The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“The Enneagram as a Tool for Self-Awareness and Spiritual Growth “
November 16, 2020
Intro: Have you been working to identify and overcome your blind spots? As a leader, overcoming your blind spots is important to becoming your best true self. Today we highlight a tool that helps you do just that.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button and receive our free action guide.
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And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
If you know anything about the Enneagram, or even if you don’t, the next few minutes could be tremendously important to you, your relationship with God, and your continuing spiritual growth. My guest is Alice Fryling, who’s a seasoned spiritual director, presenter, and the author of nine books, including her very popular book, Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram.
Alice, welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Alice Fryling: Thank you.
Al: I’m glad you’re here.
And Alice, I’d like to lead off not with the front cover of your book, but actually on the back cover. And at the top of the back cover is the eye-catching question, and that is, Who in the world am I? What’s the significance behind this question?
Alice: It’s a question that I love. I’ve asked myself this question probably all of my life, even before I was aware I was asking the question. As a teenager, I think I was asking, Who in the world am I? And then recently we moved to Colorado. And for the first year, I just kept asking myself, Who in the world am I now that I live in Colorado? And then the next year I turned 75, and I asked myself, Who in the world am I now that I’m 75? So this just goes on and on. And it was actually one of the things that drew me to the Enneagram at the very beginning, because the Enneagram speaks very deeply to the question, Who in the world am I? But it comes at it from an angle that’s quite unique, I think. The Enneagram answers that question in light of what motivates me, what my gifts are, and especially what my blind spots are in expressing my gifts. And that really intrigued me because I’m not happy about having a lot of blind spots. And of course, we’ll have them 24/7 for the rest of our lives. But the Enneagram has helped me uncover some of my own blindnesses.
Al: Absolutely. And I found that to be true for me. I do remember reading something or listening to a talk, that each of us have, like, 2.7 blind spots. So no matter what part we are, no matter where we are in our life, we definitely have blind spots. And the Enneagram has caught the attention of a lot of people. I mean, a lot of people. And I know Christian leaders, spiritual directors like yourself, the church at large, this is a very popular tool. And for those who are not familiar with the Enneagram, maybe give us a brief introduction: What is it, what is it not, and what’s in it for those who love and seek to follow Christ?
Alice: Well, I love the question. It’s hard to answer briefly, but I will do my best. Essentially, the Enneagram is an ancient paradigm that describes nine different ways people look at life. The uniqueness of the Enneagram is the thesis that we all view life through our own giftedness, for better and for worse. So as a Christian, I believe that our gifts are God given, and they also reflect the image of our creator. But when we’re under stress, according to the Enneagram, when we feel insecure or defensive, we overplay our gifts in order to try to really look good. And the way we overplay our gifts becomes the blind spots in our lives.
So one good way to get at this is to look at one of the very familiar perspectives that the Enneagram describes. It’s a number one on the Enneagram. And that’s the space that most of us would call the perfectionist. So a number one person, this is a person who really has very, very fine values, a very good person. The problem in living this out for the number one person is that things are not always good in life. And when they are disappointed either in themselves or in other people, instead of accepting that reality, the number one person starts demanding that things be perfect. And my understanding in talking with number ones is that most often they expect things to be perfect within themselves, but also in their colleagues, and then they deal with anger because things aren’t the way they should be. So that’s an easy one to pick on of the nine spaces. But there are eight other perspectives.
By the way, I call them spaces. Some people call them types. But either way, they’re talking about nine perspectives on life. And in each space, the Enneagram describes what the person focuses on, as well as the compulsion that comes when they start overplaying their gifts. And then another wonderful gift of the Enneagram is that it suggests a grace given to each space that helps mitigate the risk when we overplay our giftedness.
So for the number one person, the grace that’s offered is serenity, which is, it’s really an invitation to be nonreactive instead of jumping and saying, “Things just shouldn’t be like this. I’m so angry. I’m so mad. I’m mad at myself. I’m mad at the world.” Serenity invites the person to be nonreactive for all that maybe isn’t the way they think it should be.
But that said, let me say that the Enneagram is multilayered, and if you get into it at all, you’ll discover there are triads and wings and arrows, and I like to take the Enneagram very, very slowly and step by step. If I can come to grips with one blind spot in my own life, that’ll keep me thinking for a long time.
Al: Yeah. Well, tell us a story about how you discovered the Enneagram, Alice, and as you got into it, what was God’s invitation to you with the Enneagram?
Alice: Well, I’m not a person who likes putting people in boxes.
Alice: And many years before the Enneagram, I was introduced to Myers-Briggs Type inventory, and I thought, “Ooh, I really don’t like boxes.” But MBTI was very helpful to me in addressing the question, Who am I? And then many years later, I heard about the Enneagram, and at that point I thought, “Well, if letters help me, maybe numbers will help me too.” So I went to the first workshop, my first workshop in Madison, Wisconsin, and I was really quite skeptical. And I remember sitting there, and the presenter actually started with a number two, which is a common place to start with the Enneagram. And he started with a number two. And as he described the number two person, I just thought, “Oh, my goodness. This is my daughter.” And then he goes around the circle and gets to number five space, and I thought, “Whoa, that’s my husband. How did he know this?” And then when I got to the number four space, or when he presented the number four space, I honestly thought, “Oh, dear. That’s me.” And I think that often happens, not with everybody who comes to the Enneagram, but when you really see yourself, it’s a little bit embarrassing. But I was excited because I saw my daughter and my husband and my other daughter.
But the first thing I was hooked on, the accuracy of the description. I thought, “There’s got to be something that is helpful in this.” And then as I worked with the Enneagram for several years, I began to see how valuable it is in our spiritual journey. John Calvin said, “We cannot know God unless we know ourselves, and we cannot know ourselves unless we know God.” So I just feel like this, my journey into the Enneagram, has not only helped me get to know myself better, but it’s helped me get to know God better.
Al: Yeah. Yeah, I found the same, Alice. When I first was introduced to the Enneagram, I started reading through the various types, and I thought, “Oh, yeah. Okay. That’s me. Yep.” I’m a number three, the achiever type. And then I read the signature sin was deceit, and I thought to myself, as a son of a one, like yourself, my dad was a one, and he taught me never to tell a lie. So I thought to myself, “I don’t ever tell lies. Deceit cannot be my signature sin.” And then it was like the Holy Spirit just kind of popped an image, an experience, that I would have on a weekly basis where we’d have regional meetings, and I was in charge of the Northwest. And I would go on and on and on about how great things were going in our office. And I never thought, “Well, I’m not telling any lies, here. I mean, what I was describing was truthful, but it clearly did not describe the reality, the full reality, the full picture, of the way I described what was going on.” And then my boss would often ask each of us, “Well, how’s this project going?” And I knew that we were, like, not getting started on that project or whatever it was. But whatever little bit we had done, I was able to describe that in great detail. And I thought, “Oh, I was just completely deceitful in terms of describing the full reality.” That was an experience. And again, I thought, “Oh, my. There’s a lot to this.” So, yeah, it’s been very helpful for me as well. That’s just one minor example.
Alice: It’s a pretty big example, actually. I mean, those things run so deep. I had the same experience. The very first book I ever read, or tried to read, about the Enneagram, and I saw that the number four, the compulsion of the number four, is envy. And I thought, “I don’t understand all these numbers. I don’t even know what number I am, but I know I’m not a number four.”
Alice: And now I say, “My name is Alice, and I’m a number four.”
Al: Exactly. Yeah. So we can’t begin to appreciate the relevance and application of the Enneagram without the terms false self and true self. And I love those terms, and it really helps me think of this. And I love the way you unpack and define these two terms, especially using scripture. So help us with these concepts. And Richard Rohr talks a lot about the false self and the true self, as other spiritual leaders do. Give us your definition.
Alice: Well, the false self is basically the person we wish we were, and it’s the person we think we should be. I would also say it’s the ego self, the negative side of the ego self. The false self needs constant approval. The false self always wants to impress people. And it’s important to know that we’re not really aware of our false self.
David Benner, an author I’ve loved a lot, says the false self is like the air we breathe. And Richard Rohr said the false self is easily offended about every three seconds. And I actually think Jesus was hinting at this a little bit when He talked with the disciples and He said, I think He said, “You were the son of the Great Deceiver.” And then He said, “And when Satan lies, he speaks his native language.” So the false self is our native language. And as we grow spiritually, I think we learn to translate into God’s language of love.
Another scripture that comes to mind that describes the false self to me is that Satan masquerades as an angel of light. And so our false self looks really, really good, and we probably get pretty many compliments on our false self. But it’s not our true self.
The true self is the person that was created in God’s image, and the true self reflects the love of God. The true self focuses more on love rather than on impressing people on how wonderful we are. But one of the things I’ve noticed in myself is that when I am operating, acting out of my true self, I’m usually a little surprised. “Wow, how did that happen, and where did that come from?” Sometimes it’s manifested as the fruit of the Spirit, but I don’t always know where it came from. It just seems like a miracle. And now I would say it is a miracle. When we act out of our true selves, that is miraculous. It’s a gift of God.
Al: Yeah. In the light of what you’ve said, tell us about the title of the book Mirror for the Soul.
Alice: Well, I like the title. It’s a little obtuse. But the Enneagram, it’s like looking into a really good mirror. And the truth is, we may not like what we see. I mean, we may wish that we looked different. So when we look in a mirror, we see the bulges. We see whether or not our clothes really match, if we’re having a good hair day or a bad hair day. And we may not like what we see, but we still want to know the truth. That’s why we’re looking. And the Enneagram tells us the truth.
But another reason why I like that image of a mirror is that when we look in the mirror, we see things backwards. And when we look at ourselves in the Enneagram, it’s almost as though we see things backwards. What we thought were our strengths, our gifts, have actually become our compulsions, and we find that we cannot not do what we think makes us look good. Other people can see it, but we can’t see that. A lot of times, other people can see our space on the Enneagram before we can. So, that’s one reason why the Enneagram is a mirror and we see things a little backwards.
Al: Oh, that’s great. Yeah.
So there are nine types, or as you call them, spaces, and, really, graces—I like that—that can help you return to your true self. And I love your definition of true self. In the book, you write “The nine graces identified all hint at the mercy and love of God and as He offers all of us all of the time.” I’m reasonably sure a number of our podcast listeners and leaders probably relate to being number ones or number threes, the achiever, or number eights, the challenger. These seem to be leadership types that I’ve found in Christian organizations. Can you tell us the story of an anonymous person, maybe a perfectionist, on how the Enneagram helps understand that person’s perspective?
Alice: Well, you’re right. Many people have noticed that number threes and number eights are very active in the business world, and I agree with you that certainly number ones are probably gifted in business and in the corporate world. Ones are really good people to have on your team because they catch problems and mistakes that the rest of us might miss. The problem is that ones have really strong opinions about what is a problem, what is a mistake, and what would be the right answer. And for other people in the office, this may mean that number ones seem a little picky and easily angered. And the Enneagram is not about giving out compliments. So when I pick on somebody, you could do this in all nine spaces, but that’s partly how the window to grace opens, when we see what the problems are.
And instead of telling you about an anonymous number one, I thought I’d tell you about my father, who was a number one, and say a little bit about what it was like for me to grow up with a number one father. He has long since died. But I spent most of my life, even after his death, I think, trying to meet his impossible standards. So nothing was ever good enough. And I’m a number four, and I’m full of self-doubt, and so his perfectionism and high standards really exacerbated my self-doubt. And then as an adult, when I learned about the Enneagram, I found I was able to extend a little more grace to myself and to him because I realized we were just looking through an entirely different window in life. I was looking at what can be, what are the creative possibilities here? And he was looking at what should be and what was right and what was wrong.
And then my first job out of college—looking back, I can see that one of my supervisors was probably a number one. And I took his anger personally. And this is a problem, I think particularly, I was with a Christian organization, and so right and wrong becomes theologically good and true or not. And so I took it personally when he disagreed with something that I said. But I didn’t know about the Enneagram at the time, and so I blamed myself. And I think both my father and my supervisor thought they were really trying to help me. They thought they were loving me. But it wasn’t bearing the fruit of the Spirit in my life.
And one of the sadnesses in my life is that I don’t think my relationship with either of these people was healed. But I do know I have been healed, partly through the learning about the Enneagram, because it’s helped me forgive them, and I also see in myself how much I overplay my own gifts. So essentially, the Enneagram has brought love and forgiveness by the grace of God into my life. And also, I have to say, a measure of humility. That’s another gift of the Enneagram to us.
Al: Yeah. Well, I relate very strongly to what you’ve said, again, as a son of a number one Enneagram type. Wild at Heart, the book we all know and particularly in men’s groups, says that we all have a father wound, and my father wound, as I would describe it in a small group reflecting on that book, is “Al, you’re just not good enough.” And that just would be the words that would come out of my experience of growing up in our house. I’m glad to say that my dad and I reconciled very early after I moved out of the house. But, yeah, it impacts us that way. And everybody has where your gifts are overexercised. I like the way you described that. That certainly has an impact on each of us.
So what is it about the Enneagram—and we’re already kind of getting at this—but what is it about the Enneagram that can be a tool for spiritual growth that captures and even delights you the most?
Alice: Well, it’s one of the reasons why I stuck this out for so many years, because it is just such a delight. I mean, not just in my own life, but because I’ve had the privilege of teaching workshops and doing spiritual direction. And when I see people really grasp this idea of overplaying our gift to the point of compulsions, it’s like seeing a slow-motion flower blossom. I mean, I feel like that’s what transformation looks like. And what I notice particularly is that people who have accepted the truth about themselves seem to be able to hold their gifts more loosely. And I love that in the workshops I’ve done, there’s always a lot of laughter. I mean, people say, “Oh, I can’t believe that! That’s what I did the other day.” You know, they laugh at themselves. And that’s one way I see them holding their gifts more loosely. And then probably even more, I think their lives begin to reflect the fruits of the Spirit. It’s not a direct parallel. It’s very, very close, the fruits of the Spirit and the spaces of the Enneagram. But we’re all a little bit of all the spaces. And when we begin to hold ourselves more loosely, all of us can reflect all of the fruits of the Spirit. And when that happens, then I think our gifts become more effective. So we’re not losing something by accepting the reality of the downside of our gifts. I think we’re actually—our gifts become more fruitful and more loving. We become more loving, merciful people. So we actually become more like the creator God.
Al: There’s a goal: becoming more loving, more merciful. That’s a great outcome.
Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
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Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
You know, I remember reading my first book that I read on the Enneagram was Richard Rohr’s The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. And we talked about the Enneagram one, and he described the apostle Paul was an Enneagram one, and he self describes himself as a one. And the apostle John, he was a two, and he talks about Peter as possibly being an eight. And then he came to the number three, which I self-identify as, the successful achiever. And I’m kind of waiting, “So, okay. So which of the apostles am I most like?” And he said, Pontius Pilate was the example for us threes. “Oh, great. Oh, I really feel good about that.”
So let’s talk about this number three, the successful achiever, as the way you call it. I’m all ears. What’s a favorite story that you’ve got that can illustrate how a person’s three-ness, particularly as a Christian leader, comes out? So how about a story?
Alice: Well, I want to tell you about—I’ll be quick about this, but I want to tell you about two number three friends. When you see a number three, a transformed number three is just a beautiful person to get to know because they have the ability to get things done, which I love and we all benefit from that. And when they can get things done in a loving, in a non-serving self-serving way, sometimes the rest of us don’t even know how this happened.
And I think of a friend of ours who is an internationally known teacher and author, and he is a self-professed number three. And I got an email from him several years ago asking me if I would write an article on the Enneagram. And I really quite quickly wrote back to him and told him it’s an honor to be asked, but I’m just too busy; so thanks but no thanks. And then about two or three weeks after that, I’m sitting at my computer, writing this article on the Enneagram. And I thought, “How did he do that?” I mean, I gave him credit, and I gave him blame. What am I doing writing this article that I really didn’t think I wanted to write? And the truth was I loved writing it, and that article became the beginning of this book, Mirror for the Soul, a decade later. So he gave me a gift with his number three ability to get things done.
And then I think of a friend of mine, a number three, who is a nurse, and she’s very, very gifted in teaching other nurses. If she had been in another field, they would have said she climbed the corporate ladder. So she got up, sort of to the top of the pack, and they asked her if she wanted to lead up this whole unit or organization. And normally, I think she would think, “Wow, yes. I’m really hot stuff.” But because she knows the Enneagram and knows the risk, the compulsion of the number three, the question she asked herself is, Would this promotion be good for my soul? And that’s always been a very tender perspective, that I appreciate that she had that perspective.
Let me just say one more thing, that even when transformations happen, it doesn’t mean that we become saints. And so I think about the two people who are probably still working with these two number threes, and probably some of the people that they work with would say, “Well, yeah, they’re a little pushy and a little deceitful, but when the gifts come through, it’s worth the struggle, and it’s just a wonderful thing to see that happen.” I’m not sure this is what the verse means, but I think of love covers a multitude of sins, and it seems to me that would describe all nine spaces.
Al: I think you’re right. Yeah. So I love what you said, getting things done in a loving, serving way, for sure.
Well, okay, so there’s another Enneagram type that we see in Christian organizations—I mentioned maybe like the apostle Peter—but the number eight space, the challenger. You write, they reflect the power of their creators. And again, they’re very powerful leader types, as I’ve seen. They’re assertive, they’re confident, they’re independent, and they provide leadership in many settings. And I can even hear the strong, confident amens from the eights who are listening. So, Alice, what’s the payoff, the grace, the transformation, that awaits an eight in the Enneagram?
Alice: Well, I have to say, I really, really, really need number eights in the world. I’m an introvert, and I’m a contemplative person, and I’d be happy sitting in my room most of the day. So if everybody were like me and we didn’t have number eights in the world, not a lot of activity would get done. I’m grateful for the work of contemplation, but I need number eights to be out there doing more than I’m doing. But that said, number eights can drive me crazy. I’m jealous of them. That’s in my job description as a number four. I’m jealous of their confidence, and I’m annoyed by their assertiveness. And sometimes they push me around, and I don’t necessarily like that. But as with all the spaces, it’s just a beautiful thing when you see a transformed number eight.
I think of one workshop I led. A woman was attending who was a number eight and a spiritual director, and she had tears in her eyes as she talked about how afraid she was that she would intimidate and push people she was meeting with for spiritual direction rather than just tenderly loving them and letting them be the authority on their lives. So I knew God had touched her soul.
Another friend who headed up a large Christian organization is a number eight. And at his best, he was helpful and compassionate. But at the same time, he would sometimes spiral into the compulsions of the number eight. And when that happened, it was almost impossible for him to listen or to respond positively to other people’s opinions. And so from my perspective, sometimes he pushed through policies that others strongly resisted. But he would say that the Enneagram and spiritual direction were both helpful to him.
We’re all people in process, and we don’t learn the Enneagram and live happily ever after. So we can give grace and a lot of time to each other as we work through these things.
Al: Boy, amen to that.
So now the question that a lot of people ask in the Christian circles, and, okay, there are these nine types, and, well, Jesus was a person. Where would you type Jesus on the Enneagram?
Alice: Well, I would say He was probably all of the spaces. The bottom line, what I love about the Enneagram, is that we’re transformed by God’s grace, and through this self-awareness, we become more loving people. And Jesus was God, and so Jesus was love, is love. And so He used all of His gifts for love. So I don’t think He needed the Enneagram.
Al: I would agree with that. And as we mature, don’t we also exhibit more of the wholeness of the Enneagram, not just our one spaces?
Alice: Well, I do think that’s true. But I actually just this summer finished writing a book on the spirituality of aging, and one of the things that I learned as I wrote it—it was a book where I learned—and the false self grows old with us.
Alice: So what does—what also grows is our self-awareness. So that might be why you say, “Well, we’re more aware of how we are touched by all of the spaces.” But the false self grows old with us. And I’m sort of glad that I’m coming into old age, or I’m already in old age, knowing about the false self and the true self, because it doesn’t fake me out quite as much. At least I say, “Well, you’re acting like your false self. I’m going to go about doing something else.”
Al: That’s great. I’m curious: What’s one of the biggest question marks that you asked yourself when you first discovered the Enneagram? And you’ve mentioned that you’ve been kind of following the Enneagram for about 25 years. So what’s one of the biggest blessings or benefits that you’ve received as well as you’ve used the Enneagram in your own life and in your ministry?
Alice: Well, there’s a lot of questions in that one question.
Al: Yeah. Right.
Alice: Probably the biggest question mark for me actually has come in recent years. As the Enneagram is becoming more and more popular—I mean, when I started teaching the Enneagram, there were lots of questions about its origin and whether or not I could trust it. I’m a Christian, and this kind of thing. And my colleague and I were kind of on the cutting edge early on because not many people even knew what it was.
But as it’s gotten more and more popular, I’m really sad to see and I question the very high risk that the Enneagram is becoming a self-management tool. So people come to our workshops and they expected to find out their space and then how to solve all the problems of their space. And so early in the day of the workshop, we would say, you know, “You may go home and not even know your space.” And some people, their faces would just fall. But it’s a long process of self-awareness.
I personally don’t like the online surveys very much. I think they can be helpful, get somebody started. But there’s no way a computer generated set of questions can give you the lifelong experience of self-awareness that deep engagement with the Enneagram offers.
And the Enneagram is not meant to be a self-management tool. When people get into the wings and the arrows, there’s a sense of, “Oh, good. My arrow goes here. So now I know what to do if I’m under stress,” or “My arrow goes here, and now I know how to correct the problem.” And to me it’s just sort of a violation of the intent of the Enneagram.
Grace from God, including all the graces given to each of the spaces, isn’t something that we can manage. Paul said not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. So I would say anybody who stops before every day of the rest of their lives looking for grace is missing out on what God wants to give us. And I think one of the things with the Enneagram is that it allows us to see how much we need mercy and grace. And it’s kind of like a window where we can welcome grace into our lives.
As far as how I use it, I mean in my own life, I have to say probably every day I’m one way or another aware of how big a number four is a gift and a compulsion in my life. But I also have benefited from the Enneagram a lot in my ministry of spiritual direction, mostly because it helps me ask questions that might not occur to me if it weren’t for the Enneagram. Over the years, I’ve met with a lot of people who either know they’re number sixes or are presenting themselves as a number six, and number six is dealing with a lot of fear, but it’s probably hidden from them, and they probably would hide it from other people. But if I think, “Oh, this person is probably fitting into the number six space,” I might ask, “So what is it you’re most afraid of in this particular situation?” And often that just cracks open wonders of conversation.
Al: Excellent. I’m married to a number six. I know exactly what you’re saying there.
So at BCW, we’ve served hundreds of Christian leaders and their organizations, worked to build flourishing workplace cultures. And by the way, I always enjoyed working with your husband, Bob, at InterVarsity Press. In your mind, what’s at stake for the leader who might balk at gaining more self-awareness and a deeper knowledge of God through using the Enneagram?
Alice: Well, if they realize that they’re balking, then I’m really happy about that, because that’s a point of self-awareness.
Al: Yeah. Right.
Alice: And they’re actually right because the Enneagram isn’t about giving out compliments. It’s about our blind spots. And most of us have lived most of our lives in sort of happy denial about what we don’t know. And I do think, I have to say, I think number eights and number threes are at pretty high risk for this. And it’s quite scary for those two spaces to see their blind spots. So I think it takes a very humble, open leader to be willing to engage in the Enneagram.
And I, actually, if I were talking to a leader who has some questions about it, I’d suggest that a leader of a Christian organization start learning the Enneagram outside of the workplace. It’s just too threatening to be authentic and vulnerable as the Enneagram invites us to be in the workplace. And then as this leader, person grows in self-awareness and humility, then they become stronger and better leaders, and perhaps they can introduce the Enneagram to their own team. But I’m pretty cautious about offering Enneagram workshops in the workplace. I know you’ve done it with your team, and very effectively, and so that’s a grace and a gift that you could do that. But if there’s any sense of, my compulsions might be—if my boss knows my compulsions, he might use that against me, or she might use that against me. And when your compulsions are illustrated, and very clearly, in a circle diagram, that can be pretty threatening.
So I don’t really know the answer to this. I’ve certainly taught the Enneagram in workplaces and in churches—that’s a workplace—but it needs to be taught in a way that’s very honoring and respectful of individuals and never, ever used as a means to manage them. I have books about the Enneagram, how to use the Enneagram in management, and maybe some of them are good, but I’m not drawn to that perspective.
Al: Yeah. Well, I think your point’s a great one here, that first of all, I like your suggestion for leaders, that if they’re going to start with the self-awareness that comes from the Enneagram, probably starting in the workplace is not the place to do it. To really begin either with yourself or a small group outside the workplace, that’s probably a great place to do it. You know, as I think about my own spiritual development, spiritual growth, and my maturity as a Christian, you know, I think of three hinges on the door to spiritual growth, starting with prayer is really important and even contemplative prayer, as you’ve highlighted. Then secondly, humility. We need to have the sense of humility, of thinking less about ourselves, and being open to learning new things. And then thirdly, self-awareness is just huge in terms of our own spiritual maturity. And of course, at the Best Christian Workplaces, we’re all about helping leaders get feedback so that they can be more self-aware. But that prayer, humility, self-awareness is a series of practices that I have found to be helpful.
So, you know, Alice, as we wind down our time, let me read your last sentence in your book, and you say that “The Enneagram is one tool to enrich the experience of transformation, and it’s a gift to those of us who have the privilege of watching God’s grace at work.” So it doesn’t get more basic and real than that, does it.
Alice: No. That’s why I love the Enneagram.
Alice: It’s just a great tool.
Well, Alice, as our time comes to a close here, I just want to just say how much I appreciate the discussion. And even starting off with the question, Who am I? I think we all ask ourselves that question, Who am I? And clearly, the Enneagram helps us in that journey of self-awareness to know who we are and who we are through grace and serenity and the gifts of grace that come to us and how it’s really a valuable spiritual tool to help us understand our false self as well as our true self. And it becomes, as your title says, a mirror for the soul. So really, it’s a great tool to help us bring love and to be more loving, as you said.
What would you like to add? Maybe something that we haven’t talked about yet.
Alice: Well, I’m fussing around with my papers here because I wanted to tell you about a verse that I love: Galatians 2:20, particularly in The Message, and I can’t find my papers here, so I will tell you what I remember. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” And Eugene Peterson in The Message says, I no longer try to impress people. That I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer try to impress people. And to me that’s one of the things, one of the gifts of the Enneagram, that it’s Christ in us and not we ourselves who are reaching out to other people. And I love the thought that I don’t even have to impress God.
Al: Yeah. Boy, that’s great.
And how about one final thought? Maybe an encouragement that you’d like to leave with our listeners.
Alice: Well, I’ll tell you what I tell people at the beginning of my workshops. I encourage people to go really, really slow. At the end of His life, Jesus said to His disciples, I have so much more I want to say to you, but it’s more than you can bear now. And the Holy Spirit will reveal truth to us as we can bear it. So I would teach a whole six- or eight-hour-day workshop, and my perspective would be if everybody in the workshop would leave with just one whisper of the Spirit, one invitation of the Spirit, one point of self-awareness, that would be worth the whole day. If that’s all they can bear that day, that’s the invitation of God for that particular event. And I think that describes everything we read about the Enneagram.
Al: Thanks, Alice.
So, ladies and gentlemen, Alice Fryling, the author of Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, insights, and stories, and thank you for investing yourself in everyone who’s been benefiting from all you’ve shared with us today. Thanks, Alice, very much.
Alice: Thank you.
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