First of all, it’s interesting to me that you view the world as adverse to introversion. From my perspective (as a mild extrovert) it seems like introversion is the new hip thing! Suddenly there are all these TED Talks and books and articles coming out about the value and wisdom of introverts, and I find myself feeling a bit left out—how can a mild extrovert get in on this introversion thing?!? Funny, but that question seems to drive your main point home. The fact of the matter is, we need accept who we are and have permission to live into that true self in healthy and redemptive ways. So instead of trying to figure out how I can become one of those cool, mysterious, introverted types, I’m better off learning to embrace my mild extroversion.
As for the Enneagram—yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! I’ve come to believe that the Enneagram is critical for the second season of life. It’s another tool that I sort of stumbled upon, only to discover a whole new world inside of myself. It started during a conversation with my coach, who, after listening to me ramble on about a personal issue said, “You’re a Seven aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. But I had no idea what he was talking about. Seeing the confused expression on my face he said, “Never mind. Go on.” And I did, not even bothering to ask about the Seven thing.
Fast forward a few months. I was doing a lectio divina (a slow, meditative reading) of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, and I came across the well-known verse, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The word “meek” caught my attention, and I began to look up the same verse in every possible translation of the Bible. While I had known that verse for practically my entire life, I suddenly realized that I had no idea what “meek” meant. I read Bible dictionaries and commentaries and dug and dug and dug. Finally, I opened The Message. Here is how Eugene Peterson has translated that verse:
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
Meek = content with just who you are—no more, no less.
I felt a pit in my stomach, a profound realization that I was NOT meek. I was not content with who I was. And for the first time in my life, I wanted to be meek. I desperately wondered what it would be like to be content with just who I was, no more no less. As I pondered that, I opened my Kindle, because I vaguely remembered buying a book that seemed to address that very issue. Sure enough, scrolling through pages of purchases, I found the title—a book by David Benner called The Gift of Being Yourself. I had bought the book, and then carefully avoided it for months. I intuitively knew it held the key to something that I wasn’t sure I wanted to unlock. But in that moment, I also realized that I was being invited on holy quest, that I was on the brink of a discovery that would both destroy me and deliver me. I dared to read the book.
Benner addresses the shadow self to which you refer, and suggests using the Enneagram as a means of discovering the core drives and motivations of that shadow self. I took the Enneagram type analysis and I was clearly a Seven!! The previous conversation with my coach came to mind, and I finally saw what had been so very clear to him through our conversation. I’m a Seven through and through! At their core, Sevens are gluttons whose greatest fear is being deprived. Gluttons are insatiable—never satisfied. The opposite of meek.
Understanding myself as a Seven has brought so much clarity, and has been one of the biggest helps I’ve found in my journey of personal transformation. I’ll share more about that in my next letter, but one last thought—one of the reasons a Rule of Life works so well for me is because it is a way of establishing healthy limits for a person that resists limits of any kind. So when I tell you more about my Seven-ness, I’ll also tell you how having a Rule of Life has been part of my healing process.
Your turn! I’m dying to know your Enneagram, and how that self-discovery has promoted freedom and growth in your life.