This one comes to us from Clayton Hornback.

These days it seems you can throw a rock and hit a self-professed Enneagram guru. For those of you living under a rock, the Enneagram is a personality profile made up of nine different “Types.” Each person’s primary personality falls somewhere from 1 to 9. For the Enneagram enthusiast, it’s not uncommon for them to identify themselves by their number over against their name. “Hi, I’m a Six. Oh, and my name’s Clayton.”

I remember first experiencing the Enneagram during my freshmen year of college. In lieu of the Myers-Briggs, DISC, or others, students at my college were encouraged to take the Enneagram (pretty cutting edge for a 1,500 person Christian college in southwest Missouri in 2007). I took the test, after which I received a 20-page handout detailing the intricacies of my personality. And instead of reading said handout, I walked back to my dorm, threw it in my desk drawer, and thought, “What a crock. How can a test tell me who I am or what I’m like?” I didn’t open that desk drawer until around two years later when I was going through an extremely difficult time of anxiety in my life and was searching for something to help me through. I opened the drawer, took out my 20-page personality profile, and read the words, “A six doubts everything, and especially authorities in their lives.” After reading the first line, I was sold. I poured over the pages and thought, “Yep! Check! That’s me! Oh, no, I hope that’s not me…Lord, have mercy, that’s me.”

The Enneagram has a lot going for it. I appreciate its emphasis on connecting with other types in the personality spectrum; you’re not taking this test just for self-discovery but to learn how to relate with others. The test also takes context into account; individuality and family dynamics play a large part in the type of Enneagram “type” you are.

But where the Enneagram really stands out is in its concentration on motivations. Each of us is primarily motivated by a chief desire and a chief fear. For me — a Six who is deep, deep in the Six camp — my chief desire is to have security and support. I like structure, dependability, and knowing things are going to work out. And you can probably guess my chief fear: everything in life hitting the metaphorical fan. My fear is chaos, lack of support and structure, disloyalty. This leads to anxiety, insecurity, and unsubstantiated paranoia (for a perfect example of such paranoia, see the entire sitcom life of Seinfeld’s George Costanza).

Although I wish I could focus more on my chief desire and work towards that end, I’m usually stuck on my chief fear. I’m nearly constantly fretting about the what-if’s and what-could-go-wrong’s of life, which leads me to nearly always missing out on the what-is of life. And each Enneagram personality has their own object of fear. Whether its the fear of being corrupt (1), unwanted (2), worthless (3), insignificant (4), incapable (5), pained (7), controlled (8), or separated (9) — or anything else between — each human person is a walking fear factory. And we’re constantly looking to people or things to assuage these fears.

Yet, it seems that in our Enneagram enthralled culture the message of the Advent season is even more apropos and comforting to each of us fearful Types. The message is simple. It’s a word that has been spoken from God to fearful humankind from the Fall until now, and a word spoken to fearful shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. And It’s a word this fearful, doubting, anxious Six needs to hear afresh: “Fear not! For I bring you tidings of great joy…for to you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”