Today we come to explore Type 6 on the Enneagram. We are getting closer to completing our exploration of all 9 personality types. I am very conscious that it often feels like I am only enabling us to dip our toes into each personality. It is worth exploring further if you are able to. I do hope it has also been helpful so far to explore how each of these personality types is reflected in the wholeness of the person of Jesus. It is a gentle reminder that many of the traits of each of these nine personalities will be present to greater or lesser extents in each of us, although one will normally predominate and normally it has do do with the underlying woundedness we carry with us and the underlying need and motivation in life.
Today we come to type 6 on the Enneagram. Type 6 is sometimes called the Loyalist and perhaps more specifically, the Loyal Sceptic, the Loyal Realist and the Loyal Guardian. Other names of include, The Supporter, Vigilant Trouble-shooter, and the The Devil’s Advocate.
As we explore Type 6 on the Enneagram today, we do so by reflecting firstly on the fictitious story of Michele.
Michelle lives with a fairly constant underlying anxiety. She spends a fair amount of time worrying, and much of her energy constantly scanning for danger in her attempt to make herself feel safe and secure. It seems that it has always been this way for her. Even as a baby and a child, she was quite anxious. It is difficult to pin-point exactly why this was the case, but the world in which Michelle was born often felt unstable, insecure and a little unsafe to her. From very early on, her dominant need was for security.
Growing up, Michelle always felt a lot of self-doubt and an inner insecurity. For this reason, Michelle would often tend to gravitate towards anything that would act as a kind of authority and security, from religion, organisations and ideas, and clear rules, to authority figures who helped make her feel safe. Michelle’s self-doubt often gives her a very endearing and natural sense of humility and she can also be quite witty. Because of her self-doubt, while she likes to associate with others, she doesn’t really like to stand out too much in a crowd and prefers to keep her head down and remain a little unnoticed if she can. If truth be told, Michelle’s underlying sense of anxiety means that she is often a jumble of contradictions for although she needs authority, she can also at times be a little sceptical and suspicious of it. But once you have won Michelle over she turns out to be a very warm and loyal friend and supporter.
On the whole, her school career was a positive one. The structured nature of school life provided her with a secure predictability that enabled her to thrive. But when she felt threatened by others or the school system she could also become quite rigid, unpredictable and rebellious a little bit like a cornered animal. But on the whole, while the system helped to give her a sense of security, she was a very loyal, trustworthy and committed member of her school.
Fairly early on, Michelle found a helpful sense of security in her religion. In her earlier religious life, she was especially drawn to a more fundamentalist and literalist form of religion, because it provided the kind of neat and absolute answers that made her feel more secure. In her maturity, she finds herself a little more open to a sense of mystery and not-knowing.
Because, much of Michelle’s energy is spent scanning the horizon for possible danger, she has overtime developed very good problem solving skills that have become real assets in her adult life. She is a very helpful team player at work and can be relied on to be a very practical thinker who can very easily spot the pitfalls in people’s planning, especially when others get carried away with idealistic dreams and notions. Michelle finds great comfort in working in a team and a hierarchical organisation that gives her support, and helps her to know where she stands, and so it was quite natural after leaving school that she found a position in the civil service where she in turn can play her part and serve with loyalty and commitment.
At her best, Michelle can be described as loyal, dutiful, warm & hospitable, witty, caring, realistic, practical, respectful, humble, trustworthy and courageous. But Michelle also has her shadow side which is primarily characterised by an underlying fear and anxiety that has a tendency to make her a little controlling, suspicious, indecisive, and defensive. But when under particular stress, she can become a little authoritarian, aggressive and even paranoid, quite easily falling into the trap of living in a world of “us and them” as an attempt to pinpoint where the dangers and enemies are in life.
As Michelle has grown to greater maturity, she has begun to trust more deeply in her inner authority, her inner voice of wisdom, rather than relying on an external authority. She has become a little more relaxed and at ease with herself which helps to bring out her witty side. She has also unconsciously begun to draw on the strengths of her neighbouring personality types on the Enneagram. With her Five Wing, the Observer, it has helped her to develop her knowledge about life and herself, while her Seven Wing, the Adventurer, that we will look at next week, has helped her to lighten up and find a bit more joy in life.
Like all of us, Michelle has her good days and her bad days. But she is in good company. A lot of successful people have been Sixes on the Enneagram. Teresa May, George W. Bush (and his father, George Bush snr.), Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Anniston, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Judi Dench, Christopher Hitchens, the previous Pope Benedict 16th, J. R. R. Tolkien, and finally, some would include Princess Diana, although others have labelled her as a Two, the Helper. The country of Germany embodies something of the spirit of the Six.
When considering the Gospel Stories about the person of Jesus, we see some of the best qualities of the Six in Jesus.
Firstly, like many sixes on the Enneagram, Jesus is presented as having a dutiful side to him. This came up in last weeks reading when the 12 year old Jesus, after having been found in the Temple, returns obediently to Nazareth with his parents.
Like any Six, Jesus has an interesting relationship with authority. In a number of places, Jesus affirms some of the authority structures of his day. Early on in Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus being loyal and dutiful and committed to attending the weekly Synagogue service. “...As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Luke 4:16” And when Jesus reaches out to touch and heal the leper, he affirms the authority of the priests in Jerusalem as he tells the man, “...go, and show yourself to the priests and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing.” He also affirms the duty of his followers to pay their taxes, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17).
In his own relationship with God, who he called his Father, Jesus describes himself as a person under authority as most Sixes would prefer. In John 5:19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” This is the kind of security relationship that a Six would thrive on.
But it is also true that Jesus lived in an ambiguous relationship with authority, as many sixes on the Enneagram do. Just as a six might rebel against authority when a sense of security is threatened, Jesus was also willing to rebel against authority, not because he felt threatened, but rather because his allegiance was ultimately to a higher authority, and to higher principles of justice and compassion.
But perhaps more than anything, some of the best qualities of the Six can be seen in Jesus’s sense of loyalty. Jesus shows loyalty to his Mother in John’s Gospel when in his dying moments on the cross, he seeks to make provision for her protection by giving her into the care of one of his disciples, “Woman, here is your son!” he says to her, and to the disciple, “Here is your Mother” (John 19:26). And his loyalty and duty to his Heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will but yours be done.” (Mark 14:36).
Lastly, in that passage where Jesus stands before Pilate, the representative of the Empire, we see the fearful, and authoritarian servant of the Empire, an unhealthy loyalist, sentencing Jesus to death even though he could find nothing wrong in Jesus, out of a desire to protect his own position and the countries security and stability by preventing a riot. In contrast, we see Jesus standing courageously in the face of danger before Pilate, and like a healthy and mature Six, drawing on his own inner sense of authority as he affirms before Pilate that he is a King, although his kingdom is not of this world, (John 18:36).
In closing, some helpful pointers for those of us who may identify as a Six on the Enneagram:
- Since I am loved, there is no reason to fear, for God’s perfect love casts out all fear.
- May I light a candle rather than curse the darkness and pray for those I regard as my enemies.
- My authority comes from within, and ultimately that inner authority comes from the inner presence of Christ, for “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13.
- Lastly, the words of assurance of the Risen Christ, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).