Using the Enneagram as a Spiritual Tool
—Book Review of The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation
It’s not THE answer. But it is AN answer.
The Enneagram is credited for more than it can accomplish and blamed for less than it can do.
In reality, it falls somewhere in between. The Enneagram is a tool for personal growth. And as such, it can also be used as a tool for spiritual formation.
Improving our spiritual practices is a goal of A.J. Sherrill’s book, The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation: How Knowing Ourselves Can Make Us More Like Jesus.
Sherrill shows in his book that we can use the Enneagram to root our identity in Christ, to work with our personality, and to create a life of wholeness and beauty.
After I read a few pages, it seemed vaguely familiar. I bought and read Sherrill’s Enneagram and the Way of Jesus a year ago. That book is no longer for sale and this book is its updated rewrite.
As Sherrill does in his Enneagram workshops, he also states in The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation these four agreements:
- Remember that you are not a number.
- Refuse to become branded as the Enneagram person, church, or organization.
- Resist the urge to type another person.
- Reclaim the Enneagram as a means, not an end.
For each of the nine Enneagram types (see all the numbers here), Sherrill lists the following (as an example, I’ll use Type 6):
- Type 6
- One Word: Questioner
- Survival Strategy: “I must be secure and safe.”
- Full Description
- Lies they believe: “It is not okay to trust yourself.”
- Truth they need: “You are safe.”
He later lists discipleship spiritual practices for each Enneatype: downstream practices (these come naturally) and upstream practices (harder to do).
For example, he suggests Type 2s practice hospitality as their downstream practice and to use centering prayer as their upstream practice. The day in the church calendar they should heed is Maundy Thursday (the day Jesus washed feet).
This book isn’t an exhaustive resource to fully explain the Enneagram. But if you already know your number, it can help you discover specific ways to practice it.
In the conclusion, Sherrill says,
“There are many things the Enneagram cannot do. Its power is limited. However, as a means toward self-reflection, spiritual practice, marriage, leadership, and evangelism, it is an incredibly valuable tool. . . .
The Enneagram isn’t Jesus, but it can help you learn how to be more like him.”
To learn more about the Enneagram (including 3 ways to find your number), see my Enneagram series, “The Enneagram for Spiritual Growth” here.
Do you know your Enneagram number? I’m a Type 5. Share in the comments.
My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book
- 5 Posts on How and Who to Love
- Do You Go Wide or Go Deep with Bible Study?
Thank you for this. I’ve been diving into the Ennigram, but feel like I’m still trying to get it. The four agreements and the one word type summery were especially helpful. Oh, and I’m a 2, by the way. The helper.
Thanks again for tips on making what feels like a complex system, easier.
I do like the 4 agreements he has laid out! I’ve been taught to see the Ennegram in its wholeness to help understand when we are all working together, we bring the best into the world. I am in the Thinking zone, 7 being my number and often working out of 5.
This book sounds like an amazing resource, Lisa. Thanks for your review here today.
I use the Enneagram as a personality tool to help in creating my characters for my novels. It’s so easy for each of us to live within the realm of labels, so I love the reminder not to embrace the label of your number. Our identities are being sons and daughters of God. Thank you for sharing this review.
I haven’t encountered the ‘Enneagram’ but I assume it’s a type of personality test…Apply the results for spiritual growth sounds like an insightful book!
I love Sherrill’s last line. we shouldn’t worship the Enneagram, but we can appreciate it for the tool that it is. It can help us to become closer to and more like Jesus. The 4 agreements make complete sense.
I have this book in my stack, and am hoping it will help me to become stronger and healthier in my number.
Thank you, Lisa, I have long been a student of the Ennegram. I have several books, but not this one! The “Sacred Ennegram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth” by Christopher Heuertz is my personal favorite. It is a great tool and has helped me grow personally and spiritually. Sherrill’s book looks like a great read!
Went to take Enneagram,
’cause it looked, well, really cool,
but it don’t say who I am,
and in the end it’s just a tool
that couches answers in repnonse
to what it thinks life’s all about;
but it don’t know my former haunts,
and tries the vital job without
knowing what made me, well, ME,
and I now it does its best,
but there’s stuff it just don’t see;
mult-choice answers aren’t the best
for finding out what makes me roll
deep in my immortal soul.
Lisa, this sounds like an interesting book. I’ve become more familiar with the Enneagram over the last 18 months or so. I definitely see value in it. I like the direction you’ve described this book as having taken as far as growing in our relationships with Jesus and others.
I am a one. 🙂 My younger son is a five.
Thanks for sharing this perspective Lisa. I don’t know my enneagram number, and to be honest, I generally have a hard time being “typed” (maybe there’s a number for that!). 😉 I think this idea to see strengths and weaknesses and learn how to grow towards Jesus with those could be helpful though. Thanks for sharing! I saw your link today at the Happy Now link up. Have a great day!
You know I love the Enneagram. I love the idea of an upstream and downstream practice. hanks for using the the example of a Two. 🙂
Thanks for this resource. I find Enneagram’s a bit confusing and overused, so I appreciated the simplification. I also like how it is described as just a tool. I may have to read this one!
oh this book sounds so interesting, Lisa! I am a #6 and am always amazed at how well they pin me when I read about the components of a 6. I love that you have a series on this…I missed that and will go read through it! Thank you for sharing this!
I too found the book sounded familiar but was a good synopsis of the Enneagram. I like the phrase It’s not THE answer. But it is AN answer. It is one piece of the puzzle. Can’t wait to see the completed masterpiece someday. LOL
Learning about personality types is fascinating to me. It really does help me to understand why people act the way they do. I am an Enneagram 9—the peacemaker. I value peace so much that I will walk away from friendships where conflict has arisen. Rather than discuss the issue (which upsets my peace), I just back away. Not a good way to handle things, but understanding my personality has really helped. Meyers Briggs is also helpful—I’m an ISFJ. Have you ever done that test?