Enneagram: Helpful Quaker Baggage II

by | Dec 9, 2022 | Christine Hall's Blog

LAST WEEK, I UNPACKED SOME QUAKER BAGGAGE on individuality and personal relationships that complement exploration of the Enneagram.

If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram, it’s an ancient wisdom tool describing nine ways of seeing and experiencing the world. The nine Enneagram personality types have unique strengths and challenges, so at its best the Enneagram can prompt astonishing psychological and spiritual growth. It helps us tend what we bring to relationships, work, and a life of faith and faithful service or activism.

This week, I offer some ways Quaker spirituality amplifies the benefits of the Enneagram for actions with wider impact:

It’s a process, not an outcome.

The Quakers I most admire trust process. They trust it takes time to listen to the Spirit in ways that help us make decisions with clarity and integrity. It’s a bit of a joke how long it can take to choose carpet color in a Quaker meeting house. Personal and group discernment invite patience and tolerance of ambiguity. Quakers have learned that with attention to process, surprising and grace-filled “outcomes” can emerge beyond our wildest hopes.

The Enneagram is more like a process than an outcome. It’s not about the label of your type; it’s more of an unfolding awareness and sense of possibilities. With patience, the dynamic wisdom of the Enneagram helps us embrace the messiness and grace of our unique identities. We grow in awareness of how the best of who we are dances with the worst of who we are, every day. We can wrap our arms around the wholeness of this unique human experience.

Sacred and secular

Quakers make little distinction between sacred and secular, the Holy and the ordinary. The experience of the Divine is infused in every part of our living. Liturgy, doctrine, regular worship, and official religious leadership carry less weight than in other faith traditions. Psychology, science, nature, and daily life, can all reveal the wonder of the Holy One.

The Enneagram is both a psychological and spiritual tool. It’s quite useful in completely secular settings—business, education, health care, and many more. But the Enneagram is actually designed for profound soul work, whether or not one is part of a faith tradition, or which faith vocabulary speaks to one’s heart. Quaker spirituality welcomes the overlap of psychological and spiritual language and experience. Using Quaker spirituality with the Enneagram, we are well prepared to notice and tend what is Life-giving.

Integrating inner exploration and outward actions

For Quakers, inner awareness of the Divine animates outward “concerns”, or “leadings of the Spirit.” We may be guided into traditional Quaker witness for peace, justice, equality, or prison reform, or contemporary concerns for climate change, racial reconciliation or addressing economic inequalities. With the Spirit, we discern the particulars of what is “ours to do” in the here and now. At our finest, Quakers aim for choices, behaviors, relationships, and activism that flow from intimate relationship with God, the Source of All Love.

Here’s where Quaker spirituality highlights some compelling reasons to explore the Enneagram: The Enneagram helps us grow our capacity to contribute the fullness of who we are to the common good, the New Creation, or the Peaceable Realm. With transformative personal Enneagram work, our energies get freed up; our unique spiritual giftedness can flow in service to others; we can receive and celebrate others’ gifts with gratitude. So the Enneagram helps us be better collaborators in the interdependent web of Life.


I’m not an activist. In my Quaker circles, there are many people doing good on the front lines for social and environmental change. I admire them. I’ve wished I were more like them. For many years, I thought there might be something wrong with my faithfulness. Yes, centuries of Quaker testimonies for peace, equality, etc mean a lot to me. But I’m not much of an outward “do-er”.

It was oddly reassuring to recognize these characteristics in my Enneagram type. I’ve admitted I’m a highly introverted Enneagram Four. Fours are idealists. Yet we often feel that something is missing or defective about ourselves. It took me a while to recognize how that sensibility shows up as envy, the root “passion” of a Four. For me envy is revealed in negative comparisons to others. It can fuel bottomless self-denigration. This pattern doesn’t tell the truth about who I am or what I might be led by the Spirit to do.

Plus Fours are notoriously not “do-ers” unless we like the activity. We’re not so great about chores like bills, laundry, or house cleaning. The wisdom of Enneagram invites each type into a balance of thinking, feeling, and doing. That means for a Four…doing more doing. That’s a stretch for me, when other Enneagram types are all about action! I have to be very intentional. It’s a process to build trust in my own capacities to impact the world around me, to “do” things that matter, even chores.

Can you imagine the implications for discernment—distinguishing what the Spirit is asking me to do? My inward, knee-jerk response to a new possibility is often “No way!” or “Do I have to?” So if I’m trying to listen and follow the Divine Guide, awareness of the pattern helps me “hear” better. Then I can sense the Life rising, with energy flowing freely toward “doing.” The energy often surprises me! I’m surprised these words are coming today to describe my inner processing. And I’m grateful to God and discerning, praying friends who help me sort the inner influences.

By nature, I’m a contemplative soul. I love how Quakers honor that and also nudge me into action in the world. On the flip side, Quaker spirituality calls natural activists into stillness and silence for a vibrant inner life of intimacy with the Divine. We all have ways to grow.

Pack your bags!

If a growth process—integrating sacred and secular, contemplative and active—appeals to you, consider diving in to the Enneagram with Way of the Spirit at an in-person retreat in January 2023 near Tacoma, WA. No experience needed with Quaker spirituality or the Enneagram.


Enneagram: Coming Home to Self and Spirit

Residential Retreat, January 13 – 16, 2023, Union, WA
Application Deadline January 4, 2023
Details and Application Here