SERMON: Enneagram Type 9 The Peacemaker or Mediator
A FEW CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE ENNEAGRAM
& THE COVID PANDEMIC.
Ephesians 2:13-17; 2 Cor 5:16-19
Friends, today we come to the end of our journey through the Enneagram as a tool for self knowledge and self growth, but also as a tool to explore and examine the wholeness of the person of Jesus.
Type 9 on the Enneagram is often called the Peacemaker or Mediator, and as we explore this personality, before looking at the person of Jesus, we listen to the story of a fictitious person we shall name John.
John’s biggest aim in life is for peace, inner peace and outer peace. And the way he tries to achieve that peace is mostly through avoidance, which unfortunately does not always prove to be the best strategy to achieve that goal.
John’s seeking of peace and his need to avoid difficult situations were evident very early on in his life. The world into which John was born was one that felt like it was defined by conflict. Motivated by a desire for this conflict and tension to go away, John began to do everything in his power to resolve the conflict and trouble, but mostly by avoidance.
Growing up, in order to keep the peace, John would very easily give in to the desires and plans of others. It was easier that way. When you just go along with what others want, you avoid the pain of conflicting opinions. John has proved so effective in giving up his own opinions, desires and wants, that he has never really developed a very strong sense of self. He no longer really knows what it is that he wants in life and as a result can often be very indecisive when he is put on the spot and has to make a decision for himself. It is just so much easier to defer to others, even when deep down he also feels a certain amount of repressed anger as a result of never feeling like his own voice is ever listened to or heard. And in a way it is his own fault, because expressing his own opinions when with others is something he tries to avoid in case it puts him in conflict with others.
As a result, John has sometimes felt a little bit like a ghost in the presence of others. Because he can be a little bit of a chameleon, blending into the background of any situation, and blending into the crowd, he also has an amazing ability of reflecting aspects of each of the other 8 personality types. As a result John’s own personality is a little difficult to pinpoint and pin down.
Being driven by a desire for peace and a desire to avoid conflict, John has an ability to see and understand different points of view more than most, especially when the conflict exists outside himself between other people. And seeing the validity of arguments on both sides of a conflict, John will often try and play a mediating role between two conflicting sides. Sometimes it has got him into quite a bit of trouble because he can very easily get caught in the middle, with both sides accusing him of taking the other person's side, when he has in fact sincerely sought to find a middle way between them.
These mediating and peacemaking qualities in John have served him well as an adult. As a lecturer in History, he constantly challenges his students to move beyond their own narrow opinions and perspectives, and constantly challenges them to not only look deeply at differing perspectives on history, but to put themselves in the shoes of people on both sides of a historical debate and to learn to argue from the other person's perspective. His students also find themselves being deeply listened to by John, because he is always interested to hear their opinions and their own fresh perspectives.
In his religious life, he has been motivated to try and resolve and transcend the differences between differing religious perspectives, wishing to learn from the best of each religious tradition, whether than be between fundamentalist and liberals, Protestantism and Catholicism, Christianity and other religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. He is convinced that each of these traditions has something we can all learn and benefit from and feels that if we all had to approach things in this way, much of the religious conflict in the world would be unnecessary. While they may appreciate and enjoy John’s gentle and peaceful manner and approach to life, others think he may be a little bit of a dreamer and a little naive but he has a deep sense that God is big enough to embrace us all.
While at his best, John can be present an aura of peace and calm, being accommodating, unpretentious, reassuring, tolerant, non-judgemental, gentle, patient and outwardly imperturbable, like all of us John has his shadow side. In his less mature moments, John can very easily become lazy, forgetful, indecisive, apathetic, oblivious, overly accommodating, passive-aggressive, obsessive, spaced-out and self-annihilating. Under stress, John begins to take on the negative characteristics of the 6 on the Enneagram, the Guardian or Protector coming across as quite anxious and defensive. In his less mature moments, it take an enormous amount of energy to get motivated to do anything and can very easily get lost in the details of life as a form of avoidance of tackling the things that really matter, but which require effort and energy.
As John has grown and matured, he has unconsciously begun to adopt the characteristics of his neighbouring personality types. With his 8 wing, the Leader or Challenger, it has helped him to become more engaged in life, and with his 1 Wing, the Reformer or perfectionist, it has helped him to stand up a little more strongly for the things he really believes are right. And as he has begun to do so, he has begun more and more to accomplish things of significance in life, taking on the positive characteristics of the Three, the achiever.
John has his good days and his bad days, but he is in good company. Many famous and successful people have been 9s on the Enneagram. Probably the most famous of all would be Winnie the Pooh, who in his own nondescript way seems to get on with everyone. Other famous 9s would include great names in psychology like Carl Jung and Carl Rogers, Abraham Lincoln, Ringo Star of the Beatles, Audrey Hepburn, The Dalai Lama, Lady Margot Fonteyn, and Queen Elizabeth II has also been described as a 9 on the Enneagram and it is certainly true that her official role requires that she play the role of a 9, a mediating and peacemaking role as she seeks to be the Monarch of a diverse Kingdom, which in her earlier reign would have been a diverse Empire. The Commonwealth is the type of organisation that expresses the values of a Nine, and so it wouldn't be surprising if the Commonwealth was the brainchild of the Queen herself.
As we consider the person of Jesus, we see many of the best traits of a Nine in the person and teachings of Jesus.
Jesus clearly valued peace highly. In the beatitudes, he describes the peacemakers of the world as children of God. Even his description of God as making his sun to shine on good and evil alike and sending rain on the righteous and unrighteous points to an understanding of God that transcends our normal human distinctions and divisions.
Jesus is also constantly seen himself transcending the divisions of the society in which he lived. Like a true Nine on the Enneagram, in many ways, Jesus lived as a friend of all and an enemy of none. As suggested in last week's sermon, even though he was bluntly direct with his opponents, the scribes and the Pharisees, it did not stop him from holding out a genuine hand of friendship to them as he ate at their tables and shared table fellowship with them.
While some of his own disciples like Judas may have been from the radical political group called the sicarii who were politically engaged in wanting to overthrow their Roman oppressors by violent means, Jesus showed concern and compassion for a Roman centurion’s servant and even remarked how he had not seen such faith in Israel as he had in that Roman centurion. Like a 9, he was willing to see the best in people who were different from himself.
We also see Jesus transcending the division between Jews and Samaritans and Jews and Gentiles. Jesus has no qualms about travelling through Samaritan villages and engaging with them, even though it was not the done thing. He is willing to cross over the Sea of Galilee and engage with the Gentile population on the other side. He was even willing to make a hated and despised Samaritan the hero of one of his best known parables, the Good Samaritan. Like a True Nine on the Enneagram, seeking and encouraging to bring peace between opponents, Jesus encourages his followers to pray for their enemies. For first century Jews, the thought of praying for Samaritans and their Roman Oppressors would have felt like an almost impossible task.
The apostle Paul reflects this reconciling, peacemaking dimension of Jesus when he says in 2 Cor 5 God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. And in Ephesians, in a cosmic view of Jesus' life and ministry, Paul asserts that in Jesus, God revealed his secret plan to being the whole universe to oneness and unity in him.
But whereas the downfall of the Nine, is that in their less mature moments, they become avoiders of conflict rather than true peacemakers, Jesus greatest act of peacemaking according to scripture comes in the moment of his crucifixion. Jesus does the hard and painful work of making peace by bearing in his body the pain and conflict of the world, rather than simply sitting on a mountain-top lost in inward meditation. Jesus engages with life and seeks to build a peace based on justice and fairness for the poor rather than in the words of Isaiah, crying peace peace when there is in truth no peace.
In closing, a few helpful pointers for those of us who may identify as 9’s on the Enneagram:
• Every journey begins with the first step
• Face the problems – the won’t go away
• A stitch in time saves a Nine!
• I too am loved and worthwhile, and my opinion is valuable.
• Every hair on your head is counted (Luke 12:7).