Holding Tension – 8 quotes from Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert’s book – The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

by Mark Votava

51E4hrZVAiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Making room for real life

“With the Enneagram the point is to call our illusions by name and to unmask them, so that there will be room for real life instead of self-deception.”

2. The inner richness of melancholy

“’Normal’ quiet happiness, of the sort others – apparently enjoy, seems to a FOUR at once attractive and repellent, for that could mean the end of the sweet wistfulness that FOURs need to feel ‘themselves.’ The inner richness of melancholy seems to be more attractive than what others carelessly call ‘happiness’…”

3. Efforts to avoid pain

“Among the life tasks of SEVENs is to get wise to their overhasty rationalizations. They can reach the stage where because of all the planned and organized joy they are no longer capable of rejoicing spontaneously and from the heart. Sometimes they become peculiarly pigheaded and tense in their efforts to avoid pan.”

4. A place of silence

“TWOs, like all heart types and activists, need a place of silence and objectivity, where they can be alone, where they can make friends with themselves and seriously reflect – with their heads, that is. TWOs are inclined to think with their hearts. In their aggressive phases they can, under certain circumstances, switch off their heads altogether…”

5. Inner hiding place

“The temptation of NINEs consists in belittling themselves – especially in their own eyes. At first glance NINEs seem humble. In reality this often conceals false modesty and fear of revealing themselves. Because they are often not very convinced about themselves, they like to stay in the background and cultivate the self-image of not being anything special. They can enter a room and then leave it without anyone taking notice of them. They don’t draw the attention of others to them, and do nothing to make themselves conspicuous. NINES are dependent on others’ noticing them and coming up to them. When this happens, they are surprised (‘Oh, you’ve noticed me!’) and can come out of their inner hiding place.”

6. Regularly retreat to be alone

“FIVEs hate intrusiveness and intruders… FIVEs protect their private spheres like the apple of their eye. FIVEs who live in a community must regularly retreat to be alone and refuel. Most FIVEs find too many people and too much closeness fatiguing and exhausting. They need time for themselves, to order their thoughts and feelings and to focus internally on new encounters.”

7. Being able to laugh at themselves

“ONEs are affable people so long as they don’t take themselves too seriously. The way out of their predicament always consists in relativizing themselves and thus freeing themselves from their false self. The greatest freedom of ONEs lies in being able to laugh at themselves, because they see that their own perceptions are only part of the total picture.”

8. Holding a very real amount of tension

“If we are unwilling to live askew for a while, to be set off balance, to wait on the ever spacious threshold, we remain in the same old room for all our lives. If we will not balance knowing with a kind of open ended not knowing – nothing new seems to happen. Thus it is called ‘faith’ and demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.”

What do you like about the enneagram?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Any good journey outward requires a good and arduous journey inward. In The Mystical Imagination, Mark Votava carefully guides us on an inner journey of formation marked by an honest account of our truest need and our greatest contribution in the world. It awakens us to the possibility that God can in fact be expressed and experienced in our heart of hearts, pouring over into meaningful acts of love and service. This book is a true gift.” Christiana Rice, co-author of Altered, Leadership Coach and Community Cohort Facilitator with Thresholds, neighborhood practitioner

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Mark Votava wrestles with ‘the tension between the real and the possible’ in his Tacoma neighborhood, in community relationships and inside himself. His humble witness invites us to consider and practice simplicity, love, growth, and gratitude. This profoundly honest text is chock full of ideas born of experience. A battle with depression, an intentional choice to leave employment as a school teacher and instead take jobs as a janitor and a dishwasher and the struggle to overcome anger and bitterness give him the authority to bring relevant recommendations. Votava’s wise words on forgiveness, reconciliation and letting go of control have the ring of one who knows. This book covers essential territory for building healthy communities of Jesus for the long haul.” Kelly Bean, Executive Director, African Road, co-planter Urban Abbey, co-founder Convergence, author of How to be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community