The Gospel According to an Enneagram One

“Neither do I condemn you.” —John 8:1-11

It’s a familiar story. The Pharisees, concerned that Jesus cares nothing for the law, test him with a real life case study: a woman caught in adultery. Jesus, instead of answering, stoops in the dirt to write with a stick. We move onto the next sentence as soon as we exhale, but I wonder how long the crowd waited for him to respond? Were they as stone silent as the space between punctuation marks? Or were they loudly shaming this slut and Jesus too. I think we know how these things usually go.

Finally, Jesus rises to his feet and invites the sinless person in the crowd to hurl the first rock. Again the text is quiet, but I imagine the cacophony continues with even more fury. Jesus drops down to the dirt again, waiting until every man in the crowd drops his stone and walks away. Rising to face the woman he asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she says. Jesus replies, “Then neither do I condemn you.”

The familiarity of Jesus’ words threaten to rob them of their power. They are extraordinary. Jesus tells the crowd that only the sinless One can condemn this women. If Jesus is, as we have historically claimed, the only human without sin he would have been fully justified in picking up the stones and killing this woman himself.

But Jesus refuses what the law requires.

Jesus goes beyond what is logical or expected just to love this woman. Loving her not meaning that he denied her transgressions, but that he refused to define her, invalidate her, or terminate her personhood as a result of them.

Might Jesus show me the same type of mercy?
Might Jesus also refuse to condemn me?

I hope so.

As an Enneagram One or “Perfectionist”, I feel like I’m surrounded by this shouting crowd every morning.

Ones are defined by the presence of an angry inner critic. Ones like Eights (the Overcomers) and Nines (the Peacemakers…ironic but true) are motivated at a gut level by anger. I get angry at dirty dishes, flat tires, passive aggressive co-workers, the injustices of the world, but mostly myself.

I constantly condemn myself for not accomplishing enough, not exercising enough, not cleaning enough, for not being enough. My inner critic is loud and shape-shifting, speaking in a myriad of ways when I’m awake and disrupting my sleep as my subconscious agonizes over real or imagined undone tasks. For a One, the rules are important and the most important rule is, “Be perfect.” And if I break this irrational but very real expectation, I’m throwing rocks at myself without anyone else being around.

This condemnation awakens me daily ringing as loudly as my alarm clock. Some mornings I scream back. I tell my critic to shut up. I argue with him. I insult him. But no matter how forceful I get, he always snaps back more ferociously. Other mornings I speak gently to this voice, carefully acknowledging that he arose in my childhood to help me survive. I thank him for trying to protect me. Sometimes just acknowledging his good intentions calms him down. Either way, these never-ending conversations are exhausting.

Lately, when I hear the voice rise up, I try to breathe deeply and let the critiques wash over me without giving them my attention. I imagine these negative thoughts as passing clouds outside the window of my soul, here for a moment and gone the next. If I wait long enough the voice decreases in volume until I no longer hear it at all. If I wait long enough, it’s as if I hear Jesus rising from the dirt saying, “Neither do I condemn you.”

This is the good news for an Enneagram One like me.

As much as I condemn myself, Jesus doesn’t condemn me. My inner critic might correctly recount the wrong I have done and the right I have left undone or done imperfectly, but if I allow myself to sit and breathe and wait, I find that his word isn’t the last word. The last word is Jesus’s word of grace. Grace that does not excuse my imperfection, but displaces its ability to define who I am.

This practice of detachment is really an acknowledgement that I am powerless to fix or save myself. It is a statement of faith that has nothing to do with my ability to be faithful. It is an act of surrender to the God who made me and this wondrous world at the same time imperfect and in God’s own words at creation “very good.”

If you are an Enneagram One, find a practice that helps you to let go:

Journal. Write your compulsive, angry, thoughts until you have nothing left to write. Let go of them as the ink dries on your page.
Go to a yoga class. The positions of yoga were designed to help monks still their bodies and minds for prayer. Sometimes feeling the physical discomfort of a pose or trying to stay balanced in a pose allows you to focus on the present moment.
Meditate. Set a timer on your phone. Focus on taking deep breaths, breathing in more deeply than usual and exhaling out every bit of stale air. Repeat a short scripture or phrase that brings you to love and acceptance. Neuroscientists tell us that this repetition helps the voices that arise from the “monkey” and “lizard” brain to stop.
Go to a place where you have no responsibility and nothing to fix or perfect. Many Enneagram teachers say that the best way to love a One is to take them on vacation. Find a place that you can take yourself on a mini-vacation during the workday or for an extended time on a day off.

Have faith that even when you cannot see it that both your imperfections and the relentless critic within are parts of who you were made to be in the image of God.

Drew Herring is the Pastor of Adult Education and Outreach at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. You can find his writing on spirituality, community, and the adoption journey at his blog “Unfinished Thoughts”. Find other posts in this series here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email