In September, we will be featuring blogs and podcasts centered around the Enneagram. The Enneagram is simply a tool for self-discovery and personal growth based on 9 basic personality types.

About six years ago, I was introduced to the Enneagram by a mentor of mine. I wanted to go deeper with God and joined a women’s small group that also uses the Enneagram as a tool for personal growth. I have been self-reliant and independent for as long as I can remember, and while I knew the Lord was leading me to allow others in, I had no idea what He had in store. Determining I was a Type 8 did not take long. Decisive, strong personality, lots of energy are all type 8 traits that the Lord has confirmed throughout my life. God used the Enneagram to bring me into a greater place of understanding, freedom, intimacy, and vulnerability with both Him and others. He uncovered more of who He created me to be, while at the same time showing me areas needing growth and surrender. As I continue to go deeper, the fluidity of the Enneagram has helped increase my own self-awareness and awareness of how others see and engage the world differently based on their own types.

Typical of Type 8, I have a love of intense activities, am decisive, and am level headed in a crisis. I recently encountered these traits all at once, this summer when I was alone out on the lake.

As I often do during the warmer months, I was paddle boarding one afternoon. What started as a sunny and clear day, quickly turned dark and thunderous when a southern blowing storm shifted. I was across the lake from where I put in and had to make my way back. Dark clouds with thunder appeared quickly, joined by more lightning bolts than I’ve ever seen. I remained focused on getting off the water, very aware of the danger. Suddenly, the temperature dropped, it got cold, and I heard the wind right before a strong gust flipped me off my board. Rain, wind, and waves pounded me as I submerged, resurfaced, and grabbed my board to catch my breath. I was about 150 yards across the lake, as the lightning intensified. I knew I needed to get to shore as quickly as possible. I swam, then rested, holding on to the board for at least 45 minutes before I finally made it to land.

During the storm, emotions were not a part of the equation as I focused on the task at hand. I remember telling Jesus I needed him to “put a bubble around me to keep me from getting electrocuted because my daughters needed me.” I have no doubt that I was protected in the middle of that storm. Later, a friend, who is a 2 on the Enneagram, asked me how I felt. I explained “exhausted.” She meant emotionally. I shared that I kept thinking I should be afraid, but really, all I felt was peace and focus in the water… and grateful once I was out. She answered, “your 8-energy served you well.” Type 8s lead with “doing” and often set aside their emotions. In this situation, that was exactly what I needed to.

I’m grateful for the way God has made me, but also grateful for the ability to continue to grow and learn more about how I engage with others.

As with many Type 8s, I don’t mind conflict, love a challenge, and like to lead… more because it gets things going, not because I want control (some people falsely assume this about a type 8). I frequently am willing to take on more and more without seeing any limitations, and have heard throughout my life “how do you handle it all?”  Type 8s don’t feel limited in much, and we often don’t realize we are overloaded until someone else points it out. We are solution focused, strategic, and see lots of potential in both people and situations.

For me, not seeing limitations can lead to taking on false responsibility. False responsibility, in my life, was fed by the lies I believed. Uncovering lies and replacing with truth has been the most significant thing moving me into a healthy place. I believed the lies – I can handle it on my own, I can’t rely on others to show up, so I will just take care of it, what I need is not important, and relying on others leads to hurt and disappointment. These beliefs directed much of my life for far too long. Now, when they resurface, instead of believing them, I view them as red flags. Freedom comes as I allow Jesus and others to help me realize truth and choose to believe it.

God has been integral and gentle in teaching me to allow Him to lead in all areas of my life. He took me on a journey of learning to really trust him with my own heart and not just with the lives and circumstance of those I cared about. It was much less scary for me to trust Him for others, but for me, it took several years of a deep dive together. For a Type 8, trust is a tricky thing. We are fierce and loyal advocates for others, but it is very challenging to allow others to be present for us. This requires a level of vulnerability that is not easy for someone who is seen and expected to be strong and capable.

Jesus took me on a several year journey of intimacy with Him where He gently allowed me to set the pace. He showed up over and over in ways that increased my trust in Him, which later, led me to allow others to come alongside me. He also made me aware of how I had orchestrated relationships that kept others out. Ultimately, He softened my very guarded heart to a place that I am willing to follow Him virtually anywhere He leads.

The Enneagram has helped me understand both myself and others in a completely different way. It has led to deeper relationships with better communication and perspective that of how differently we all approach the world. I am grateful that it is one more tool that God has used to take me to a deeper place of healing and growth.

Want to learn more about the Enneagram? Listen to our MercyTalk Podcast with Beth McCord. Join the conversation on social media! Follow us @MercyMultiplied and let us know your thoughts.