Series 08: For the Love of Exploring Our Faith | Episode 02
Know Thyself: Faith & The Enneagram with Ian Morgan Cron
The Enneagram has surged back into popular culture the last couple of years. This personality test is marked by its unique (and ancient) principles that help us better understand ourselves. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve probably heard “number thumpers” talk in terms of their type; “Oh, that is totally such a ‘seven’ thing to say.’” Therapist, Episcopal priest, speaker and Enneagram expert Ian Morgan Cron joins us for Eps 2 of For the Love of Exploring Our Faith. Ian walks us through this “journey of self” that he says “ups the self-awareness quotient in human beings, which is—particularly in faith communities—a sorely overlooked discipline. Think about what Calvin said; ‘without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God.’” The Enneagram helps us relate to others with more compassion as well, as we begin to see how our type interacts with theirs. Ian illustrates this by pointing out; “The loneliness, or the fear, or the sadness in me sees the loneliness, the fear, and the sadness in you.” Ian digs in deep with Jen culminating with a “blow your mind” moment that has her re-assessing her personality type as they hone in on ALL the facets that uniquely make up each of our personalities.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey, everybody. It’s Jen Hatmaker. Welcome to the For The Love Podcast. Super glad you are here today. You are going to be super glad you’re here today. We are in the middle of a series that is just giving me so much life. It’s “For the Love of Exploring Our Faith”. We just have some of the wisest, and the kindest, and the most intelligent, and faithful leaders in our culture right now. Today’s guest is no exception.
Today, we have on Ian Morgan Cron. If you know him, you’re already clapping. Ian is a best-selling author. He’s an Enneagram teacher, which we’re going to talk about at length. He’s a psychotherapist. He’s an Episcopal priest, and he has an amazing podcast based on the Enneagram called, “Typology,” which you will love if you’re an Enneagrammer.
If you’re not familiar with it, let me give you a quick overview on the Enneagram since we’re going to talk about it a lot, but not so much as description. The Enneagram is, it’s a personality typing system that teaches that there are nine basic personality types in the world. Each is tied, don’t let this freak you out, to one of the seven deadly sins, plus two that someone added along the way so no one felt left out. Don’t let that feel dark and scary to you, because it actually just goes to our core motivation for why we do what we do.
A person’s type is determined by discovering that unconscious motivation, that very, very powerfully influences the way that we are in the world. The goal is to better understand who we are, who other people are, and who God is and our relationship to God. Let me just run to the list real quick before Ian and I got started. One is called the perfectionist, two the helper, three the achiever and spoiler alert. I’m a three except Ian and I had a really interesting conversation during this following podcast in which he questions my diagnosis. Be listening for that.
Four, the individualist. Five, the investigator. Six, the loyalist. Seven, the enthusiast. Eight, the challenger and nine, the peacemaker. We’re going to talk to him about all of that. He’s an incredible writer. His books include Chasing Francis. His spiritual memoir, that I read years ago and loved, Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me.” You will love it. Then The Road Back To You, which is an Enneagram during the self-discovery. He is really good in this space you guys. Really smart, really wise, really funny, which makes me glad. He has presented and taught, and led in so many capacities, conferences, and churches, and retreats, and universities, literally around the world.
He and his wife Anne have three kids, grown kids, and they live in Nashville. This conversation was really fascinating. He’s funny, but he’s providing for us in the next one hour a really wonderful roadmap to health, to joy, to community, to hope. You’re going to love this. You’re going to be encouraged by it. You guys welcome Ian to the show.
Ian, welcome to the show. I’m so excited you’re here today.
Ian: Vice versa. I’m as excited as you are, I think.
Jen: That can’t be. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time. I want to tell you right off-the-bat, right before we even get into it. That one thing I love about you and your work is that it’s so heady and it’s deep waters. You’re writing about really important things, and deep things, and introspective things, and requires a lot of intelligence and focus, but you’re so funny and that makes me so happy. Thank you for being funny. I’m so grateful. I mean it.
Ian: That is kind. I appreciate. I guess there are advantages to growing up in a dysfunctional Irish family.
Jen: A silver lining, if you will?
Ian: Yes, right. Humor is the best defense.
Jen: So funny, we’ll get into it later, but I’m a three on the Enneagram, and so I don’t care for self-introspection as you can imagine. I just like it all to be on the outside. What does everybody see me doing? Do I have any gold stars? If somebody is going to force me to do a lot of interior work, I like them to be funny. You’re my person.
Look, in the intro, I talked a little bit about your role as an Enneagram teacher, and I want to dive into that a little bit further. I’ve had Chris Heurtz on the show before too, so this is our second round on some Enneagram talk around this podcast.
I’ve mentioned before that essentially, like a personality assessment that’s probably low-hanging term for what this is, but it’s super popular right now, even though it’s been around a really long time. Everybody is constantly talking about their types. My friend groups, those of us who are Enneagram people, it’s like we cannot get three sentences in without somebody like “but you know me, I’m an eight.” We love to drop it like it’s hot all the time. We’re constantly doing that.
In fact, let me tell you this, when we first discovered the Enneagram and I’m a three married to a two. Brandon tells me, “I’m a two,” and he’s explaining this to me and we’re walking through like all the points of connection. To tell you, I did not have that information on hand not 12 hours. I promise you not 12. I didn’t even know what it was. I was new.
He did something the next day and I just was like shaking my head, “classic two”. I’m already that person. I’m already that person, fix us all. No, but seriously, there’s a lot of us love getting a little insight to ourselves and the Enneagram is such an amazing tool, such an amazing tool for this, and which is probably why you’re so passionate about it. Can you just tell us a little bit about your introduction to this space and your development in it and your experience with it especially early on?
Ian: Yeah. I was first introduced to the Enneagram in the 1990s. I was doing a master’s in counseling and I went up to a Catholic retreat center just for a couple of days of reflection. I came across Richard Rohr’s book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. I love to read and so I picked it up, started going at it. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m a year into graduate school for a psychology degree, and where has this been?”
Jen: Right, totally.
Ian: I have been really all this incredibly cerebral abstract material and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is so accessible and uncannily accurate in its portrayal of the inner terrain of just about everyone I’ve ever met in my life and particularly myself.” After that, I did some training. I kept up with it, but not as deeply as I wanted, because I was starting to have babies, we were moving. I was taking over a practice and then started at the church, blah, blah, blah. Life got too hectic.
About six or seven years ago through a confluence of different synchronicity of events, I just decided I was going to plunge, do a headlong plunge into this thing. What I realized as I study it was, “Oh my gosh, we need this more than ever. We need it more than ever right now.” I got really excited, really excited.
Jen: You just dug in. You started reading everything you could find, studying, learning, immersing yourself. What were the training options for you at that point in the Enneagram?
Ian: Yeah, well, once I go down a wormhole, I’m like a Hoover. Do you know what I’m saying?
Ian: I am a knowledge Hoover. I go down, I don’t come out, I stopped showering, I stopped eating well. I just go down. There’s a good number of books, not as many as you’d think but I’ve read everything. I went to a Riso and Hudson training. I’ve worked with Helen Palmer and their group. It just was I went all in. I’m in in part, because unlike things like StrengthFinders, or DISC, or MBTI, all these great–they’re great instruments, I’m not knocking them–but this particular instrument, or if we can call that, let’s call it “Sacred psychology” if you will.
Jen: Okay, that’s a good term.
Ian: I think what it does is it reveals to us not only who we are at our best, but who we are at our worst. How those two are actually the flip side of one another and what we can do to actually experience enduring change spiritually? Then finally, I think the thing that’s so cool about it is that it just ups the self-awareness quotient in human beings, which is–and particularly in faith communities–it’s a sorely overlooked discipline. I think you think about what Calvin said, the beginning of the first page, “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God.”
Jen: Yeah, right.
Ian: Holy smokes, that’s a gigantic idea.
Jen: It is.
Ian: Anyhow, you could tell I’m enthusiastic, right?
Jen: Yeah, I love that because you’re right, that’s not typically the narrative that any of us have ever learned in church or frankly are learning now that deep sense of knowing oneself, I think there’s more, well this is of course my experience so I can’t paint with two wide brush, but there’s more this sense of there’s one way to know yourself. You’re just a sinner. You know that I mean?
Jen: You’re all the same. You’re one big block of human garbage and God will fix it. Rather, that’s very nuanced understanding of who you are as an individual like made in the image of God. It really does and we’re going to get into this in a minute, but it really does not just change your perspective of who you are and how your relationships are functioning, but how you feel about God, and how you are understanding God. I think in that respect, it is a major spiritual tool. Just sitting there getting overlooked by most of us who are leading spiritually in any capacity.
Would you mind doing this for me? I know I’m going to have some listeners who don’t know what we’re talking about. They are like, “What are these two yammering about?” I know it’s really hard to do it succinctly obviously, because it’s complex and there’s a lot of components to it, but could you maybe just give a bit of an overview on the Enneagram for people who are listening and don’t know about it?
Ian: Sure. The Enneagram is an ancient personality typology that suggest there are nine core personality types in the world. One of which people gravitate toward in early childhood and adapt in order to cope and just feel safe in the world, right?
Ian: We contain all nine types, but there’s one that’s our dominant type. It’s our default position. It’s like true north. We just click into it when we’re going about life. If you think about personality, because it’s a moving term, target term. It’s just the way we typically act, think, and feel, see the world, process information on a regular basis over and we’ve done it since as far back as we can remember in our particular type or style. Now, what really matters with the Enneagram is, and what separates it from so many other typologies is it’s not based on traits or characteristics. It’s really based on unconscious motivation that powerfully influences the way we typically act, think, feel, et cetera.
The way you determine your type isn’t by, “Oh well, I do this or I do that,” because you do everything in every type at some point. What’s your underlying or usually hidden or unconscious motivation that’s driving it. That determines your type.
Jen: Absolutely. When I first began reading about that, it was that exact space that the deep-seated motivation where it was like looking at a mirror. That’s where I went, “Oh, there I am,” and specifically the unhealthy version of my number. I felt like I have been spied on. It was terrible. It was humiliating. I couldn’t believe that just anybody could pick up your book and find out how gross I am when I’m bad like, “Oh no. I did found out. It’s so terrible. It’s so true.” It’s just it’s very precise. It’s incredibly precise and I think would, but it’s such a great and amazing useful. I like what you said about self-awareness, because it has helped our marriage so much.
I would love to hear you talk about any examples you have of people that you’ve worked with, because it’s not just a self-awareness tool as you mentioned, it is a relational tool. It is a communal tool. It is a faith community tool. It lends so much aid to us as we have to work with each other, and marry each other, and parent people, and be in a church with people who are opposite from us. Do you have any examples of people that you’ve worked with or groups that you’ve worked with, either churches or corporations specifically, how they have used all the insights of the Enneagram to change maybe how they work together or how they coexist together? Do they use it for structural changes or any of that? Do you have an example like that?
Ian: The list is endless, right?
Jen: Love it.
Ian: I was at an organization over the weekend in Indianapolis, and they brought me in and they had read my book. I was coming to do a day and a half long workshop with them. They said, “Oh, we want to show you something.” They’ve walked me down the hallway. It was a very long hallway, and on the side of the door was a person’s name on a little plaque and their Enneagram number.
Jen: Interesting, wow.
Ian: On every door, everybody had their Enneagram number underneath their name. I was at the Discovery Channel a couple of, maybe about a year ago and did a workshop for them. The Monday following, the person who had brought me in said, “You’re not going to believe this, but we were in a meeting the other day that had threes (the achievers) who have very little patience. They were sales guys and women, who have very little patience for the details, right?”
Ian: They were going over some sales data and one of these guys raised his hand and said, “Could someone let the threes out of the room and bring in the ones, because we have no interest in this.”
Jen: So amazing.
Ian: It is, and it’s just I gotta say that the greatest mystery in our lives next to God is ourselves.
Jen: That’s good.
Ian: We yearned, and I think we yearned to be understood, because I think everybody feels misunderstood. Everybody feels like they’re suffering alone and nobody suffers quite like they do. Everybody feels fundamentally flawed.
Ian: Man, when you find out, “Oh, this is not just about my brokenness but about my beauty.” It’s not just about my original sin, it’s about my original goodness.
Jen: Yes. Yeah, that’s the big difference to me right there.
Ian: Oh, yeah.
Jen: In a faith context for sure is we do not talk about that enough. Sin–check, covered, but there’s a beautiful, the way that we’re created, the goodness we’re capable of, it’s so inspiring and it’s empowering, and I love that part of the Enneagram work.
Ian: Yeah. I think in fact, this is going to be overstated for the sake of illustration, but think about it from a marketing perspective, okay? Here’s the marketing of the church in many instances. You suck. God had to kill somebody to save you. Come join our church.
Jen: Oh gosh.
Ian: Okay, so what would happen if you said to people, “Here, you are beautiful beyond your imagination. You are broken like the rest of us. Come experience restoration. Become more beautiful.” Of course the Enneagram helps this, because it’s not perfect. It’s not the Rosetta Stone. I didn’t find it in a cave in the middle in Syria with Harrison Ford. It’s just a tool, but man it just helps illuminate the shadow.
Jen: That’s good.
Ian: Where you see the blind spots and you go, “Oh, there I am. I got to get in the river of grace where it runs the swiftest, where God can do for me what I cannot do for myself, which is heal those places.
Jen: That’s right. It does it with a surprising lack of shame. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to it, that it’s in some ways matter of fact like this is okay that you’re not stuck here. You’re never stuck. You’re never stuck when you’re at your lowest, or at your darkest, or at your most unhealthy. Not only are you not stuck, but for me, what the Enneagram has provided is this spiritual foot path back to wholeness, back to health, because it says, “All right, this is who you are. This is what’s motivating you right now. This is why you’re making these choices. This is exactly what you’re afraid of. Here are some best practices to put into place usually counterintuitive for me and this will lead you back to the better version of who you’ve been made to be.”
I find it useful not just interesting, because at first it’s just interesting. At first, of course, well, I’m a three, hello. Somebody’s going to talk to me about myself. How exciting? We’ll talk more about me. What else do you want to say about me?
Ian: I’m a four so I trump you on that.
Jen: Oh, you’re very special. Yes.
Ian: Special and unique, baby. If you want to talk about me, I can go all night long. All night long.
Jen: So true. It’s just so fascinating at first and just at intellectual level, but then if you can stay with it and then if you can hang onto it, and it becomes really useful and really, really special in a relational context.
I want to go back speaking of relational context. You mentioned this a minute ago, but there was a quote that I had pulled already to talk about, so it encapsulates something you said, but I’ve got a broader version of your quote.
You said, “the Enneagram helps you know yourself so you can better understand yourself and others. In the context of relationship and participation, know God. In a time when dualistic thinking often trumps compassion, the wisdom of the Enneagram provides both understanding and the path for more Christlike behavior.”
I’d like to hear you talk about that a little bit. Can you tell us a little bit more about this concept of dualistic thinking, specifically as you see it in our world right this minute, and how knowing our own tendencies and the tendencies of the people around us that we love or that we work with, or live by, might bring more compassion between us?
I think I can’t think of a time in my adult life when we needed more compassion in our culture than right now. It just feels incredibly polarized, and angry, and mean, and divided. I think this could be one of the solutions that helps us heal. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Ian: Yeah, I’m with you. I some days despair a little bit in my worst moments.
Jen: Yeah, me too.
Ian: I look at the world and I think, “Oh my gosh, yes we are so polarized. We are afflicted with so much closed-heartedness and cynicism.” I think one of the beautiful things about the Enneagram and how it can speak into our current day dilemma is; it does help us move away from dualistic thinking. In other words, for sake of this time, for brevity–dualistic thinking is the tendency to see the world in black and white terms. Everything is “either or,” or it’s “friend or foe,” or “you’re for me or you’re against me, you’re one of us or you’re not one of us,”et cetera.
For people who are thinking in those categories, then things like paradox and nuance get thrown out the window. They become problems about why you’re anxious. You know what I mean? Like you’re, “I’ve got to have those things be black or white. This gray is not on my color wheel.” Of course, that leads to all kinds of relational problems, because for all the obvious reasons, people can’t be fit into categories of “either or, black or white.” Human beings are infinitely more complex than that.
When we can understand difference, right…when we can look at the other through the knowledge that every single person on the Enneagram sees the world through a different lens, we don’t see the world the same. That cultivates or allows to emerge; compassion, understanding,
I’ve recently read a book by the Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh and he was talking about how understanding must precedelove. Otherwise, you may love somebody in a way if you don’t understand them, that might hurt them. Did that make sense?
Ian: What the Enneagram does is it makes you go, “Oh, I see this singular wound that is driving the way you see the world, and the way that you think, act, and feel.” In the Christian tradition, compassion tends to be viewed as a little bit like pity. It’s almost like you’re a person who’s in a superior position reaching this down to somebody in a lesser role, whether it’s economic or social.
Jen: Right, condescending.
Ian: Yeah, but I think compassion is radically mutual. It’s one person looking into the eyes of another and saying, ” The loneliness, or the fear, or the sadness in me sees the loneliness, the fear, and the sadness in you.” In that way, it’s almost like as if there were a bell in each of our respective chests that sympathetically ring with each other, because now we know that, that we share these afflictions. The Enneagram helps us see the brokenness and beauty, and then you go, “Oh, now you’re no longer a category. Now you’re a human being I have to relate with to.”
Jen: Yeah, I think that’s really powerful. It’s so interesting. I feel that instinct more in my own self right now where everything feels urgent, and so much of the rhetoric in our culture right now; it’s not just words, it’s obviously affecting real lives. People are at stake, and so I feel that even in my own heart, this tendency to spot even the slightest weakness in someone else’s argument or support—to write them off–and it’s gross. People have done that to me en masse, and it’s so painful. It’s so incredibly painful to be dismissed like that and for enormous parts of your character, and your life, and your faithfulness to just be swept off the table, and in favor of just sort of a character of who you are.
I think this is really important, but I think it’s really hard. I love this idea while we’re talking about it, and then I struggled to sometimes put it in practice. I wonder what you would, how would you coach us in public dialogue, in civic dialogue, and in faith dialogue, which is where the brunt of my attention lives toward becoming that type of compassionate neighbor, and citizen, and listener.
Let’s put boots on the ground there. How would you advise us to begin the best practices to create that kind of community, the one we actually all want?
Ian: Yeah, I was recently with a friend of mine who teaches medicine at Vanderbilt and he teaches doctors about compassion, awareness, mindfulness. Because as you know, doctors don’t have necessarily a reputation for warmth, right?
The first thing he tells people is, to his young student he says, “I want you to look at every patient as though there’s a smile behind your eyes.” I thought–so that the gaze is one of warmth and kindness, and interest, right? That’s a teeny little thing, but I thought it was such a beautiful little tweak, right? The other thing is I try to go on the conversations even ones that are hot by saying, “I might be wrong.” That idea is always at the back of my mind. “You know, I might be wrong.”
Jen: That’s good.
Ian: Then I also would say that, for example, this is the Enneagram—man, it has helped me with this a million times over. When emotions start to arise like I’m angry, or I’m credulous, or if I’m watching, I now have an ability to stop. I do this thing called, “SNAP” – I came up with… I know, I hate those things, but I’ve been in recovery from alcohol from being an alcoholic for 30 years. Every now and then I know that they can be very helpful, right?
Jen: That’s fine. You can have an acrostic to use.
Ian: Totally, so it’s SNAP. I just say “Stop” which is not easy. “Notice.” Just observe what is going on inside you right now. Don’t go on autopilot with this rage or this incredulity, or this desire to attach, or dismiss, or be unkind. Notice what’s going on. What is getting activated in you right now? Then ask yourself the question–“A” in SNAP. I stop and ask, “Is the story that I feel like I’m in right now, is it true? Is this person really attacking me?” Because what’s happening these days I think is, people will say … well, it’s issues around identity. You’re no longer a person. I’m no longer “Ian who is a democrat.” It’s, “I’m Ian the democrat.” In other words, that is warp and woof of my identity. It’s no wonder, in a political situation, that people would fight to the death, because it’s no longer about an opinion, it’s about my core identity.
Jen: That is how it feels.
Ian: It’s not a good idea to have your core identity wrapped up in a political or economic, or whatever, a social persona, whatever it is. Then the “P” is just pivot–like, “Do I have to actually go on autopilot and do the same thing I do every time in these kinds of conversations, which is to get all defensive and try to be surgical in my attack? What if I just actually gazed upon the other as somebody who is, actually, how’s this–we’re all ignorant.”
Jen: I think it is. I want to take note. We’re all ignorant, guys.
Ian: Yeah. Another just a little mantra I always tell myself is well I taught this to my kids. I said, “Never presume to have all the facts about anybody.”
Jen: That’s good.
Ian: You don’t know who you’re talking to. You don’t know their history. You’ve got to hold these things lightly and be loving first.
Jen: I feel like if those were the practices even a quarter of us could put into play, it would fundamentally change the tone of our civil dialogue right now. I think it would change our churches too, this idea that to some degree, a lot of us want people to walk in the doors of our faith communities and just conform. That’s how you’re going to belong is if you’re exactly like the rest of us. It’s so isolating, it’s so lonely, and it’s unhealthy, and it’s ungodly. We fight against that. We’ve got a church here in Austin, and we are constantly telling ourselves in leadership like, “we have every kind of person in this room. Don’t forget it. Don’t speak, or teach, or preach as if this is a monolith and everybody shares your personal convictions, or your specific ideologies, because that’s not true.” It makes people feel really lonely sitting in the room where they’re supposed to be finding God.
I’d like to hear you talk a little bit more about how this affects our faith, our personal faith, the way that we think about God, the way that we address Him, the way that we’ve come to understand this interception of God and humanity. Then, I’d like to hear what you think about how either its practice or its absence is harming the church when we are in community together.
Ian: Yeah. Okay, so one way of looking the Enneagram, obviously your listeners can’t see the diagram, but the Enneagram is illustrated by these nine types around a circle, illustration of a circle of a kind.
One of the ways of looking at it is all nine of those types represent an expression of an important dimension of God’s person or character, right? You have one who would be the perfectionist, although I’ve started to call them the “improvers,” because I think it’s unfair that they get a negative name.
Jen: That’s nice.
Ian: Two, the helpers. Three, the performers, right?
Ian: Ones represent, when they’re healthy, they represent the goodness of God. This God who makes all things new and improves things.
Two is the love of God.
Threes would be the glory or the generativity of God, right? God’s our producer, He gets stuff done.
Fours would be the beauty and the pathos of God.
Five, the wisdom, these investigators we call them.
Sixes the loyalists would be the faithfulness, the unfailing faithfulness of God.
Sevens the enthusiasts would be the joy of God.
Eight, the challengers would be the power of God.
And, nine is the peace of God, these peacemakers, right?
Ian: Now, when you and I, as followers of Jesus, we have all of these things in us, because we’re image bearers, but there’s one we’re really good at.
Jen: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.
Ian: I’m really good at creating things and beauty and having a heart that can go in the dark spaces with empathy and help people. Now, when I’m using that gift in service to the agenda of my ego, and using my super power, if you will, that’s a way to manipulate other people to organize their lives around meeting my agenda. Then it becomes a gross distortion of the original gift, right?
What we want to do is become aware of it, and put it to right size, to put it in service to the advancement of God’s program of redemption in the world. Suddenly, everything starts to work. We begin to appreciate too, all these other gifts in the room. Not everybody got my gift, but I’m not an improver. I don’t have your gifts, and we begin to recognize we need them all.
Jen: That’s right.
Ian: For faith communities, incredibly important. By the way, I tell preachers and worship leaders now once they know the Enneagram. I said, “You got to stop leading songs, and praying prayers, and giving sermons with the assumption that everybody sees the world and experiences it the way you do.”
Jen: That’s right, it’s hard.
Ian: Yeah, or that they’ll hear it the way you would. I just get excited about all these different applications for people, and also to help them see how each of our types really are reflections of the way we and our particularity carry a wonderful gift that if used for the wrong reasons becomes really ugly.
Jen: It’s really powerful. It’s funny, as somebody who is a performer and a producer, my constant, the mean voice in my head is always saying, always saying to me, “You can be doing more.” Always. “You can be doing more. You’re not doing enough. You could be working harder. There could be whole new drawers you haven’t even opened.” When I’m healthy and I begin to think of my community in terms of everyone representing some facet of God in some beautiful wonderful way, it’s a relief, because then I’m like, “I don’t have to do everything, because I cannot.”
The twos can be doing the two stuff that they love and that they thrive on. Thank goodness for the ones, I can’t think about three details in a row without losing my mind. I just want to point out. Then it feels like an amazing relief. It’s that thing that you’ve mentioned here several times now, which is we don’t always have to be on the shadow side of things. The Enneagram offers us this really beautiful path to see what’s wonderful about people who are different from us, not just the stuff that bugs us because they’re not good, what we are good at, or they don’t think of the world like we think, which is so aggravating.
Why can’t you just see this? It’s plain. Why can’t you just understand this? It’s plain. I’m having to put this into practice right now.
Jen: Let’s just get in the weeds here. I would love for you to teach me and tell me what to do. I’m having to put this in practice right now with this very public, very controversial and super charged public discussion on gun control, because I see this one way and I think that way is crystal clear, absolutely crystal clear. Then the underside of me wants to say, “If you do not see it this way, you are a flawed human being. So, something is wrong with you and you need to get saved”.
That’s not helpful, thus, I found that not to be helpful. I have not found that a good tool in dialog at all if you can imagine.
It’s like applying this wisdom into really hard conversations like that. What would you say? I feel as if lives are at stake, because they are and, but I can squash a conversation in three seconds flat, because I struggle so hard to listen to anybody’s alternative perspective or their point of view, or what they’re worried about, because I just see it differently.
If we’re just going to pull that into the center ring as an example, how would you counsel Christians engaging that specific conversation right now when we’re all over the map? I know, right? I didn’t prep you for this one, sorry.
Ian: No, it’s perfectly fine. Let me say this, this is just a social observation in general. It’s speculative, but I think there’s enough evidence that we should pay attention to it. We believe that there are more Enneagram sixes in the world than any other type. Now, the sixes are called the loyalists, sometimes called the devil’s advocate. Their underlying motivation, the thing that really drives the way they think, feel, and behave, right? That’s all the stuff above the waterline that we experience of those people on a daily basis. Underneath it is this compulsive need to feel safe, and secure, and supported in the world, okay?
Now, those people are, they tend to be easily manipulated by fear. They are people who are very focused on who the authority figure is, because of course they want an authority figure to whom, because they see the authority figure as the source of their support, and security, and safety, right? So they’re watching very, very carefully. If you live in a country where there’s all this, where let’s say the most people here are anxious in their nature, that they are fixated. Their attention is fixated on authority figures to see if they’re going to take care of them, right? Imagine how powerful it is when someone stands up and says to a group of people like that, “I am the only person who can keep you safe.”
It has great bearing on our political system, specifically on the gun control issue. People are afraid. I think the word “gun control” is code. I think obviously, it arouses all kinds of other things, but it’s not just about guns. It’s about anxiety, and fear, and uncertainty. Of all the what ifs and the worst case scenario planning, and what if people attack me? I think it’s either people who are very fearful, or it’s people who are very fearful and don’t know that they’re very fearful. I have to keep those things in mind when I’m speaking to people and listening to them.
I agree with you. I completely agree with probably with your position. Again, this also goes back to that question of identity. Our opinions now form our identities. This people of faith, we should be talking about my identity is rooted and hidden in Christ. It’s not my politics. It’s not my social position. It’s not even my gender. I could argue across the board. It is nothing. It is beyond my imagination, how my identity is rooted in Christ. These are lesser stories. Important stories, but lesser ones. I think also that would tend to turn the heat down on the conversation if I realize this is not my identity. This is my position.
Jen: Nor that person’s identity.
Ian: Whether they know it or not.
Jen: As much as I want grace for myself on not being identified with an opinion, I’m not necessarily as quick to give that grace. I want the wiggle room, but everybody else gets tied to their opinions. It really is a spiritual practice to put into place and to deeply see humanity behind an opinion to be able to develop eyes, to see fear or pain behind an opinion. That’s true for all of us. It’s true for me, of course. It’s true for a lot of my insecurity, or it’s my angst, or my worry that is actually coming out, and it sounds like anger.
Ian: Let me ask you a question. Can I ask you a question?
Jen: Yeah, ask.
Ian: All right. I’m not questioning your number here when I ask you this question. What matters more to you in life? Do you have a compulsive need to succeed, to win at all costs, to appear successful to others, to have recognition that you are a success and avoid failure at all costs? That’s one thing, okay? Are you somebody who needs to assert, control, and strength over others in the environment while at the same time denying your own innocence, your tenderness, it’s like hiding your softer side, because you fundamentally see the world as a hostile place where if you let people see that more vulnerable weak side of yourself they’ll take advantage of you?
Jen: Can I say yes to both? Yes and yes, I struggle with vulnerability for sure, and I’m married to a two who loves feelings and loves talking about them. He has told me before, “I wish that you would be more vulnerable. I wish you would just talk more about how you’re feeling”. I closed that up pretty hard. I think I want to feel strong, I want to appear strong.
Ian: Okay. Do you tend to not engage with feelings, because you just can’t recognize them in yourself or because you’re like, “Man, if I reveal too much, that place is being a position where I could be betrayed.” That may not be true with your husband, but in general, or it just takes a lot to get me to a place with a trust, very small trusted few where I can … Did people ever say to you, “Jen, you are overly blunt, aggressive, domineering at times, and intimidating?”
Jen: Not really.
Ian: What would they say?
Jen: They probably say I work too hard and that the way that they experience me is it is driven, but I’m also a listener, and I’m primarily compassionate. I think I primarily love the people that I’m working with and working for, and serving, but I will default, this is so stressful. I feel like I’m in counseling and all my listeners are listening.
Ian: You’re safe with me, Jen.
Jen: I know. I’m just pretending right now that I’m just talking to you. I feel like if I let on too much what’s in there, it’s going to be perceived as weakness, and that then I’ve opened myself up for the dogs to come after me. What feels like to me is that people will probably say they experience me as being unruffled and not rattled, and strong, and people always encouraged me a lot, because my stance, my opinions are public and so they get seen by many and criticized by many. I think that is what people would say although it’s not necessarily true. That’s not necessarily how I feel on the inside, but I do want everybody else to think that’s how I feel on the inside.
Ian: You’re describing someone that it sounds like who confuses vulnerability with weakness.
Jen: Yes. I don’t do it in other people. Their vulnerability does not seem weak to me. It’s just internal. I actually respect it, and admire it in other people and I’m drawn to it. In small batch settings where it’s incredibly curated by me, I can be all in the middle of that river, but it’s just not big, not big at all.
Ian: If we had time, maybe I’ll have you on Typology. We can do it on there, but you have features of another number that are really significant.
Jen: What do you think it is?
Ian: No, I don’t want to say it because I never say. It would take a lot of conversation to tease it out. Part of it is when you talk about I see my position on this is being absolutely right and someone else’s is being absolutely wrong, well, that’s a little bit of dualistic thinking, right?
Jen: Yeah, it is.
Ian: It’s pretty aggressive.
Jen: It is.
Ian: Threes are in the aggressive stance, the threes, sevens, and eights are the three most aggressive numbers on the Enneagram, but I would, if I were you, so I’m not saying this, but I would say just take a look at what are called “social eights.” There are subtypes under each type, right?
Jen: Okay, right.
Ian: Okay, now a social eight is not, like I know lots of women who are social eights and they have, a lot of times people don’t believe they’re eights, because they actually have this very nurturing kind side, they’re protectors. In fact, if I were a social eight, I will be more likely rather than calling you a challenger, I would call that subtype the protector. They’re very concerned with protecting the underdog or people who giving voice, being a voice for the voiceless, for the weak. The eights, one, are healthier. They’re Martin Luther King, they’re exquisite human beings when all that energy is channeled and rooted and loved.
I’m not saying you are, I would never tell you you are, people have to self-verify, but I would just be for curiosity. Maybe when I get off, I’ll try and find a little piece on social eights, because you have this, dare I use the word “energy,” it’s not a new age word, but let’s face it everybody does have some kind of energy with you.
Jen: Yup, it doesn’t weird me out at all.
Ian: Yeah, because we would’ve been dead on the Serengeti 20,000 years ago and then pick up on other things, energy right like, “Hello, I’m a baboon, you’re a lion, but I’m picking that up.” This is the beauty of the Enneagram by the way, which is that it’s this journey of self … It took me 10 months. I’m a therapist and an Episcopal priest, you would think that I would’ve gotten it in a flash. 10 months to get my number on the Enneagram right.
Jen: Oh really?
Ian: Oh yeah.
Jen: Have you misdiagnosed your own self?
Ian: Oh yeah. Are you kidding?
Jen: Did you do that because of the way you answered the questions? Did you answer how you felt like you should have answered?
Ian: Okay, so the first thing is about tests. They’re only right about 55 percent of the time, because they are self-report assessments. They don’t know whether or not you’re self-aware enough to answer accurately.
Jen: It’s a good point.
Ian: I always tell people, “Workshop, read books.” That’s the only way you’re going to get your type in a way that’s probably going to be correct and not misidentifying some. All right, that’s it. I had to actually go the next level down and look at the subtypes force. By the way, on tests I always come up as a seven.
Jen: Oh, interesting.
Ian: Even on my own assessment, I come up as a seven.
Jen: Do you?
Ian: I am a self-preservation four. I had to go down and look at the subtypes to figure out, “Oh, I really am a four that I just happen to be a four that often appears like three or seven.”
Jen: Oh, that’s so interesting. Gosh, I wanted to be a seven. The sevens are so fine.
Ian: Right? It’s all there.
Jen: It is. Our shared mutual friend, Shauna Niequist, she has been telling me for years, “You are a seven.” Then when I read it I’m like, “Yes, I want to be that person,” and I’m just not. I’m just not. She is.
Ian: Okay, so hold on. Shauna says she thinks you’re a seven?
Ian: All right, so check this out. Sometimes people give me a number that’s next door to another number that they think they might be. I pay attention, because often it means that one is their wing and the other one is their core. I would actually maybe look at the possibility of eight, seven wing.
Jen: You’re blowing my mind right now and I’m freaking out.
Ian: Let me tell you listeners, it’s wrong. When you tell somebody their number, it’s wrong. It’s bad. You must be punished like a dog, he has peed in the house. I just say to people, “Look, you may be a three for sure, but I would also suggest on the journey that you take a look at this other number just to see if it resonates more with you.”
Jen: I will. I tend to latch onto quick diagnosis. If the test tells me a three and it feels right, I’m like, “I’m a three, I’m going to get a tattoo.” That’s it. We can never change. I’m going to go back and I’m going to read it like that. Again, I’m not incredibly good at being self-aware. I live a lot of my life externally, and I like production, and I like to do, and I love people, and I’m fascinated in other people. I’d like this conversation.
Ian: Okay, so you had Jo Saxton on recently?
Jen: I sure did.
Ian: I had her on my podcast Typology a couple weeks ago. She is an eight.
Jen: Yeah, she told me that, I think.
Ian: I’m sure she’s got a seven wing. I don’t know that for sure, but she has all that-
Jen: Oh yes, her big, fun, loving self.
Ian: Oh, that energy. She has the best laugh of any human being around the planet, right?
Jen: I know. I do love her.
Let me ask you another question. First of all, thank you for sending me down what will undoubtedly be my spring break rabbit hole. I want to talk about something that you wrote in Chasing Francis, which is just a wonderful book.
Ian: Thank you.
Jen: Just absolutely wonderful. You talk about community and how it’s such an important part of where our spiritual beliefs and our faith comes into play. You wrote “that if Francis of Assisi were alive today that he’d say our church community relies too much on words to tell others about our faith. For Francis, the gathered community was as potent a form of witness as words. He was convinced that how we live together is what attracts people to faith.” Something about that is so warm and generous to my soul. I actually just love reading the sentence.
I would love to hear you talk about that for a minute. Just what do you see that Christians are doing to attract others to Jesus in the way that we live with one another? Where do you think we could use a little help with this concept, because I think this is so spot on. It just zings me like right in the heart.
Ian: I’ll tell you, because I get around a lot of churches, right? The first thing I’d say is, where I’m seeing particular effectiveness and in terms of community is where communities are holding up beauty as a value. We, the Aquarius and others, they talked about God ultimately being ultimate truth, ultimate beauty, ultimate goodness, and you can’t have one without the other two being present at any one moment. We’ve spent so much time in the last who knows many years arguing with each other over what’s goodness and what’s true.
You can take positions pretty easily on that, but it’s very hard to take a position on beauty. Beauty is just its own best defense, it just is, right? Beauty reveals the heart of God. Whenever you see something that’s beautiful, read something beautiful, hear something beautiful, if it doesn’t ping you with an echo of the garden, like of a sign post to a country far away then, you know…
So, I think communities that are beginning to discover beauty and sharing it with the world and saying, “Here, you can come experience who God is in this immersion in a place and a beauty where beauty is held up as a value.” I don’t know. When I see those communities, my heart thrills maybe because I’m a four, but also because I know they’re magnetic, right?
These are things communities can do to be sign posts in the world.
By the way, I think we’ve got to get rid of cynicism.
Jen: Gosh, do you have a plan for that? Is it possible?
Ian: Yeah, it is possible. I think everybody should be skeptical. That’s just being smart, but cynicism is corrosive. It really basically is so closed-hearted and it views the world… It’s actually a cheap form of grief is what it is. It’s defaulting to this resignation and this, the eyes rolling with the ironic eye roll. I just think I’m fed up of it. I’m tired of it.
Jen: Yeah, it’s exhausting.
Ian: Golly, it’s innervating. Who needs it? Got to get hopeful.
Jen: Truly. Even as you’re saying it, when I see a safe community of people that just exude beauty as a value, it’s so hopeful. It feels so right. It feels like a little light, a lamp on the dark street. I’m so drawn to it. To the original quote of yours from the book, it’s not necessarily about all the words they’re saying. It’s not at all. It’s about the way that they’re living both with each other, with their neighbors, what they’re prioritizing. It’s so beautiful. We’re in need of it. We’re just in need of it right now, so deep. What we need less is words. We need less words.
Ian: My daughter asked me the other day, “You know, I really got this new church dad in Denver.” I said, “Okay, well, how big?” She said… [It was gigantic]. I said, “How many people in there are over 50? How old is the pastor?” “He’s 28.” I said, “Everyone’s basically 32.” I’m like, “Okay, not a bad thing. I’m glad it’s there, but basically, if you’re all on the same bell curve of age, you run the risk of trading ignorances.” You need some wise sages in the room if … They may not be Bible experts, but they’re just life experts. You need 60, 70, 80 year olds in there, in the mix, because you need wisdom not just information. Also because, and this is an Enneagram idea, information is not transformation.
Jen: No, it isn’t.
Ian: The Enneagram I love, this is you, and you went back to number thumpers at beginning of our conversation. They drive me crazy, because all they are is interesting at a cocktail party, but all they have is a little bit of information.
Jen: Just party trick, right?
Ian: Yeah, it’s just a little information about their type. The thing about the Enneagram is, is that it really requires time and commitment, and it has to be more than information before if it’s going to make any difference in your life. It’s just to know your number. It will not change anything.
Jen: Positively. No, it’s deep work. It’s deep, deep soul work. The application of it is not easy, but it’s profound. It’s incredibly profound and you’re such a good teacher and guide through this work. We’re going to have all your stuff, your books, all your links, all the spaces that you are in up on my website for sure so people can find you.
Jen: I want to ask you one last question just to wrap it up. I wonder if you would just leave us all, all of us listeners with either a quote from a spiritual leader that you love or a scripture that may be epitomizes your life’s work and puts the gas in your tank that is your true north.
Ian: Oh boy.
Jen: I know, right?
Ian: You might as well have asked what my favorite record is. Okay, I’ll just say this, I’ll throw one out, because I have actually a notebook that, a paper notebook that is dedicated to nothing but my favorite quotes, so you’re killing me.
Jen: Really? Oh, no.
Ian: Oh my gosh, I have hundreds. I probably have 800 quotes.
Jen: That’s amazing.
Ian: My favorite, my hero in the faith is Thomas Merton.
Jen: Oh, yes.
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, The Sign of Jonas, No Man Is An Island. I can’t commend him to folks enough, but he has a beautiful quote. He says, “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves. The resolution not to twist them, to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them. We only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
Jen: Preach a thousand sermons on that.
Ian: Oh my gosh. I’ll give you one more. Okay, just give you one more. Again, this is from a Buddhist Monk. It’s perennial truth, so I don’t care about the source. Thích Nhất Hạnh says, “Smile. Breathe. Go slowly.”
Jen: Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful.
Ian: That’s often my mantra is smile, breathe, go slowly.
Jen: Go slowly. That would cure what ails us right now.
Listen, thank you. Thank you for being on the show today.
Ian: Yeah, I had a ball.
Jen: Listen, just thanks for being who you are and how you are. Such a trustworthy guy, and I value that so much. Now, I need to come on Typology and practice being vulnerable in front of all of your people. That’s got to be good for me, it can’t be bad.
Ian: I can get it.
Jen: I don’t doubt it for a second.
Ian: We’ll create a safe place for it, because vulnerability is not weakness, it’s courage, great courage.
Jen: Okay, appreciate you so much. Thanks for being on today.
Ian: Thanks, Jen. Appreciate it.
Jen: Thanks, Ian.
Okay, I’m totally sweaty in my armpits. Only Ian Cron can get me to say all that stuff into your ears. Fascinating, amazing, he’s really great. Really, really great. If you haven’t been aware of his work or expose to any of it, you’re for sure going to want to go over to jenhatmaker.com under the podcast tab and look at our transcript. I tell you guys all the time, but our transcript page is an amazing resource for you. We’ll have everything linked over there that we talked about, all of Ian’s work, his sites, his books, bonus content. Sometimes it’s just nice to go back and read a conversation after you’ve listened to it.
Seeing it sometimes on the page for me as that learner really solidifies some things that I heard. Anyhow, everything about Ian will be over there. Where to find him on social media and all that good stuff. Thanks for listening. This series you guys is just so amazing. I love it. It could literally be a hundred episodes and I would never get tired of it.
So thanks for being here. Thanks for listening week in and week out. I love your feedback. I’m paying attention to everything you say you guys. Have a great week. You will not want to miss my guest next week, I promise you that. I’ll see you next time.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!