Self-Awareness, The Enneagram and Christian Mission

This weekend we will be running a Learning Lab on the Enneagram. For those of you who are not familiar with the Enneagram, it is a personality typology made up of nine interconnected personality types. The Enneagram helps us discover our deepest longings and core motivations, our unique strengths and our core vulnerabilities. But it goes beyond that; it enables us to see how we’re doing in real time. Are we healthy and growing or are we struggling? The Enneagram offers a powerful window into our personal development, how we see the world, and how we can best interact with it.

Given that we are a community and organization that is primarily focused on Christian mission, we often get questions about why we offer learning labs that help people grow in self-awareness and develop better habits of self-care. How do those things relate to mission? In fact, referencing John 15:13, some have even asked how those things relate to the Christian life at all! "If the greatest act of love in Scripture is to lay down your life, how can we justify time taking care of ourselves?" they wonder.

Let me answer it this way:

You know that scene at the end of Moana* (Spoiler Alert!) where Moana finally reaches the island of Te Fiti and battles past Te Ka, the colossal lava demon guarding the island in order to return the emerald heart of Te Fiti to the island only to discover that Te Fiti isn't there? It's at this point in the story that the viewer is meant to lose that last bit of hope they've barely been able to hold on to throughout all of the challenges and obstacles Moana has faced. Moana has failed.

Except for one exceptionally beautiful thing about Moana: through all of her struggles and triumphs; failed attempts and learnings; longings and discoveries-she comes to a place of deeper self-awareness. She begins to settle into her identity as a way-finder and leader. She sheds the parts of her that have been imposed, taken on out of obligation, or used as a way to protect herself. And it is this more self-aware Moana that is able to see the true identity of the lava demon. It is this unafraid Moana who does not need to protect herself or her reputation that is able to give away the prized "heart of Te Fiti". It is this Moana who has the courage to walk toward her certain death and in an act of love, offer redemption and restoration to a place of darkness, disease and disaster

Is this not a picture of what followers of Jesus are called to? To enter into places of brokenness and darkness as partners with Jesus in bringing restoration and redemption?

But if we enter these places without having done any inner work, we usually only add to the brokenness. It takes on many forms based on each of our particular sin, wound and ambition-but its never good. Sometimes it's operating out of fear rather than love. Other times it's manipulation and control rather than sacrifice. Most of us seek ego boosting results rather than offering ourselves as powerless servants. Often we impose a method or culturally un-examined gospel rather than honoring the people and the work of the Holy Spirit among them.

We also end up burned out and full of disillusion. We fall into moral failure. We neglect our family and leave our kids emotionally neglected or even abused. We are toxic to community.

Rather than helping others we harm them.

But if we have examined our hearts and know our motivations, we can lay them aside and surrender to the motivation of Jesus. If we name our wounds and the ways we self-protect, we can receive the healing of Jesus, move beyond our wounds and offer Jesus' healing to others. If we confess our sin and bring it into the light, we can walk without fear or condemnation. If we have learned to rest in our identity, gifts, calling and personality we can make room for others and we can do the work that God has prepared us for.

We are able to truly enter into places of brokenness and darkness as partners with Jesus in bringing restoration and redemption!

Know Who You Are

I have crossed the horizon to find you I know your name I may have stolen the heart from inside you But this does not define you This is not who you are You know who you are

Songwriters: Lin-Manuel Miranda / Mark Mancina / Opetaia Foa'i

Know Who You Are lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company


*Though the Disney story of Moana is beautiful and inspiring, there are some elements that do not fully honor the people and culture in which the story is set. To read a bit about that, check out this article at

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