Today we continue with our journey through the Enneagram as we use it to help us explore various personality types, how these personality types are reflected in the person of Jesus, and how each of these nine personality types can be an invitation to self-reflection and personal growth.
Today we explore type 4 on the Enneagram which is sometimes called the Artist, the Romantic, or the Non-conformist. As I do so, I tel the fictitious story of Janine.
Janine is wonderfully creative. She loves to express herself through art, the way she decorates her home and her garden often using the most interesting and original ideas that not many others would even think of. Janine often reflects that if this creativity in her were robbed from her or if she was prevented from using it, her life would become meaningless and as dry as dust.
Janine’s creativity and expressiveness were visible from very early on in her life. She always had an interesting take on life. Even when she was learning to speak she would come out with the most interesting and expressive words that she made up herself when she couldn't quite remember what the proper word was. In her growing up, it became apparent very early on that she had a deep need to be different and therefore special. Somehow she felt that in order to attract others to herself, she needed to stand out in some way.
Throughout her life she has given expression to her uniqueness. At school she thrived in art class, learning to play the piano and participating in the annual school play. It didn't matter whether she was on stage or behind the scenes helping to paint and create stage props. Give her any means of expressing herself and she was in her element.
As she grew as a teenager her sense of fashion could only be described as unique and different with each outfit making a statement whether it was the bright colours or strange and contrasting combinations. Janine was normally quite easy to spot in a crowd. She was also often in the kitchen, making the most interesting meals, unafraid to experiment and try strange combinations.
This creative expressive side to her has served her well as an adult, and she has tried her hand at a number of different things. Working for a time as an art teacher, doing a little bit of fine art and even graphic design on the side. She is also into a bit of alternative medicine and therapies, although her formal training has been as a psychologist and counsellor. Her own emotional life is rich and varied and she is familiar with surfing the waves of her own moods, which makes her quite an empathetic and sensitive listener, resonating and feeling very deeply with the emotional struggles and journey of her clients.
While at her best, Janine can be described as intuitive, creative, sensitive, expressive, cultured, stylish, original, artistic and empathetic, Jim also has his dark side which is normally expressed through her moodiness, which can change quite rapidly, a bit like the Northern Irish weather, four seasons in one day. She can also very easily become over-dramatic, possessive, depressed, guilt ridden, obstinate, hypersensitive, spiteful, self-absorbed and masochistic.
As Janine has grown more mature with time, unconsciously, she has begun to adopt some of the qualities of her neighbouring personality types on the Enneagram. What can be described as her three wing, the achiever, has helped give her life a bit more focus and drive, that has helped to keep her from floundering in the sea of her own feelings and emotions. It was this achiever in her that helped her to knuckle down and study for her Masters in Psychology. It was also the Five wing (which we will look at next week), that helped her savour the experience of learning about human behaviour, the mind and what makes people tick.
Like all of us, Janine has her good days and her bad days. But she is in good company. A lot of famous and successful people have been Fours on the Enneagram. Jeremy Irons, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Shirley Bassey, Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Prince Charles, Kate Winslet, Virginia Woolf, Paloma Faith, & Annie Lennox. The country of France which has that certain Je ne sais quoi, embodies something of the spirit of the Four. Janine loves spending holidays in France, where she feels right at home.
As we consider some of the characteristics of Janine and all individualists or romantics on the Enneagram, some of the best qualities of a Four can be discerned in the person of Jesus. Probably what stands out most is what can be described as the sensitivity of Jesus. As Robert Nogosek puts it, Jesus could well be called “the patron saint of misunderstood people. He frequently complained that his closest friends did not understand him.
But a scene where Jesus is understood is in Matthew 26 with what was probably a fellow four on the Enneagram, the woman who annointed Jesus feet with oil before his crucifixion. For the woman in the story (according to John it was Mary of Bethany, although some think it was Mary Magdalene), while all Jesus male disciples were out of touch with what was happening in Jesus life, and what was coming up ahead in terms of his arrest, torture and crucifixion, this unnamed women proves to intuitively perceive what is happening. In an extravagant display of her devotion to Jesus, she pours out an enormously expensive jar of alabaster oil upon him. One of the practically minded disciples, (Judas according to John’s version), thinks that it is a waste. But Jesus resonates with the sensitivity of the woman. He absorbs and affirms her extravagant expression of love. He is not afraid of this display of emotion, whereas one imagines that some of the disciples were probably feeling decidedly uncomfortable. Jesus describes what she has done as a beautiful thing.
Throughout the Gospels, like any Four on the Enneagram, Jesus is not afraid to stand out from the crowd. Conforming just for the sake of conforming does not seem to be in the nature of Jesus. He is his own person, even if he must stand alone, or potentially end up dying alone. He is also highly intuitive. Again and again, Jesus has a knack of knowing what people are thinking even without them expressing themselves verbally. “Knowing what they were thinking...” we often read, Jesus spoke to them.
In one of the most moving moments of scripture, we see the sensitive, empathetic side of Jesus, standing outside the tomb of Lazarus. And as he is met with the grief and emotion of Mary and Martha, Jesus resonates with their grief and pain. In what is the shortest verse in the Bible, we read these simple words, “And Jesus wept.”
And then lastly, In the Garden of Gethsemane, we encounter a Jesus who is also comfortable with his own emotions. As he prays, he fully expresses himself in anguish. It seems that Jesus does not hold back in some kind of reserved stiff upper lip way. He is described as sweating blood. He bares his heart as he prays to “Father, it it is your will, let this cup pass from me. But not my will but yours be done.”
But whereas Fours on the Ennegram have a tendency towards envy and self-pity, according to the Gospel stories, Jesus doesn't fall into this trap. When his captors come for him after he has prayed, he meets them with a peace and a confidence that was unnerving to to the soldiers. Even after having poured out his heart in prayer, Jesus seems to be able to maintain his centre and his inner compass as he faces his captors and his coming death with equanimity, a sign of a Four who has grown to full maturity.
In closing, a few helpful cues for those of us who may be Fours on the Enneagram would include the following:
- Even ordinary moments contain the extra-ordinary if we have eyes to see.
- I am not my feelings. Beneath the raging sea of emotions the peace of God is always present.
- You are loved by God, even when it feels like you don't stand out at all.
- The grass is not always greener on the other-side. Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
- When you find yourself downcast, as the Psalmist reminds us, put your trust in God. (Psalm 42:5)