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To Know and Be Known, Part 2

StrengthsFinder. Enneagram. Love Languages. What are they?

In Part 1 of this post, I previously wrote about the different ways we can know ourselves and know others here. In that post, I compared getting to know someone like traveling through a city– you can either just drive in your car on the highway or you can take public transportation, you can walk, you can take side roads, ride a Segway, etc. 

I’d like this to be a metaphor for understanding all the ways we tend to categorize ourselves, with surveys and personality tests, asking from friends and experts, reading in Scripture and self-help books. Sometimes it seems pointless and fruitless (and I guess it can be if you are trying to find the meaning of life in your broken human nature), but just as a Segway tour might not be the most efficient way to travel in Chicago and yet lets you see things you might have missed out on, all of these books and tests can help us understand at least one facet of this gem we call “life.”

In that post I wrote about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Johari Window, and the Animal Types. Here I will write about three more tools that you can use to further explore your personality and gain a new perspective on life.

Enneagram

I first encountered the Enneagram in one of my first classes in Wheaton Grad School– Personal Spiritual Formation. We took an online test the came together to discuss what we found. My professor, Scottie May, brought in her daughter-in-law, who has taught about the Enneagram for years, and she helped us go over our results. 

The Enneagram is a strange tool. It’s somewhat ancient, but there are debates on its origins. Some point to Evagrius Ponticus, a 4th century Christian mystic. The modern introduction to the Enneagram was pioneered by G.I. Gurdjieff and Oscar Ichazo. Some have pointed to ancient Sufi wisdom as the beginning of the Enneagram– but the Enneagram Institute debates this misconception.  Honestly, when I first heard about it, due it’s strange name, I thought it was something very New Age or connected to the occult– and I don’t usually jump to those conclusions. But after reading Richard Rohr’s The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, I came to really appreciate the redemptive qualities of the tool. Much like Christmas or other Christian traditions– they might not have started out with a full focus on Christ, but could be re-ordered and redeemed to help us focus on Christ. 

You can take the test online– you answer questions about yourself and what you prefer. Eventually it gives you a number from 1-9, but it doesn’t stop there. You also have a wing. So you might be a 6 with a 5 wing or a 9 with a 1 wing. This gives even more clarity to your identity– instead of just 9 results, in a way there are 18, since you can have a wing from either side. Also, you can be moving in a healthy direction to another number or moving in an unhealthy manner to another number. And there are stages for each of those parts.

Honestly, I won’t be able to completely explain the Enneagram in a single post– but here is what I love about it. It reveals how you suck. (Sorry for using the S-word.) But really, it shows what you struggle with– Fear, Anger, Sloth, etc.– and how you lean towards healthy responses or unhealthy responses. By itself, this could be simply overwhelming. But as a Christian, I know that I can rely on Jesus Christ– and that I am complete in Him. So if my struggle is having control, I must trust that He is in control. If I struggle with shame, I can know that He has taken away my shame and given me a new identity. 

I have gotten many different results (Type 6, Type 4, Type 2) which is why I don’t always automatically look to the Enneagram as a reliable tool– but the first time I took the test, I was labeled Type 9. When I read the description, it just seemed too true. Scary true.

Basic Fear: Of loss and separation

Basic Desire: To have inner stability “peace of mind”

Enneagram Nine with an Eight-Wing: “The Referee”

Enneagram Nine with a One-Wing: “The Dreamer”

Nines are motivated by the need to keep the peace, to merge with others, and to avoid conflict. Since they, especially, take on qualities of the other eight types. Nines have many variations in their personalities, from gentle and mild-mannered to independent and forceful.

Nines at their Best are pleasant, peaceful, generous, patient, receptive, diplomatic, open-minded, and empathetic.  Nines at their Worst are spaced-out, forgetful, stubborn, obsessive, apathetic, passive-aggressive, judgmental and unassertive. (Read more at http://www.safeharbor1.com/documents/Enneagram-Personality-Type-Indicator.pdf)

The thing about the Enneagram is that if you are embarrassed, mad, or annoyed with the description, it probably fits. While other personality tests affirm our goodness, the Enneagram affirms our brokenness. But in Christ, we can be whole again.

You can take the test at this site: http://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test.php. Let me know what you think!

StrengthsFinder

I have now taken the StrengthsFinder test three times. First, when I was getting ready to go to Baylor University, where it is required and posted on our dorm room doors. Second, after I was done with Baylor and wanted some clarity as I figured out what was the next step. And just last week, as I am finishing grad school and planning on moving on to whatever comes next.

It’s fascinating to see what has changed over the years, what has stayed the same. There are 34 different strengths and you are given your top 5 (unless you pay $90 to see where all 34 fall), and you do this by taking a test.

You choose between 2 statements on a grade of 1-5. If you agree more with statement A, you select 1 or 2. If you agree more with statement B, you select 4 or 5.  You have to be honest with yourself and sometimes it’s hard. I want to be kind to strangers, but I often prefer people I know. I think I should be more risk-taking, but I’m pretty cautious. Also, sometimes you agree with both statements– but you shouldn’t choose 3, because that means you don’t care about either statement, not that you’re undecided. I think I messed it up the first time I took it, which is why I never fully agreed with my strengths. But that is how it works– you may only somewhat agree with what you get, because you can’t always see yourself perfectly. Here are my results.

Before College (2007)

  1. Input– Craving to know more, collect, archive
  2. Connectedness– Faith in links between all things, everything has a reason
  3. Belief– Unchanging core values, defined purpose for life
  4. Context– Enjoy thinking about the past, understand the present by looking back
  5. Responsibility– Take ownership of what they say they will do, committed to stable values

Between College and Grad School (2011)

  1. Ideation– Fascinated by ideas, find connections
  2. Connectedness– Faith in links between all things, everything has a reason
  3. Strategic– Create alternative ways to proceed, can spot relevant patterns and issues in different scenarios
  4. Intellection– Characterized by intellectual activity, introspective, love discussions
  5. Developer– Recognize and cultivate potential in others, spot signs of improvement, find satisfaction in such work

After Grad School and First Full-Time Job (2015)

  1. Developer– Recognize and cultivate potential in others, spot signs of improvement, find satisfaction in such work
  2. Strategic– Create alternative ways to proceed, can spot relevant patterns and issues in different scenarios
  3. Empathy– Understand others’ feelings, anticipate needs, have the right word for others
  4. Input– Craving to know more, collect, archive
  5. Intellection– Characterized by intellectual activity, introspective, love discussions

I have many thoughts on the first two tests… which I wrote about in this post from November 2011.  In fact, in that post, I even chose 5 from the list that I thought were my real strengths, even if they don’t all show up on the tests: Significance, Ideation, Belief, Relator, and Connectedness. Some I had gotten before, some I wished I would get. And fascinatingly, I have 5 new ones, some that I’ve gotten before, but none came from the self-selected list. Which says a bit about how we view ourselves (imperfectly), how tests can reveal our personality (imperfectly), and how we are always growing and changing.

As I look at the list of 34, I can see some that are definitely NOT me (WOO, Adaptability), some that sort of fit (Discipline, Includer) and some that are exactly spot on. Twelve in fact. Belief, Connectedness, Communication, Context, Developer, Empathy, Harmony, Ideation, Intellection, Input, Individualization, Strategic. Ten of those have shown up in the three tests, which I sorted according to recent results and higher placement in the image to the right. Some I have developed over time. Some have stuck with me from birth or childhood.

But all are ways that God has gifted me to live, lead, and serve Him and serve others. And I will continue to change and maybe in four years I will take it again to see what strengths show up! 

If you want to take this test, you can go to this Gallup site: https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/Purchase/en-US/Product. You can also visit http://www.strengthstest.com/strengthsfinderthemes/strengths-themes.html to read a full description of the strengths. Guess what you might have! But your choices might reveal more about who you want to be than who you are. Still, a fascinating study.

Love Languages

“What’s your love language?”  Perhaps I’ve heard this question and am used to these terms– affirmation, quality time, service– because I have grown up and lived in the evangelical Christian world. But I do think that the concept is something that is universal to the human experience. We all show love in different ways. We all crave different forms of love. Sometimes we find what we need. Sometimes there is great disconnect. But identifying your own “love language” can help you check your assumptions, focus your efforts, and understand other people in your life. 

Gary Chapman first published The Five Love Languages in 1995. There are 5 main love languages that he covers in the book (which I admit, I have only skimmed): Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Words of Affirmation. 

These are the different ways you relate to people and receive love from others. You might be overjoyed when someone spends time with you, or you might love it when someone gives you a hug. Each person is different, as you might have learned in interacting with different people. (Human beings! So complicated.) But you even see that in the life of Jesus- some people he challenged, some people he comforted, some he spent time with, some he gave life and healing.

I took the test and got these results: 

12 Quality Time

6 Acts of Service

6 Words of Affirmation

4 Physical Touch

2 Receiving Gifts

Yep. I’m a quality time person. I like gifts, but I’ve been blessed by family and friends in many ways, I rarely need something new. I do love physical touch (as weird as that phrase sounds), but am not incredibly touchy feely. I like hugs and leaning on someone, but don’t need to always be in close proximity. Words can really lift me up, but sometimes I wonder the intention or motivation behind them. Acts of service are great, but I sometimes feel guilty when someone does something for me. Quality time. That’s where it’s at. This description below from the site where I found the test is perfect:

In Quality Time, nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes you feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed activities, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Whether itʼs spending uninterrupted time talking with someone else or doing activities together, you deepen your connection with others through sharing time.

I love it when someone just looks me in the eye and listens. Or just sits with me and does nothing. All that matters is the time we spend together. Same is true in my relationship with God. I am so encouraged when I recognize that He is with me, in all circumstances, whether I feel it or not. 

What about you? You can take the test for free at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ and find out more about the resources available there. (There’s tons of books, including the original, and books for kids, singles, teenagers, parents, and more.) 

Thoughts?

There are so many different ways to learn about yourself, because we are all quite complex and unique. David was right when he wrote this verse:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14, NIV)

God alone knows us fully and completely. But we can catch a glimpse of his glory as we look into our personalities. These tests and tools don’t hold all the answers, but they can help us along the journey to knowing and being known.

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2 comments

  • Austin Rich on May 5, 2015 at 10:02 pm said:

    Reply

    This is cool. It helps me to value the place of introspection. I shame myself a lot of times, and I don’t really love myself. At the same time I don’t want to become narcissistic though. I like your blog by the way. I’ve seen you post things on facebook before, and honestly was too lazy to read through entire posts. I’m glad I read through this one though. Thanks Even. Hope you’re doing well.

    • Thanks brother. I definitely drive the shame train a lot– which is why it’s good to take a step back sometimes and say, “I am who God made me to be, broken, yet beautiful.” Thanks for commenting! Glad you finally read a post, haha :)

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