Series 27: For the Love of the Enneagram | Episode 02
Enneagram Ones – The Reformers with Father Richard Rohr
Last week, we launched our brand-new Enneagram series, and today we begin our deep-dive into each of the nine numbers. We’re starting right at the top with Enneagram Ones—and who’s better to talk about Ones than with For the Love favorite, Fr. Richard Rohr? While we’ve been obsessed with the Enneagram for only a few years, Fr. Richard has been studying it for decades, and he has keen insight into the personality assessment. As a One himself, Fr. Richard opens the door into what it’s like to live inside the head of a One, and how even from an early age, Ones work so hard to be dependable, solutions-driven people. After years of trying to solve the world’s problems, Fr. Richard found freedom when he realized he couldn’t—and that was okay (plus, he found his relationships could be richer when he learned to enjoy being right without proclaiming to be right). Whether you’re a One, you love a One, or you’re raising a One, Fr. Richard’s insights are revelatory as he speaks about the motivations behind the type, how to approach conflict with Ones, and what it feels like to constantly have a critic inside your own head. And be sure to stick around to hear from composer Ryan O’Neal (AKA Sleeping At Last) and listen to his thoughts behind the music he crafted specifically for Ones, which appears all throughout this episode.
Fr. Richard: We’re idealists, perfectionists. We want to save the world. We want to be right, which is one of our most horrible characteristics. So I’ve worked on it now for fifty years, to not want to be right.
Jen: Welcome to the For the Love Podcast with me, Jen Hatmaker. Today, we’re going to dive into the world of Enneagram Ones with Father Richard Rohr.
Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show.
Right now, we are in a series called For the Love of the Enneagram. It’s so interesting and fascinating and bottomless to me. It’s all of us. We are dialing into every single number on the Enneagram, which is every single one of you. We’re married to different numbers. We work with different numbers. We’re raising [different numbers]. It’s just fascinating.
Last week, we opened up the series with Suzanne Stabile, who is an Enneagram master. If you haven’t listened to that episode, please go back and listen. She sort of laid the pavement for us in terms of all things Enneagram, how to get started. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start there. Go back and listen to that one first.
In this series, we’re going to be real basic. Okay? We’re just going to go in order. That way, we can easily follow along, and maybe even nudge a person that loves us or that we love and be like, “Hi, I’m interested in you listening to this episode. Maybe you can learn something about me that I’ve been trying to explain to you for five years, or whatever.” Right?
What that means is after our laying down the tracks last week, today, we’re starting at the top with the Enneagram Ones. Everybody, just buckle up. I’ll tell you why. We have literally one of the foremost authorities on the Enneagram in general—definitely an Enneagram master—but specifically the Enneagram Ones, because that is his number. I am welcoming back to the show one of our favorite guests ever on the For the Love Podcast, Enneagram One, all-around fantastic human, Fr. Richard Rohr, today, you guys.
If you don’t know, Fr. Richard is a Franciscan priest. He’s the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. He’s the author of many, many, many brilliant books. He really is one of the best teachers on earth in terms of justice and contemplation, and meditation, and Enneagram; one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Enneagram. A ton of you have read his incredible book called The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.
I don’t even know what to say. His work has meant so much to me for a really long time, and I know to you. He is impossibly dear and good. When you start talking to him, you just don’t ever, ever, ever want to let him leave you, ever. Wait until you hear how much he had to offer today on the Enneagram in general, but specifically, for the Ones. Whether you are a One, you love a One, this is so useful. I heard so many things that I had to say back to him. I’m like, “That thing that you just said deeply helped me understand what is in the heart and soul of a One.” So illuminating.
Please listen: you will want to stay to the very end of this episode, well, for a million reasons. Number one, Richard Rohr.
You’ll absolutely want to hear from Ryan O’Neal, a.k.a. Sleeping At Last. Ryan will talk about why and how he created this particular piece about Enneagram Ones. It is so special. It’s so special. Stay to the end for that. Thank you to Ryan for his incredible gift, but also, his presence in this entire series.
With that, I’m delighted to share my conversation with the incomparable Enneagram One, Father Richard Rohr.
Jen: It’s just my honor to welcome you back to the show. Father Richard Rohr, you’re one of our favorite people. My community just loves you so much. Thank you for being back.
Fr. Richard: You’re so kind. Now, remind me, what city are we in here?
Jen: I’m just south of Austin, Texas.
Fr. Richard: Right next door. All right.
Jen: That’s right. That’s right. It’s a beautiful spring here in Texas, thank goodness.
Fr. Richard: It is here, too, yes.
Jen: Tell us a little bit about your quarantine. How have you been doing?
Fr. Richard: Well, I live in a little quasi-hermitage. You’re looking into it right now. I should be used to this. The motivation now is so much different. I’m doing okay. I’ve been working with the garden, and trying to catch up. In fact, yesterday, I finally caught up with all the emails. I couldn’t believe it. Such a good feeling. Such a good feeling. I’m doing fine. Thank you.
Jen: That’s wonderful. About once every two years, I hit the bottom of my inbox. I just can’t believe it. It feels like a miracle. Every time it happens, it’s very short-lived.
Fr. Richard: It’s filling up again, yes.
Jen: You were on the show just a little over a year ago. I wonder for new listeners, and those who didn’t catch that first episode—I’ve obviously told them already about you and who you are, and specifically, your Enneagram expertise, which is what we’re talking about today. I wonder if, right off the top, would you mind talking for a minute about your personal history with the Enneagram? For me, this is a tool that’s only been in my life for a handful of years. It’s changed so much for me. You have had a beat on the Enneagram for decades, just decades. I wonder if you can talk about sort of your origin story with the Enneagram and what it feels like for you…
Fr. Richard: Sure.
Jen: …to now see the Enneagram everywhere. It’s a wildfire right now.
Fr. Richard: When I learned it in around 1972, it was a big secret. I was a young priest, newly ordained, living in Cincinnati. I had a Jesuit spiritual director at Xavier University. I drove over there and met him maybe once a month or so at that time. I noticed after a while, he had amazing insight on me. I thought he was reading my soul, you know? I said as much to him at one point, I said, “How do you know all this stuff?”
He said, “Well, Richard, let me tell you a secret.” Now, he was a part of the Second Circle.
Fr. Richard: If you know some of the history, there was this group of Jesuits who went down to the Arica Institute in Santiago, Chile. They learned it, brought it back, and set around their recreation room in Berkeley, the Jesuit School of Theology, and spread it to a little larger circle of Jesuits.
Now, it just so happens one of those—now deceased, Father Jim O’Brien, a kind, good man—he was in that second circle. He’s the one I’m talking to that I think is reading my soul. He says, “Well, I think we’re not supposed to teach this.” Now, this is the real early period in America. “It’s only for spiritual director to spiritual director. That’s what you’re going to be. I want to—not just for your own enlightenment and awareness, but so you can use it for others. You may not write it up. You may not put it on cassettes,” which is what I was starting to do at that time.
Fr. Richard: Cassette sounds [like something] before you were born, I guess. We are doing everything on cassette. And little by little, he led me through it and let me see that I was a One, and said, “This is why I can understand so many of your reactions. We’re idealists, perfectionists, zealots. We want to save the world. We want to be right, which is one of our most horrible characteristics.” So I’ve worked on it now for fifty years, to not want to be right. But its effect—first for me, and then for the community of lay people I was pastoring in Cincinnati—I was able to talk to them about it and use it in-house pastoral work, but we couldn’t publish it. Being a good One, I followed the rules and didn’t do it.
Then I moved to Albuquerque, where I am now, in 1986. Around that time, the first major book on it came out [by] Helen Palmer. I said, “Well, the secret’s out. If the secret’s out, I think I can start talking about it.” So in ‘87, ‘88, somewhere in the late ’80s, I made a set of, were they cassettes yet? No, they must have been CDs, whatever, recordings at any rate. Those went international. So a lot of people heard it from me for the first time at that point. They read it in Helen’s book and other wonderful books, but I’ve gotten far more credit and have been invited to every conference since then, because I’m so early in most people’s memory that they think I’m more an expert than I am. I mean that. They think, Oh, Richard will know. Well, I do know a bit. There’s people now who are just doing marvelous work. It’s so developed, developed, developed in these fifty years now.
Jen: Yes, it has. That’s so curious. That’s so interesting.
Jen: Taking that just a little bit further, for the very first episode in this series on the Enneagram, I had on your good friend, Suzanne Stabile. She briefly touched on just how ancient the Enneagram system is, which is fascinating. She didn’t talk a whole lot about it. I wonder if, for a moment, you could tell us a little bit more about just how far back this thing goes. People who are just now catching the wave, I’ve heard people say, “I love this new trend. I love this new personality assessment.” That’s not at all true. This has been around longer than any of them all put together.
Fr. Richard: That’s true.
Jen: Can you talk about when it came about? Then, how far back that went?
Fr. Richard: Yeah. Some of that is in my book. I’m not pushing my book, because many people have written a much better book. Mine’s out of date. I give a bit of the history there. At the farthest back, I think, the roots of it is in a Syrian Deacon. Doesn’t this sound esoteric?
Jen: It does!
Fr. Richard: With a strange name: Evagrius Ponticus. Anybody who studied the fathers of the Church has studied Evagrius. He has, originally, his six passions that keep you from being able to pray.
Fr. Richard: No, seven. He gives seven. Those will morph into nine. He’s not calling it the Enneagram.
Fr. Richard: But somewhere, well, we know that remained, at least, in the Christian esoteric tradition. When I say esoteric, I mean it wasn’t taught in the corner of the parish. Monks and nuns would learn such things, perhaps. Then it reappears strongly through a member of my own order. I’m a Franciscan. In the thirteenth century, on the island of Majorca was a mystic of ours called Raymond Lull, L-U-L-L. The drawing is in my book. He now has the first sighting of what becomes the circle that we’ve all seen, taught for years for teaching purposes. There it is. How it got from Evagrius dying in 399 to the thirteenth century, I’m not sure. We’re still trying to put—some say it was the Sufis, and at least, more than one Sufis claimed that that’s true. Their schools have spiritual direction, which they were famous for, seems to have maybe refined the language.
All of these things, we can’t prove. It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter, but you need to sunline. Then, where it strongly reappears is not until the eighteenth, nineteenth century. I don’t know exact dates, but the Russian mystic Gurdjieff, Gurdjieff develops it very well, as he developed many things. It was through his tradition that several people put it together in the form we know it today, and called it the Enneagram. And one of the few places this is being taught was in, of all places, Santiago, Chile, the Yreka Institute.
So these groups of Jesuits went down there to learn it and brought it back. You might not know this about the Jesuits—one of their big gifts is what they call the discernment of spirits, to help people know why are you doing what you do, what spirit is guiding you.
Jen: That’s right. I like that language.
Fr. Richard: It’s a very mature language the way they use it, yeah.
Jen: It was interesting for me, surprising even, to find out that you are an Enneagram One, I think because sometimes it’s possible to experience an Enneagram One in a different way. You’re so gentle. If I was typing you—which we’re not supposed to do, I know the rules—I’m not sure I would have gotten this one right. I wonder if you can talk for a minute—we’re spending an episode deeply looking at each number.
Obviously, Ones are often called the reformer or the perfectionist, which you mentioned. From a high level, can you talk about what both your studies and your lived experience have shown you about Ones? What do those characteristics look like? What’s sort of this through line or several of the through lines for the wonderful Ones in our lives?
Fr. Richard: Yeah. Well, let me start with the externals. I’ve worked on this for fifty years, so I hope I’m not so much this way anymore. I look back at my youth, and I was always very serious, very conscientious. I, perhaps, didn’t smile as readily. It wasn’t unhappiness. It was just that we’re always looking for how to do it right and what the perfect method is, and how to please the teacher and please our parents. We’re never really children. We grow up real quickly. So when you see these kids who are little adults, they’re invariably turning out to be a One.
We’re very responsible, so people trust us. Because we’re rewarded so much for that—as I was, too—the nuns in the Catholic school would trust me with almost anything…
Fr. Richard: …as did my parents. I was walking the other kids to school from eight blocks away, and all the other mothers would send [their kids too] because we do what we say. We mean what we say. But that very conscientiousness, reliability, after a while starts becoming—and this is true of all nine types—too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And you know, that was a virtue as a little boy and even a teenager, by the time I was in my twenties, I think I was a bit of a, not curmudgeon, but I was in a seminary system which rewarded following rules.
Fr. Richard: I just looked like the good boy, and my classmates hated me. We always looked like the good person who does it right, and gets the little golden star and everything.
Fr. Richard: So until I was free to grow up, and that was after ordination—I was ordained in ’70. So I met Jim O’Brien just in time, when I started to need him, where I began to take responsibility for my own life. What I could see, what I had seen as a virtue in myself, I began to see as, Maybe, this is more my problem, because I was obsessed with being right. A lot of Ones become clergy.
Fr. Richard: To be honest, it’s the clergy you don’t tend to like very much. They’re standing in pulpits telling you how to do it right.
Jen: I see.
Fr. Richard: You see? They are very moralistic at their worst. So I’ve worked fifty years not to be that way. Your sin and your gift are the same way. How it rots us from inside is this need to be right for people who are close to us—like in marriage or in a small community—you become sort of obnoxious. To use a Freudian word, anal-retentive.
Jen: Sure, sure.
Fr. Richard: See, I can pick on my own type.
Fr. Richard: I see it very easily. Fellow Ones who haven’t done any inner work, I can spot them in the first five minutes of the conversation. And I hate to say this publicly, but I usually would not choose them for my best friend, because they’re too much like me.
Jen: Yeah, sure.
Fr. Richard: I know the game they’re playing and I don’t like it in me, so I don’t like it in them. Do you see?
Jen: I do.
Fr. Richard: I want to point it out to them. “Don’t you realize you’re rather righteous, father?” A lot of protestant ministers are Ones, too.
Jen: What’s so interesting about that, I’m a Three and I have a Two wing. It’s funny, first of all, as you were talking about how you were in young adulthood, the student who got the gold star—that is familiar to me, because I also got the gold stars, but we wanted it from different ways. I wanted to be liked. Yeah, I wanted to be the star and have somebody think that about me. You do legitimately want to be right. Yours is well and sincere.
Fr. Richard: I’m not going to put it as nicely. Well, mine is more moralistic righteousness. Yours is more success.
Jen: That’s right.
Fr. Richard: Being nice to people, because it works.
Jen: Yeah, it does.
Fr. Richard: You don’t tend to be as moralistic as we are. That’s why I like Threes. They don’t judge the way my type does.
Jen: What’s your wing? Do you spend a lot of energy on your wing?
Fr. Richard: Well, remember, I’m seventy-seven now. You could probably hear it in my voice. Most of my early life was Two. I think that’s why I became a Franciscan and a priest.
Fr. Richard: I did want to serve and help people and make the world a better place. Then in my forties, when I began to do a lot more inner work, I began to give myself freedom to be a bit more of a Nine. I didn’t have to save the world. And living here alone, even now, I can do this easily. I don’t need to save the world anymore.
Jen: That’s so interesting, because a One and a Nine are so different. They’re such a different way to experience the world. I wondered if you could even be a Nine with a One wing or a One with a Nine wing, and if it’s even possible to reach for that kind of energy to your right or to your left. But you did it, you’ve done it.
Fr. Richard: Well, I know why you’d say that, because on the early levels, it sure looks that way. There’s a number of types that seemed to almost flip, like the Seven to the Eight. Overly positive and seemingly overly negative, the Eight. The Eight to the Nine is another total flip. Then, the Nine to the One, another total flip.
Jen: That’s true. That’s true.
Fr. Richard: Seemingly, most of the others more fit and meld into one another. I don’t know why that’s true. It takes on a very unique shape. Your Nine will still be rather passive-aggressive, stubborn as a donkey sometimes, righteous in their own quiet way about what I’m going to do, what I’m not going to do.
Jen: That’s true.
Fr. Richard: You see. It’s still One.
Jen: I see.
Fr. Richard: It isn’t as in your face, as we Ones are. It’s passive-aggressive.
Jen: I’m married to a Two, but his One wing is very strong. And so it’s real. It could toggle back and forth. It’s so interesting for me to listen to you talk because it helps me understand him more. I’m a Three, of course, so I need everybody’s approval. When I said, “I sometimes experience this as just criticism,” it’s just like everything could be better than it is, whatever that thing is, at all times.
I receive this as criticism, which I already struggle with. I already know that. That’s my work to do. He’s like, “I’m telling you that I don’t mean to just come in and be critical. I really do walk into a moment, into a room, into a scenario, and I instantly see how this could be improved.” He said, “I really do. That’s the way my brain works. I don’t see it as criticism. I see it as potentially helpful.” Is that true to you? Would you say that’s a One?
Fr. Richard: Yeah, absolutely. That’s perfectly said. I walk into any situation and I see what’s keeping it from being right, what’s keeping it from being perfect. I don’t like it in myself. Now, at my age, I tend to be often correct.
Jen: That’s what he says!
Fr. Richard: Yeah. Totally often correct, but I’ve learned to bite my tongue and, Shut up, Richard. No one needs to hear it right away, and learn to say it in a better way, in a kinder way, in a slower way. It’s our genius to see what the missing ingredient is.
Jen: Well, there’s a place for that in the world. That has a real value.
Fr. Richard: It does. It does.
Jen: I love it. Ones in my life served me greatly, because their instinct and their intuition and their logistical brains add a layer on to the way I move in the world that’s helpful to me and useful to me, and does, indeed, improve a lot of things that my sort of slip shoddy way of doing it is never going to improve. It’s okay for me to be able to say, “Good enough.” And that’s a question I have for you. I wonder if the One’s—have you learned that you can get to a point where you can say, “This is good enough?” Or is that still really hard?
Fr. Richard: Yes. You know the name of our center here, Center for Action and Contemplation. That’s what drove me to trying to be a contemplative and teaching contemplation, that this moment is as perfect as it can be. That was my mantra thirty years ago. That it’s okay, it’s all right.
Now, when that moved to the emotional level, I’ve been more and more happy the older I’ve gotten. I wasn’t that way as a young person, no. I had to make it better. I had to make everybody better. It was always by my criteria.
Fr. Richard: You have to make enough major mistakes to hurt people, unfortunately, a few times, to stop doing that. It’s your criteria of perfect and right and good.
Jen: It’s interesting, because you have explained what this looks like externally, how a lot of people would experience the minor behaviors of it. It’s interesting, as the rest of us learn about the way that you are crafted, because Ones, on the outside, seem incredibly principled, very disciplined, very capable, very much in control. It’s why people trust you. It’s why they believe that you can get the thing done, and you’ll do it well and right.
But it’s interesting to learn a little bit more of what’s on the interior of you, because even though, sometimes, you look very straight-laced and controlled, that there’s actually a world of big feelings inside.
Fr. Richard: That’s right. That’s right.
Jen: Can you talk more about that? What are the feelings inside? Not just what we see on the outside, but what’s really under it all. What is motivating you or scaring you?
Fr. Richard: Sure.
Jen: What’s making you thrilled?
Fr. Richard: When I used to teach it—and I used to teach it a lot all over the world—I’d say the gut people, which is what we are, for all three of us—the Eight, the Nine, and the One—life is too much for us. The amount of data coming in, the amount of feelings coming in, just make us want to have three responses. The Eight goes out to attack reality. The Nine pulls back in a passive-aggressive way and says, “I can’t handle it anymore. Yeah, that’s right.” We come in on our white charger and try to polish it up and make it right. That’s what can make us so obsessive. In a psychological world, the unhealthy One becomes obsessive-compulsive. If I look down right now, I’d see a spot here on my floor. There it is. And when I walk by, I’ve got to pick it up. You see?
Fr. Richard: But for all three of us, life is too much for me, especially, now with our politics and the state of the planet. Now, it’s COVID-19. I have to turn off the news, because I want to fix all of it, and I can’t. So some kind of contemplative mind was really necessary—I’m going to use a big word—for my salvation. I think I know a lot of Ones who, at the end of their life, are just unhappy people, because they tried again and again to do it right, to make it right, to fix people, fix situations.
And dang it, we live in an imperfect world. It’s in all my books, because my books were written in the second half of my own life. It’s learning to love imperfection. But I had to fight for that. I really had to work for that. It doesn’t come naturally.
Jen: Can you talk about the other side of a One? Because we need the Ones in the world, too. What you bring to bear on our communities is good. There’s a lot of beauty inside of it. Ones can be wonderful partners, of course. Can you talk about what a One looks like at his or her best? When they’re healthy and integrated and operating sort of out of their best spirit, if you will?
Fr. Richard: Yeah. Well, when I first learned it from Father Jim, he said our gift is serenity. I believe that’s true. When you stop making the imperfect world a problem, you actually become more serene than other people. So I end up in many stress situations today, even here on the staff. We have fifty people on the staff. I’m just the old founder. I don’t have to do that much. I’m often the most calm in the room.
Fr. Richard: Isn’t that interesting?
Fr. Richard: I don’t need to save it anymore. I don’t need to, because I’ve been wrong too many times about being right. I don’t think I’ve ever said it that way before. I’ve been wrong too many times about being right.
Fr. Richard: And I just don’t believe my own first voices. My first voice has come from that egocentric One, the little boy who needs to be right. I don’t think I need to be right anymore. I enjoy it, but I don’t need it. That’s a great freedom.
Jen: For the Ones that are listening right now that don’t have as many years as you, or they’re newer to their own internal work—just a different stage in their life, maybe—they’re loving what you’re saying right now. I bet that sounds like freedom to a One…
Fr. Richard: That’s true.
Jen: …who gets trapped in their own perfectionism all the time. That feels really lonely, actually, to hear you describe it like that, and kind of like a prison, just unable to relax into a thing.
So if there’s a One hearing you who’s thinking, I would love to be free of that particular portion of who I am, and wants to grow, what’s your best advice? Where do they start? How do you begin doing that work besides the obvious best teacher, which is failure? That teacher is reliable.
Fr. Richard: Very good, yes.
Jen: In addition to that, what else could the One reach for?
Fr. Richard: You’ve got to move. If you look at the diagram, I have a Two wing, which is the heart space. We’ve got to move out of our guts, which is an over-focused, over-convicted response to a compassionate heart response. First of all, toward ourselves, because we’re just as hard on ourselves as we are on other people.
Jen: That’s important to hear.
Fr. Richard: Yet, we have to recognize how true that is. I start critiquing myself in the morning. “Well, you got to do this. You didn’t do that right yesterday, Richard.” Now, those voices are much less strong, but they’re still there.
Fr. Richard: When I can surround them with a bit of heart and compassion and forgiveness, frankly, then and only then can I grant that same compassion to other people. I don’t need to make them right. Now, I can see that to become a priest is almost the worst possible thing, because we were given permission to make other people right, you see?
Jen: That’s right. I do.
Fr. Richard: Many of us look at our professions after we become good at the Enneagram, and see we did the right thing for the wrong reason. We’re good at it, but we’re good at it for not the best of reasons. That’s the major humiliation you’ve got to suffer on the spiritual journey.
Jen: I really appreciate you explaining that the One energy for perfect rightness is also internally directed. That serves me. That helps me love the Ones in my life, because sometimes, you don’t know that.
Fr. Richard: That’s right.
Jen: Because a One’s strategy is so outwardly focused on fixing everything else and everybody else. Just even knowing that that voice is inside your own head, too, and critical of your own good self, that gives me such compassion.
Let me ask you this question. For those of us who have a One in our lives—we’re married to One, we’re parenting One, we work with One—when we find ourselves in conflict with a One, what would you say is the best strategy to resolve that conflict and to move forward in that relationship in a way that is healthy and loving toward the One that we love?
Fr. Richard: You know, don’t come back in a highly correcting voice. “Well, Joe, that’s one way to look at it. I wonder if we could look at it this way?” Like, all you need to do is preface it by something, and the reasonableness of a One will hear you.
Jen: That’s good.
Fr. Richard: Because we are, after all is said and done, very reasonable. If you come in like a schoolmarm, shaking the finger, we just can’t hear it, because we are being told we’re wrong. We almost always were the oldest son or oldest daughter. I was the oldest son. We desperately need to please one or both parents. In my case, it was my mother. Even though I was my mother’s favorite, I knew when she was happy with little Dickey, and when she wasn’t.
Fr. Richard: And it was just so much more pleasant to have her approval.
Jen: Of course.
Fr. Richard: And I learned how to do it all the time. But little did I think how much it was hurting me inside when she came in with those finger-wagging corrections. They all come back when anybody else does it.
Jen: I love that.
Fr. Richard: Your parents’ early voices are, now, they tell us, are held in the lower brainstem. And that’s why they feel like the voice of God. You just can’t get rid of them. You can’t get rid of them. They sound true, right. That’s the way I should be.
Jen: So true. I’m foty-five, and I still hear my parents’ voices in my head. I sure do. What I heard you just say right now that I found incredible—I’m not going to forget this, that was really, really helpful—is that don’t forget that Ones are incredibly reasonable. What a wonderful takeaway.
Fr. Richard: We are, we are.
Jen: That approaching the Ones in our life out of the atmosphere of these charged words and accusations, or finger-pointing, but just kind of in this measured safe way? What a great tool.
Fr. Richard: They’ll normally hear you. Really, they will.
Jen: That’s great.
Fr. Richard: They’ll normally hear you.
Jen: Let me ask you this before we wrap it up here. I wonder how your work with contemplation has affected you as an Enneagram One. One of the principles of contemplation and meditation is to remain open, right? Just, “Let’s accept what is as it is, in the moment, very present to the moment,” which isn’t necessarily a One’s strength.
Fr. Richard: No.
Jen: We don’t accept things on their face. And so I’m curious how those two sort of practices, if you will, all your work around that beautiful, contemplative sort of energy has affected your Enneagram wiring.
Fr. Richard: I would say, Jen, in a major way, because I experienced—and you have to experience it, not just have someone teach you, it’s the only way out of your prison. It’s sort of the twelve step-ers talking about the twelve steps, that, “I can change this wiring in my brain.” And contemplation changed my wiring, where I didn’t need to be so over-focused about being right, that I could be over-focused in living in the now whatever it offered, including what I don’t like. Isn’t that interesting?
Jen: It is.
Fr. Richard: It still intrigues me that it’s true. We are over-focused. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. That’s true of most Ones. If I’m talking to you, if someone would come to my door right now, I’d either get upset at that door or I’d get upset at you, because you’re forcing me to split my sight, and I want to be with you right now.
Jen: Oh, wow.
Fr. Richard: I think friends have often experienced that. “Well, Richard seemed a little irritated when I approached him.” It’s because I was doing something else.
Jen: Got it.
Fr. Richard: And they pulled me away from it. Now, friends who know me will just slide a little paper. “Richard, we need to see you in ten minutes. You’re beyond your appointment time,” or whatever. But if it sounds like a correction, there’ll be this instinctive reaction. I’m ashamed to admit it, I’m still not that free from my ego, that I can feel this reaction to being corrected. My mother was an Eight. So when she corrected us, it was a real correction.
Jen: Sure, it was. I appreciate that answer, because I’d suspect that contemplation and meditation could really serve every number in the same way. I mean, even as I heard you saying that it really affected you, I think as a Three, when I can calm it all down long enough to be still and to be really quiet, to be incredibly prayerful, all those things do not come easy to me at all. I’m a go-go-go, as you know.
Fr. Richard: A doer, a doer.
Jen: I’m such a doer. I work so hard. I just think, “Boy, it’s possible that I could learn that I am just already loved, and I don’t have to earn it, and I don’t have to hustle for it.” I have to work so hard for that.
Fr. Richard: Doesn’t come naturally, does it? Doesn’t come naturally, no. It doesn’t, to any of us. But it’s especially hard for a Three, who operates by a high performance principle. They just can’t let go of it.
But at least, you know it already with your head, or you wouldn’t have expressed it as well as you did. Now, as you get a little older, it’ll sink into your body, into your gut, into your muscle memory. Yeah.
Jen: I hope so, because I can’t work this hard for the rest of my life. I’m going to go out too soon. I’ve always been that way. It’s so true that we are who we are all along. I mean, you’d have spotted me in third grade and pegged it. You’ve known it right away. It is true that that deep sense of centering can serve us all.
Fr. Richard: It’s the answer to all nine types, if you want to over-simplify.
Jen: That’s right.
Fr. Richard: But it’s true, yeah.
Jen: We’re going to wrap it up. Here’s the first [question]. Is there, maybe secretly, I don’t know, a type that you always wished you were?
Fr. Richard: Yes, Nine. I love Nines.
Jen: Me, too.
Fr. Richard: I wish I were a Nine, without any doubt. Thank God, I’ve got a Nine wing. And when I can trust that part of me, I’m very happy.
Jen: I love the Nines in my life. I love the way they move through the world. I’m like, “Look how calm and peaceful you are. How nice. How nice to be inside your brain.”
Fr. Richard: They’re not ambitious and rushing and pushing like the rest of us.
Jen: I know. I love the Nines, too. Although, I think I always secretly kind of wanted to be a Seven because they’re so fun. But that’s the Three of me wanting to be popular, right?
Fr. Richard: That makes sense. Totally makes sense. I want to be a Seven because they’re my opposite. I’m so serious. They’re so light-hearted.
Jen: Yes. Kind of the flip side of that, what part of your personality do you enjoy most about yourself? What do you love most?
Fr. Richard: What do I love most? I have a hard time thinking up. I guess I have to say this is going to sound very vain, but I realized I have a gift of writing. It was early on a gift of teaching when I was on the road for forty-five years. And it comes like your gift does to you. It comes almost effortlessly. When you’re in that flow and you’re trusting it and allowing it, my better books—Falling Upward, Breathing Under Water, Universal Christ—I hardly wrote them. They were just there on the page in a rather short time.
Jen: I love that.
Fr. Richard: I still open them, and I say, “When did I write that? That doesn’t sound like me.” I mean that. I’m not being clever. I guess it’s when I’m in my flow, and it has something to do with talking about our writing about things that are going to help other people.
Jen: It’s so great. I love that rhythm when you just know you’re in your lane, the wind is at your back. That’s so, so familiar to me because I love my work so much.
Fr. Richard: You can tell.
Jen: Here’s the last question. I asked you this last time. We asked everybody this. It’s from Barbara Brown Taylor. You can answer it however you would like. It’s an interesting time to ask it right now. What is saving your life right now?
Fr. Richard: Wow, that’s a nice one. I know Barbara Brown Taylor, by the way. What a wonderful woman.
Jen: The best.
Fr. Richard: What is saving my life right now? Well, I’m going to make it very mundane.
Fr. Richard: It’s my little dog, Opie.
Jen: Oh, Opie!
Fr. Richard: Everybody says this about their dog: he is so excited about everything. He just is so earnest. I wish I could be that earnest about everything all the time. For the moment he gets up, he jumps in bed with me. This one, he crawled out from under the covers, looked at me, “It’s time to get up.” Who wouldn’t like that?
Jen: I do. I do. Oh, I love Opie. That made me happy. I’m so happy that you said that.
Fr. Richard: He’s peeking through the door right now. “Why are you not letting me in? Who are you talking to?”
Jen: Lucky me. Lucky me, that I have to talk to you today. I told you this last time, but I just want to say it one more time before I let you off the hook here.
Your work and your ministry and service has just meant the world to me. You have been a teacher for me, a mentor from afar for a really long time. I’ve learned so much from you. What you have opened up in front of me, spiritual possibility in front of me, was not a way that I grew up. I didn’t know we had permission to experience God in the ways that you’ve taught me.
Fr. Richard: Yes.
Jen: I have found such a life in it and such joy and such truth. And I’m just . . . I think what you gave me was some freedom. And I’m grateful, because I wanted to be free. I just didn’t know I could.
Fr. Richard: You make me very happy.
Jen: I mean every word.
Fr. Richard: That’s what the gospel is supposed to be. It’s for freedom’s sake and love’s sake, not for law’s sake, or anything else.
Jen: That’s it. Thank you for teaching me that and teaching all of us that. We love you. I truly love talking to you. I’ll just get you on this podcast once a year, if you keep saying yes. Just be prepared for that.
Fr. Richard: You’re a beautiful woman. Thank you, Jen.
Jen: Thank you. And now to tell us more about the music you’ve been listening to in this episode, we hear from composer Ryan O’Neal, AKA Sleeping at Last, about the inspiration behind this piece.
Ryan: So I was inspired to write songs based on the Enneagram a few years after first being introduced to it by my dear friend Chris Heuertz. And I was super skeptical at first about the whole thing, as I have been with sort of any typing system, which just feels like another way of really overly simplifying very complicated things. But pretty quickly, I realized that the Enneagram is not that. It is this deeply helpful tool for empathy, empathy for ourselves and for others. And it’s a shorthand for understanding the motivations or strengths or challenges of really everyone we know. So shortly after learning a bit about the Enneagram, it became this really personally helpful language in my marriage and in all of my relationships. And so as I recognized that the gifts and the beauty of the Enneagram, it kind of naturally found its way into my music.
And my Enneagram songs actually are a part of a larger series of music called Atlas, and which are songs that explored the origins of all things in particular human development. And at some point in the process of mapping out all of these different themes that I would be writing about, it just kind of clicked: nine songs inspired by the nine Enneagram types, and that just felt like a really perfectly fitting puzzle piece into this whole project to mine.
Writing my One song was incredibly challenging, because it was the first song and because it was the type I knew the least about. So it did feel a little bit like diving in on the deep end. But I buried myself in books and conversations about type Ones and with type Ones. And the thing that kept coming up in pretty much all of my research was the idea of this inner critic that the type One wrestles with.
And the word grace kept coming to mind. And in the context of my own inner critic, grace felt like the word I wanted myself and and type Ones to hear and absorb the most. Because type Ones are natural leaders, I wanted this song to feel assertive, like an anthem, a rally song of sorts.
My hope for writing the song was to illuminate the inherent goodness that is in every type One. That in their growing and in their letting go, they feel the relief and the exhale of grace.
Jen: There you have it, everybody. I cannot wait to hear from the Ones in our community. I just can’t wait. You must comment wherever this is posted in your feed, so I can hear what you heard. Did you feel adequately represented? What else can you add to the conversation? What else can you explain to us about the way that you are wired, and what you need and want out of this world? I can’t wait to hear from you.
Next week, we dive into the wonderful, wonderful world of Enneagram Twos. I am married to an Enneagram Two. I love Twos. Everybody loves Twos. We’ll be talking with a guest that is new to the show, but probably not new to a lot of you. She’s also an expert in this space, Phileena Heuertz, who is a Two, and an incredible spiritual director, and so gentle and so good. Calling all Twos and calling all everyone who loves a Two, come back next week. You are going to love that conversation as well.
So much more to come, you, guys. Don’t miss a single episode of the series, I’m telling you right now. With great love from my team, Laura, and her whole team at Four Eyes, my entire production queens. And then, of course, Amanda and I. Amanda is my second brain. If anything good you have ever experienced for me, it’s because she got it to you. Much love to the women that I work with, and much love to you. See you next week, guys.