The Enneagram is a series of nine interconnected numbers corresponding with a specific personality type—but it’s more than a personality test. When used correctly, it’s a helpful life tool for understanding yourself and others. Once you identify your type, you can see your strengths and weaknesses, learn paths for growth, and find comfort in finally understanding some of the weird things you—and others—have done for years.
I am Type Five, which means I’m independent, curious, preoccupied with my thoughts, intense, and a bit detached from others. Fives guard their energy vigilantly, hesitant to give up their physical or mental energy to activities, people, or ideas that aren’t going to give them some valuable return.
So, being all these things, I fairly squirmed as frivolous gifts were passed around the white elephant Christmas party at my office last year. A purple glass skull. A literal white porcelain elephant. A kid’s toy. A nerf gun. Then, out of nowhere, a hummingbird feeder.
It was functional. It involved nature. It was the perfect gift for me.
As my turn to trade or keep approached, I eyed the gifts and calculated my move. But as I looked around at the guffawing people, a bird feeder didn’t seem silly enough to choose. It wouldn’t keep the laughter rolling. Bringing practicality to a party is about as popular as bringing avocado deviled eggs or vegan cheese to a potluck.
Still, I pictured stirring sugar into boiling water. I envisioned the feeder hanging in the tree outside my window. I imagined ethereal ruby-throated birds on their way up from Mexico, stopping for a sip of energy.
So I traded my gift—I don’t even remember what it was—for the bird feeder. As I predicted, the room deflated a bit, as if I’d just let the air out of a balloon.
I’m used to sidestepping the silly. I am not the girl with a handy facial contortion when someone exclaims, “Ok, goofy pose!” I am not the girl to dye my hair teal or pierce my nose. I am not the girl to hop a plane at the last minute bound for an unplanned destination. And I most definitely am not the girl of whom you would say, “Nothing about her is typical.”
That puts me in a predicament. The memes and posts tell me to be me, be true to myself—but they also tell me not to be typical. They are fond of saying, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” But I am innately well-behaved. So I ask myself every day, “Am I okay? Should I be more unique? In trying to be more unique, aren’t I moving farther away from myself?”
But there’s also the deeper question: “Is it so important to be unique?”
Most children know the snowflake analogy: we’re all little ice crystals with unique grooves and edges. When God tossed down that flake, he threw the ice mold away. That makes us feel good and special. But it leaves the snowflake swirling in midair. The end of the snowflake is always to join its fellows in a collective effort to delight children and numb my fingers as I scrape it off my windshield. It’s impossible to separate one flake from the next once they’ve mounded together. (Of course, an analogy is only meant to go so far.)
Unique sounds like a place to find identity and affirmation—but it is deceitful. Lately, as I’ve studied the Enneagram, I’ve understood that none of these nine types stand alone. None are better than any others or worse. We’re all connected, we’re all “typical” in one way or another, and we’re better for it. Other people keep us from getting lost in the isolation of our own uniqueness. “Me too” resonates with humans for a reason.
God didn’t call us to be unique for our own identity or satisfaction. He called us to something better: purpose (2 Timothy 1:9). He called us to be like him. Bob Goff, author of Love Does, said, “We won’t be like Jesus if it’s more important to us to be like each other.” But I would amend that slightly to say, “We won’t be like Jesus if it’s more important for us to not be like each other.” In fact, we won’t be like Jesus until it’s most important for us to be like Jesus.
Christ wants to work through our personalities and gifts. That means finding ways to bear one another’s burdens, making connections with them, showing them grace and love and patience, sharing wisdom and guidance. That means being of one mind, no matter our Enneagram type. That means embracing who Christ has made us to be in him.
A few weeks ago, my friend Laura gasped, “Look! A hummer!” Sure enough, I glanced up to see an almost imperceptibly small bird helping himself to some liquid energy from my feeder.
Call me typical or boring, I guess, but if I could go back, I’d choose that bird feeder over again. And at least one little bird out there is thankful I did.