Tag Archives: understanding

Why I Love Being an 8 on the Enneagram

For those of  you who know me well, you know I’ve spent the last year reading almost everything I can get my hands on about the Enneagram and I’ve become somewhat of an evangelist for the personality tool among my friends and family.

Ironically my first foray into the Enneagram was not so entrancing–when I had to do a routine psych evaluation for ministry preparation, the instructor rather used my found type against me, arguing that perhaps it explained my aggression, hostility, and even atypical masculine characteristics!  Among people who know the Enneagram well, it’s not a secret that female 8s get a bad rap and are often misunderstood.  So that’s why it’s all the more profound that a few days ago, I think I finally realized what’s so powerful and meaningful about being an 8 in this world–a personality I haven’t always found so compelling or easy to live with.

Now if you’re new to the Enneagram, it may sound like I’m speaking another language.  But simply put the Enneagram is a personality system that groups our personalities into 9 types, but unlike Myers-Briggs or other personality systems, you’re not easily diagnosed through a test, because it’s a dynamic, interactive, relational system.  According to the Enneagram, the best parts of you are also the worst parts of you, so people don’t always find it “easy” or “happy” to find out their types, but thankfully, the system also allows for and encourages dynamic growth.

For my own part, and especially as an anthropologist, I think the Enneagram’s best, most basic reminder is that even if we’re from the same family, we don’t necessarily see the world the same way.  But other ways of seeing aren’t bad; in fact, they’re what make the world a much more interesting and beautiful place!  One of the best takeaways for me from learning the Enneagram is not just understanding myself better but also building more compassion inside myself for others in respecting and empathizing with the beautiful, perplexing ways they approach life that make the world a much more complicated, but fuller place.  Essentially the Enneagram affirms one of the basic tenets of anthropology: our differences make us human!

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Love this visual of the different Enneagram types and their values.

Therefore, if you’re interested in learning more about the Enneagram and even figuring out your type,  I’d recommend that you read about all the types, and perhaps in lieu of taking a test, read some of these great descriptions of each type, paying attention to the core values, the things that make you tick (you can scroll down for my suggestions for further resources below).  Enneagram types are complex in that they don’t tell you what a person’s vocation will be or whether they will be successful, but rather tell you more about that person’s motivation in life and some of the challenges they face and gifts that they possess.

But as I mentioned, when a lot of people find out their Enneagram type, they recognize it primarily because of the flaws they can see so clearly in themselves, while they fail to acknowledge or hone the strengths that inhabit their way of seeing the world.  As an 8 (with a  7 wing), “the challenger,” someone who is a natural born leader, makes decisions incredibly quickly, and is fearless, I had been really struggling with an experience of vocational discernment as of late.  In fact, because of these impetuous and quick-witted qualities, I kept remarking to my “spiritual director” that I suck at discernment: the waiting game, the listening game, the methodical weighing of options is just not me.  And as someone who is much more inclined to rely on my mind rather than my heart, I bemoaned my lack of intuition.

However, this type of thinking ignores some of the qualities which make 8s truly exceptional.  Because of my gusto, I am truly and uniquely fearless.  This certainly becomes a weakness in that I may struggle to emphasize and understand the insecurities others often face on a daily basis, but in my own life, when I see a challenge, I am invigorated, affirmed, and inspired.  Sign me up, I think. I’m all about taking risks, I scoff.  Bring it on! 

Thus, in my life when I have been able to reframe uncertainty and discernment as a challenge, I’ve been able to very quickly embrace the adventure that God has in store for me, not worrying about the consequences or the trials of that risk but plowing full steam ahead.  (As I told one of my friends recently, I may be a battering ram, but I can be a battering ram for Jesus!)  What I’ve noticed in discernment and uncertainty, though, is that I have a tendency, as many of us do, to try to usurp control (how very 8 of me) from God.  I spin into full-on planner mode, determined to think through the details of my future, when the very best that God has for me may not even be visible yet.

My spiritual director has invited me to ponder God’s faithfulness by asking me, “Think of the five greatest things in your life.  Which ones were you responsible for?  Now which ones did God provide?”  Indeed, as a person of faith, in spite of any Enneagram personality knowledge, I am committed to living the life that God has for me.  And I’ve realized that this involves abdicating my long-term planning role to God.  Ironically, uncertainty and long-term planning are two things that in my penchant to control, send me spiraling out of control, leading away from my strengths and gifts as a passionate 8 who leads with vision and conviction.

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My twin sister and I taking in the views of the dragon’s neck rice terraces in Guangxi.                Photo by Evan Schneider.

I’m not alone in these insights, though.  There are many, many people of faith who have begun to draw upon the Enneagram for wisdom not just about who we are, but who we are in God.  For me, I’ve started to see how unique it is that I love a good challenge and that I’m not afraid, and I’ve become even more convicted to strive toward the unique vocation (somewhere between anthropology and ministry) that God has for me, even though the world may not always understand that call.  8s are often known for being resilient and strong, and I realize now that this takes “guts.”  Even though I may lack for what I termed intuition, I am at my best when I’m relying on and hungering after God, throwing all of myself into that new challenge and adventure!

How has the Enneagram helped you live more fully into your purpose in God?  What lessons have you learned about God and faith by getting to know yourself better?

If you’d like to learn more about the Enneagram, I’d recommend listening to the Liturgists extensive podcast on all nine types,  reading a bit about each type and then taking the “Essential Enneagram” test by David Daniels and Virginia Price, which is really just a series of paragraphs that you read seeing which one best describes you.  I think this is the best way to discern your type, but the most important things are to 1) gain an appreciation for all types and 2) to take your time in discerning your type.

I also really like the Podcast, The Road Back to You, based on the book by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron, because it gives you an opportunity to listen to other people talking about their journeys in understanding themselves, others, and God through their types.

 

 

Consider the ravens, consider the blessings

A few days ago I posted on the parable of the rich fool and the wisdom to be found in spare closets and fewer things.

Little did I know that I have much more to learn on this topic.

But that’s what’s so compelling about our scriptures–each time you read them the Spirit reveals something new, something so eerily, no– purposefully appropriate for today.

In the twelfth chapter of Luke, Jesus continues by deconstructing the practice of worrying.  “Consider the ravens,” he remarks, “they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (12:24-25)

I hate to admit it, but I can be a real worrywart.  I hate to admit it, because I despise the out of control, overwhelming, guilt, and fear worry instills.  I hate that my own vanities and my own weaknesses are what drive me to it, but most of all I hate that not only do I know it’s a waste of time, but I do it anyway!  I hate that as Jesus suggests, while we’re worrying, the gift of life and all that really matters are passing us by.

Two weeks ago today I was in a meeting with orphanage directors here in South China when my phone starting ringing incessantly with an +09 number that could only be a skype call.  And my heart sunk as I finally answered it knowing that whoever was on the other side would only be dialing me over and over here in China in the case of a dire emergency.

Since that time my Grandpa has been in the hospital, fighting a weak heart, and recently failing organs.  When I opened up about the difficulty of being here and not there the next day, one of my Chinese friends discouraged me from worrying.  I could feel the anger and the exasperation well up in my throat as I choked out and snapped, “Well I am worried, because he’s very, very sick!”

Truthfully it wasn’t just this remark but a number of interactions that have made me frustrated with my Chinese friends lately.  They can’t understand why I’d ever want to leave China, and they’re kind of mad at me for making plans to leave this July, and for not being able to tell them for sure when I’m coming back.

And I’m mad at them, especially at times like this, for not being able to see and understand that I’m not only their Lin En, the woman who loves to talk to them about their families and their lives here, but also a person with her own family and friends, and a life that I left behind in America, too.

We usually understand each other so well, and so I want them to get all that, too, you know, just instinctively, right?

But when I read a scripture like this one I see that my energy, my anxiety, and my worries are futile.  You see, I could focus on the ways my friends here just don’t get it, or the parts of my life they’ll never fully grasp, or I can marvel in the blessing of God providing me such amazing, supportive, loving, accepting people in this foreign place when it seemed entirely likely that I would never belong.  How humbled I am to be so loved by my Chinese friends that they tell me they can’t do without me, and that I understand their culture and their concerns to the point that they can’t imagine me anywhere else but here.

And how careless I am to assume that their urging me not to worry is an indication of their lack of understanding or concern, but rather an understanding of myself on a level that I thought only God could grasp.  See, when I’m afraid, full of worries and fears, they see beyond that to me at my best and not at my worst.  In asking me not to worry, do they not rather invoke all this is precious and good about humanity, God, and life itself?

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give alms.  Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart is also. –Luke 12:32-34

I’m still rather ragged thinking about my Grandpa and my family back in America this week, but I think it would make them happy to know how good God has been to me here in China.  And when I meditate on those good things, both my American family and my Chinese one, I do feel a little snippet of peace, and I pray my Grandpa does, too.

A photo of my Grandpa and I from this Thanksgiving. He was recently settled back into his nursing home’s hospice care. Prayers are welcome.

Hunan Headlines: A Mix of Sorrow and Hope

It’s been about three weeks (May 9) since I first read on a Chinese news website about the incident of baby trafficking in a poor county in Hunan that subsequently made international headlines. While I’ve been busy, the wait was actually intentional, in that I didn’t want to respond with only my gut or my heart, but with my mind, as well.

Several weeks later, allow me to share a few lingering thoughts.

First, I’m filled with sorrow for the parents who lost children so many years ago, and whose pain was largely ignored by not only local and provincial leaders, but media, and social agencies. This story, though it received many slants in the media, is first of all a story of human tragedy, and only secondly, a story of tragedies about national or international systems. I also am filled with sorrow regarding the mistakes of local officials, and their alleged abuse of the population policies.

Next, it saddens me that a few individuals’ mistakes have colored international perspectives regarding Chinese governance, and given that my research attends to the individuals in Chinese society who warmly and willingly foster and adopt abandoned and disabled children, it frustrates me that this negative story is the one (as the negative stories often do) that has captivated international attention.

As someone studying Chinese social welfare, I’m more often than not refreshed by the care and concern Chinese people have for their children, and I’m blessed to see that there is much to be hopeful about when it comes to the lives of orphans and disabled children in China.

Finally, it frustrates me that several media outlets have taken this opportunity to draw attention to the one-child policy, and focus on condemning its role in child trafficking, rather than the illegal actions of a few individuals, or the complexity of competing pressures. In this case, local officials abused the policy, and for whatever reason, chose to implement the policy illegally and inappropriately, and as such the child trafficking is a consequence of illegal behavior, rather than routine policy enforcement.  While the one-child policy is by no means perfect, child trafficking in China, as in other developing countries, is a much more complicated effect of poverty, international demand for adoptions, etc., rather than the direct consequence of a policy.

This incident has received attention from the Chinese government and the Chinese press, and is currently under investigation. My hope is that as a result of this incident, the pressure that population officials are under to maintain low birth rates will be illuminated, and families who lost children in Longhui county, as well as in other parts of China, will be given support and attention from the government.

My encouragement goes out to those in Chinese society who are working to promote the case for foster care and domestic adoption in China, and my hope is that I am able to describe their work accurately, so that the international audience can understand the complexities of life in China, and also relate to the love parents have for children here as well.