SERMON - VIDEO (also Audio Only version below)
SERMON TEXT - ENNEAGRAM TYPE 8
The Challenger, Leader Protector
Friends, we have two weeks left looking at the last of the 9 personality types on the Enneagram and seeing how the best qualities of each are reflected in Jesus as a symbol of human wholeness. Just to say that some suggest each personality type has three subtypes making 27 personality types in total. In addition, each personality type obviously can display different qualities depending on whether they are a mature or a healthy personality or an immature or unhealthy personality.
Underlying each of the 9 personality types is an underlying need. Today, we look at Type 8 on the Enneagram, sometimes called The Leader, The Hero, The Challenger, The Protector. The need of the 8 is the need to be strong. Other’s suggest the need of the 8 is the need to stand against. The need to challenge.
As we explore this personality, yet again, we do so examine the story of a fictitious person we shall call Briana.
Briana can often come across as a bit intimidating. She has quite a tough exterior, and showing her weaker, more vulnerable side is not her thing. It has been like this since she was very young. For whatever reason, coming into this world, Briana had an instinctive need to present herself as strong. Maybe it was that her earliest experience in life told her that if you don’t stand up for yourself, then nobody else will. And so this soon became the motto by which she has lived almost her whole her life. Be strong, don’t give in. Don’t show any weakness.
As a little girl, it was therefore evident quite early on, that Briana was a force to be reckoned with. Parenting her was never easy, because it often became a battle of the wills as she could prove to be quite rebellious when she felt she was being told what to do by someone else. And it was not always clear on what basis Briana took a position on an issue. Sometimes it seems that she would take up a position simply because it was opposite to someone else's. And once she had taken her stand, she was not easily budged from there.
Briana also very early on began showing clear leadership abilities. On the school play-ground, Briana would quickly take charge as the leader of the pack organising her friends into teams or appointing herself as the final arbiter in setting the rules. And even though girls have been culturally trained to defer to boys or males, this was never the case with Briana. Even the boys knew that she was a force to be reckoned with, and it was not uncommon for them to run home to their mom’s for comfort after having been biffed on the head and put in their place by Briana. This was especially the case when she saw someone else being victimised and bullied. Then she would step in to help protect them.
Briana’s strength and her need to challenge have served her well as an adult as she has all the natural leadership skills and strength to be a very successful program manager. She is very good at giving out clear, decisive instructions and wipping her team into shape… keeping everyone right, as they say hear in Northern Ireland. And because she can also be a little intimidating, it is not often that she gets too much opposition from those working under her. It is much easier for everyone concerned just to carry out her plans and orders, which on the whole are fairly sensible anyway.
While at her best, Briana can be described as resourceful, earthy, decisive, self-confident, energetic, direct, fearless, just, powerful and passionate, like all of us, in her unhealthier moments she has her shadow side, meaning she can also be a little bossy, aggressive, domineering, insensitive, rebellious, confrontational, controlling, intimidating, vindictive and punitive. While she has no fear in standing up to a bully, in her worst moments, some have described her as a bit of a bully herself.
As Briana has grown and matured with age, she has perhaps unconscionably become aware that she can come across as a little domineering and so unconsciously she has begun to draw on the strengths of her neighbouring personalities. With her Seven Wing, the Adventurer, it has helped to make her a little more jovial and light-hearted, and with her Nine Wing, the Peacemaker, it has helped her to become a little more chilled and more willing to compromise for the sake of more harmonious relationships. As she has done so, she has done so, she has begun to display some of the qualities of a Two on the Enneagram, the helper, without the neediness that is normally characteristic of a Two.
Like all of us, Briana has her good days and her bad days, but she is in good company. A lot of famous and successful people have been 8s on the Enneagram. These would include people like: Winston Churchhill, Sean Connery, Indira Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr. , Rev. Ian Paisley, Germaine Greer, Emmeline Pankhurst the great leader of the suffragettes, John McEnroe, Rupert Murdoch, Margaret Thatcher, Jeremy Clarkson, and Simon Cowell (I think I got Simon wrong earlier in this preaching series). Most examples on the internet would be Americans, and so I have had to think carefully in trying to find UK examples, and have not always got them right.)
Looking at the person of Jesus, and his teachings, we see the best of the Eight as we examine the Gospels.
We see it firstly in Jesus’s assertiveness. Although there was clearly a wonderful gentleness in Jesus, the idea of Jesus being meek and mild is really quite contrary to the descriptions of him in the Gospels. When it came to his relationship with the Pharisees, who were one of his main sources of opposition, we see that Jesus could be very direct, calling a spade a spade, as is often the case with 8s on the Enneagram. No sugar coating of the truth as he called them out for their hypocrisy in Matthew 23:13-36, calling them hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs and snakes, the offspring of vipers.
In fact, Jesus pretty much took on the whole of the religious establishment motivated by his distaste for people ‘playing roles’ and pretending to be holy and just when in fact the very opposite was true. This is seen very powerfully and symbolically in Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple, because they had turned the Jewish faith into a commercial venture and were ripping off the poor and the vulnerable. Like an eight, Jesus is spurred into action by a desire to protect those he saw as weak and vulnerable to the religious bullying of the religious elite.
Again, like a true Eight on the Enneagram, Jesus shows himself to be fearless when he is even willing to take on King Herod, despite all of Herod’s political power. When warned to leave a certain place being warned that Herod was wanting to kill him, Jesus replies, “"Go tell that fox, 'I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'”
It is for all these reasons that in the 20th Century, Jesus has sometimes been portrayed in some quarters as a kind of political revolutionary, because it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus was willing to risk his own life in confronting the religious and political establishment of his day, and of siding with the poor, weak and vulnerable.
But, as any healthy and mature Eight on the Enneagram needs to do, despite the strength of Jesus’ personality, Jesus could also act with great gentleness and not only with confrontation. Jesus defends the adulterous woman from condemnation (John 8:10ff). Jesus acts with great sensitivity when visiting Zacchaeus the tac collector, who was clearly a bit of a swindler and who had cheated people out of their money. Rather than come down hard upon him with confrontation, in this instance, Jesus could clearly see that it was his friendship and compassion that Zacchaeus needed, and which when given, enabled Zacchaeus to let his guard down, and seek to make amends for the way in which he had cheated people. A mature Eight has to learn that some situations can’t be fixed with a hammer and require more subtle solutions and approaches. In fact, in Matthew 10:16, Jesus tells his disciples they need to be prudent like snakes and innocent like doves.
Despite being direct in his denunciation of the Pharisees, it did not mean that he dismissed them all out of hand. It did not stop him extending the hand of friendship to those who opposed him. In a number of places, Jesus is seen associating with the Pharisees, joining them at their meal tables in friendly conversation, and in the case of Nicodemus, seeking to help him come to a deeper knowledge and experience of God.
Lastly, despite his strength of character, Jesus was willing to make himself vulnerable, which is perhaps one of the hardest things for an Eight to learn to do. The apostle Paul in Philippians says that in taking on out human nature, Christ emptied himself and took on our weakness as the condition of being human. And in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see both the strength and vulnerability of Jesus together, as he voluntarily allows himself to be arrested and bound, “When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he stood up before them and asked, “Who are you looking for?” And when they said “Jesus of Nazareth,” he said, “I am he”. And rather than defending himself with strength and violent means, he allows himself to be mocked, spat on, scourged and crucified, the ultimate act of vulnerability.
In Closing, some helpful pointers for those of us who might consider ourselves 8s on the Enneagram:
- No man or woman is an island. It is ok to ask for help. A problem shared is a problem halved.
- True strength comes from surrendering the need to have power and control.
- Sensitivity to others and acknowledging your own tender emotions is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.
- Cooperation is better than confrontation.
- And as Jesus describes himself, “I am here as one who serves” (Luke 22:27)