to gluttony. There’s never enough of the good things of life. If you resonate with the Seven, where have you been given to excess, disregarding reasonable limits? Where may you be avoiding commitments, jumping from one activity or project to another with finishing? Where may you be reckless in pursuing excitement?
Eights are given to lust, an intensity for everything in life. If you connect with the Eight, are there places others have experienced you as a bully? Have you pushed or challenged in a relationship to the point of damage? Are there places you fantasize about retaliation or revenge?
Nines struggle with sloth. Unchecked, they can fade into the background in social situations. If you relate to the Nine, where do you tend to “zone out”? Are you given to numbing addictions, whether food or Netflix? Where do you seem to give in to others’ expectations, almost by default?
In one of the oldest stories in Scripture, there’s a curious comment about sin. Before Cain decides to murder his brother, God tells him, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Learning about our sin isn’t for the sake of wallowing in shame and guilt about it. Neither is it for the sake of justifying and normalizing it.
The image in this story is like a creature lurking in the shadows. We can’t master it and subdue if we don’t bring it out of the shadows. We find healing as we bring our sin into the light. The deeper we journey into the heart of God, the greater our awareness of our own sin and brokenness.
God desires us to be whole. Confession is one spiritual practice that can lead us to this wholeness and the holiness God desires for us. And while our native culture or theological tradition may provide us a narrow vocabulary for sin, the Enneagram can provide a helpful tool for naming our broken places so we can experience healing.
If you like this, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter. I write stuff there that doesn’t show up on the blog. You’ll get a weekly Bible reading plan, as well as some other resources I find that have got me thinking each week.