The Gospel According to an Enneagram Six

As a child, after lights out, I would use a flashlight to illuminate my journal as I wrote list after list of the things I was worried about. First on that list was always gym class. Also making frequent appearances: tests, friends, and anything out of the ordinary. I was a child who liked structure, quiet, and thinking. I was often afraid. And so I wrote lists.

In every gospel, Jesus tells us not to be afraid. In Matthew, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. In John, Jesus reminds us he leaves us with peace. In Mark, he is often tells people to have courage, faith, and belief. And in Luke, he reminds us of our powerlessness, the futility of worry, and the providence of God.

The Enneagram Six is called the Loyalist, but she could also be called the Fearful. Deeply committed to support and structure, to one’s own survival, she thinks more than she decides, and worries more than she acts. She is a mess of contradictions, but underneath it all is the desire to be safe, supported, and secure.

In Luke 12, Jesus is talking to his disciples. After telling the parable of the rich fool, who stored up wealth for himself and died anyway (a concept troubling for Sixes), Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (vv. 22-23). In this passage, Jesus is discussing the central characteristic of the Six personality type: the fear of losing one’s very foundation, one’s safety, one’s sustenance.

Jesus continues by giving two examples:

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

Sentence after sentence brings challenge to the Six. Don’t worry about life. Or food. Or drink. Or clothes. The ravens are taken care of, and so are the lilies. Worry doesn’t add anything to our lives; in fact, it takes us from our lives. It displaces us into the future, the what-ifs, the could-bes. We leave the present moment, but God is there in that moment.

The end of this section drives the point home: “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (v. 31). God knows our needs, and God will provide. What God wants is for us to reorient our lives, to shift our focus from the safety we seek to the kingdom God is building. That’s where true security lies.

The next verse reaffirms the sentiment: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). This charming term, “little flock,” is followed by the less charming and more difficult dictate, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not wear out, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33, translation mine). Jesus takes the Six another step away from comfort and into trust. He says, not only should you not worry about the structure you hope will keep you secure, you should actively dismantle that structure and give it away. The things you save to keep you safe will only weigh you down. They will cause you grief and heartache, even danger. He finishes, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (v. 34).

That’s the truth, isn’t it? What we crave, what we protect, what we use to build a life of safety and loyalty becomes our treasure, and we cling to our treasure for security. Yet the only true security lies in seeking the kingdom of God.

Nothing on this earth will sustain us forever. Houses burn down, bodies get sick, money is spent or stolen. Our time is short, and we will not escape fear or pain. But God takes care of the ravens and makes the lilies beautiful. God will surround us with birds and flowers to remind us what we have.

I’m no longer that little girl, but I still like structure, quiet, and thinking. I am still often afraid. But my lists look different now. Now, to ward off the rush of fear and anxiety when I wake up in the middle of the night, I turn on my light and make a list of the ways God provides for me: through ravens, lilies, grass; through strawberries, paychecks, letters; through smiles, grocery stores, church community; through grace, peace, hope, love. While never easy for a Six like me, I choose to make God’s provision my treasure; this is where I keep my heart.

Sara Kelm is a graduate student, teacher, and writer from Fort Worth, Texas. You can read more from her at sarakelm.wordpress.com.

Find other posts in this series here.

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