A word on gifts and identity and maybe a little bit about the Enneagram.

Isn’t it funny how a new year often brings about a desire for change? It’s not as if waking up on January 1st is truly different than waking up on any other Tuesday (just ask my husband, who would rather sleep through midnight), yet our culture embraces the idea of new goals, new dreams, new habits, or some other new “thing” that counteracts all the things we think we’ve failed at the year before. You probably have a plethora of friends doing a Whole 30 this month, or your people are all choosing a new “word” for the year. Even if we aren’t saying it out loud, I think we all feel like the post-Christmas crazy is a time for a solid reset on our lives.

To be honest, I don’t really like being part of the cliché. I will never set foot in a gym in January (or probably ever, let’s be real.) I don’t feel the need to have a “word” like all the cool kids. I’ve made like one new year’s resolution my whole life, and it actually lasted more like two years before I realized I’d come a long way in the area I wanted to change.

BUT there’s one thing I love unashamedly always and forever: personality tests. All of them. I usually get ESTP for a result but I will still take a Myers-Briggs test anytime the internet throws one in front of me. DISC personality assessment? That’s an I, thank you very much. The four temperaments? (Personality Plus by Florence Littauer is the bomb, btw) I’ll take sanguine for $600, Alex. If you’ve come to my house more than three times, chances are I’ve whipped out my deck of Hue Are You? cards and forced you to assess yourself based on colors of the rainbow. (I’m a red/purple/brown which is a super ugly combination but fits me to a T.)

So it’s ironic to me that here in January 2018 my mild-disdain for new year’s resolution crap is colliding with my recent discovery/interest in the Enneagram and now I feel like I’m on this whole new journey to self discovery without a therapist to hold my hand. There is lots of info out there already that explains the Enneagram better than I can, so I’ll narrow it down to a couple key things you need to know. (If you want a quick, easy, read as an introduction to it, I totally recommend The Road Back to You by Ian Cron.) What sets it apart from other personality tests is that it’s not about defining you by your behavior, but by your motives. (This is why even though an online test may be accurate, it’s WAY more beneficial to pick up a book about it, read about the types, examine your own heart, and figure out your own number.) It reveals the sin(s) you are prone to and really encourages self-awareness- knowing yourself so that you know where you need God’s grace and where you need His power to become more like Christ. No copping out by saying “well that’s just my personality, get over it.” It makes you aware of who you are at your unhealthiest (times of stress) and how you operate at your healthiest (times of security.)

And let me say this- I don’t typically classify myself as an insecure person, but I am a Type 8 and Y’ALL. If you read anything about an 8 it will make you not like me either!! I come away from reading about Eights feeling equally like I know myself better than before AND feeling so misunderstood. Basically, we are aggressive, angry, intimidating, confrontational people who not just love a good fight, but love to WIN a good fight. PS we have some decent leadership skills and hearts for justice but oh by the way, we tend to have the most addictive personalities and at our unhealthiest we are all of the sociopaths. A healthy 8 is Martin Luther King, Jr. (boo ya) and an unhealthy 8 is Joseph Stalin. Can you even? Good news: Mother Theresa was an 8! Bad news: she’s cancelled out because we get Trump. Not cool, Enneagram, not cool.

Ones are perfectionists who like to get things done and get them done right. Twos are helpers who love to nurture people. Sixes are people who are prepared in any emergency, Sevens are quick-witted little bundles of fun, and 8’s? Oh we just like to pick fights and challenge authority and default to anger and not ever open up about our feelings, whatever.

ANYWAY, this new year really does have me thinking a lot of things and though I’m a pretty self-aware person and know who I am, I struggle with what it means to know who I am IN CHRIST. It’s so easy to find our identity in other things. I don’t consider myself a people pleaser, but through the Enneagram I realized there are definitely ways I let other people’s perception of me affect me. Eights are great if you’re a guy, not so much if you’re a woman. You’re too direct, you’re too sassy, your leadership skills aren’t welcome in certain places (hello, most of corporate America and a lot of churches). Also, people really don’t like it when you challenge the status quo on Facebook (hi systemic racism and Operation Christmas Child, remember me?). It’s easy to go to a place where I feel like I need to temper my God-given boldness, my talkative-ness (thank you, wing 7), or get permission from who knows who before I use the leadership skills that are second nature to me.

Like every other type, for all the perceived “unhealthy” things about me, I have strengths and I want to own them. They say if you read about the 9 types, the one that makes you cringe and want to die inside is probably your number. So I feel like these words aren’t just for me because really, it’s something all people can relate to: Don’t apologize for who you are. God gave you permission to be exactly yourself when he created your inmost being and knit you together in your mother’s womb. End of story. He knows you. Even your weaknesses are a reflection of Him- when we are weak, He is strong. (The 8 in me wants so badly to put that whole paragraph in all caps and force you to believe it.)

As an 8, my default emotion is often times anger. This could range anywhere from mild irritation to full on rage, depending on the situation. It irritates me when people don’t even TRY to park within the lines but I move on with my life; an unhealthy 8 would probably experience really bad road rage. But another thing that makes me mad (and I don’t believe it’s something that is necessarily wrong to get mad about) is when, for whatever reason, a person shuts down someone who wants nothing more than to use the gifts God has given them- either inside or outside the church. (Sidebar for 8’s: we totally identify with the quote “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way”, but you can’t just barrel in and take over stuff that you think you could do better at, okay?) I think it’s human to want/need validation for our ideas and dreams, no matter our type. But I’m learning part of finding our identity in Christ is not becoming ultra-dependent on human validation. Every single person was created with gifts to be used. I’m learning who the people are that will encourage me, being real with me when necessary, and I’m learning who the people are who don’t think I’m capable of more than twiddling my thumbs. Do you find yourself feeling like you need permission to use your gifts? Here you go: Ephesians 2:10 says “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Boom. Permission granted. When others discourage you, remember that God already has plans for you, He’s given you all the permission you need to use your gifts because HE is the one who has already created the perfect way for you to use them.

So that’s where my head’s at as we start 2018 and these are the truths I’ll hang onto throughout the year. Whether you give a hoot about the Enneagram or not, how can you encourage others to use their gifts this year?