The Depth of Our Gift – 10 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

by Mark Votava


1. A key to self-knowledge

“The Enneagram is first of all a key to self-knowledge.  The point is not to nail others down or to have others nail me down, but that I ask myself who I am, what dangers and possibilities there are within me, and how I can find my ‘true self,’ which God put inside me.  Ultimately, I am the only one who can identify myself with a certain type or life program of the Enneagram.  This process may move very quickly, or it may take a long time.  I determine the tempo.  Even those who don’t immediately figure out their type can observe their own life story in the mirror of the new type description and thereby make progress.  It will be helpful for some – if they are stimulated by the Enneagram – to write down key episodes from their own biographies and to reflect on them alone or discuss them with others (for example, with a counselor).”

2. Nine attributes of God

“The Sufis supposedly called the Enneagram ‘the face of God’ because they saw the nine energies manifested in the nine personality types as nine attributes of God (nine refractions of the divine light)…”

3. The pitfalls or dead ends in our thinking

“The Enneagram spells out the pitfalls or dead ends in our thinking.  At the same time it gives each type a specific invitation or call to conversion.  In Enneagram literature these invitations are called ‘holy ideas’ or ‘ideas of the higher spiritual center.’  The term ‘invitation,’ which we have chosen, emphasizes on the other hand that we understand the call to freedom primarily as an offer from God and not our own doing…”

4. Help people to understand better the specific dynamics in a given relationship

“Immature types will have a hard time with anybody else – mature persons, by contrast, are in a position to respect and love all the types.  At any rate the Enneagram does help people to understand better the specific dynamics at work in a given relationship…”

5. Acknowledging what’s there

“The Enneagram tells it ‘like it is.’  And our healing and maturing always begin with our ‘acknowledging what’s there.’  As a ‘mirror for the confessional,’ it makes us aware of blocks and abysses that enslave us…”

6. The actual depth of our gift

“Thus every gift that we get excessively fixated on paradoxically becomes our sin.  Our gift and our sin are two sides of the same coin.  To meet your gift, you must, so to speak, chew, eat, and digest your sin…  If we own and take responsibility for our darkness, if we feel how it has wounded ourselves and others, how it has allowed us not to love and not to be loved – if we do that, I promise that we will become alert to the other side, to our greatest gift, or rather, the actual depth of our gift.  Our gift is our sin sublimated and transformed by grace.”

7. Our seeing and hearing

“Our seeing and our hearing need to include, forgive, and reconcile what the rest of the world rejects, dismisses, and punishes…  Christianity is probably the only religion in the world that teaches us, from the very cross, how to win by losing.  It is always a hard sell.  Especially for folks who are into strength, dominance, winning, and enforcing conclusions.  God’s restorative justice is much more patient, and finally much more transformative, than mere coercive obedience.”

8. Cling to our prejudices and identify with our preconceived views and feelings

“So long as we all cling to our prejudices and identify with our preconceived views and feelings, genuine human community is impossible.  You have to get to the point where you can break free of your feelings.  Otherwise in the end you won’t have any feelings; they’ll have you.  Sometimes one meets people who are free from themselves.  They express what moves them – and then they can, so to speak, take a step backward.  They play an active part in things, but you notice that they don’t think they’ve got a corner on the truth market.  Without this kind of ‘inner work,’ which consists in my simultaneously putting myself forward and relativizing myself, community is doomed to failure…  Learning it is really hard work…”  

9. Responsibility and freedom work constructively together

“This is true of all nine types: excess turns all gifts into curses.  That’s why we have to ask, how can we set all our energies free so that they serve life and truth?…  This is the function of the ‘objective observer.’  I can perceive something, but I can also detach myself from it.  In this way responsibility and freedom work constructively together.”

10. To become more mature, wiser, and more integrated

“But at some point in our thirties, or at the latest at forty, this game gets increasingly dull.  Up till now everything has worked so well; we can give people the impression that we are ‘cool’ or ‘witty’ or ‘the serious, reflective student.’  Up till now we have fixated on this self-image and led others to fixate on it.  It was a help in demarcating our own ego from the environment.  But the more such ego boundaries harden and the more anyone identifies with this sort of self-image and tries to maintain it at any price, the more clearly we also see the other side of the coin.  If someone has kept busy up to the age of forty cultivating this image, it will be very difficult to change.  At the same time it becomes increasingly clearer that the whole thing no longer adds up.  What was pleasure becomes a burden. That is why this moment in the middle of life harbors the great opportunity – as difficult as it is – to reflect critically on what has previously been achieved, to change, to become more mature, wiser, and more integrated…”

Have you learned about the Enneagram?  How has it transformed how you experience life?