Enneagram 4 (and in youth ministry)

Hi, my name is Patti and I shun labels of all kinds. I block quiz apps on social media. I dislike personality tests because I feel like they never capture the true essence of ME.

It began no differently with the Enneagram as with any other personality profile. I’ve taken at least a dozen for different employment or academic purposes and have never agreed with the results without quibbling and qualifying them. I was disturbed by the popular culture nature of the Enneagram and therefore resisted it even more… until I had to engage it for a course and decided to get ahead and start working on figuring it out before I was ‘made’ to do so.

I researched and found the most recommended test and took the online version at the Enneagram Institute. The results indicated that I was a 2, The Helper. At first, I believed it because I am empathetic and sincere, eager to help, and many of the other characteristics of this type. When I dug a bit more deeply, it quickly became apparent that the rest of the constituent parts of a type – outlook, self-image, childhood wound – didn’t fit at all. In fact, My type moves toward the characteristics of an unhealthy 2 under stress (which would have been quite accurate about my mental state at the time I took the assessment, by the way).

The most important characteristic of the Enneagram is that it has depth and layers. No single quiz or interaction is all there is to know on the subject of you!

Have you guessed yet that I am a 4? So, Patti, you may wonder, why did you mistype a 2? A great many Christian women, and women in ministry or helping professions, do. We are conditioned to serve. This isn’t a bad thing! For a 4, however, those lower level or more unhealthy characteristics of a 2 are a warning sign. It was in the arena of the roles and dynamics of the types where I found my true type – in fact, I pretty much felt attacked by it. Bullseye!

According to The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, the 4 person “maintains their identity by seeing themselves as fundamentally different, unlike others, uniquely talented, and also uniquely disadvantaged. More than any other type, 4s are acutely aware of and focused on their personal differences and deficiencies.”

Yay! Ouch!

It isn’t difficult to discern that a 4 in ministry has the advantage of empathy and creativity. It is important to give equal weight to the downside of your type. A 4’s basic fear is to have no identity, no personal significance. On the unconscious level, a less than healthy 4 could find themselves struggling with a negative self-image and chronically low self-esteem, leading to engaging in behaviors that feed their perception while trying to attain that longed-for identity and significance. This isn’t bad when you are healthy! It is dangerous when you are not.

This makes it critically important for 4s to have honest mirrors – people who love you, know you, and tell you the truth – to help you to stay in the present, to help you to discern where God is truly at work in you (the source of your true identity) and your ministry. To be honest, this may mean therapy as you dig into this work. We 4s have the tendency to hold onto feelings from the past – especially as a woman with a 30-year history in ministry, I’ve got a list. *insert eyeroll* Sigh. But having a great spiritual director or counselor (or both) will give you the more accurate picture of most importantly, who and whose you are, and also how the ups and downs of your particular tendencies (you are a special, unique individual, after all), can serve what God wants to do in and through you. We all need community, even though as 4s we will often feel disconnected from the crowd, it is crucial to remember that the community, the culture, and the Kingdom need what we are wired to provide.

Healthy 4s are self-aware, they own their own feelings, and can examine their own motives – even when they honestly don’t like what they find. It’s a journey, friends!

If you’re involved in life or ministry with a 4, there are some things you may have noticed. We can be expressive and emotional, but we also have passion and creativity. It’s important that a 4 feel connected, so in the face of reactions and feelings, help them to see facts and logic. A 4 can construe evaluation as rejection, so use language that separates who they are from what they do. Hear your 4 out! Being heard translates to significance, which is the 4’s basic need. Help to embrace an idea that a 4 offers by recognizing their enthusiasm and helping think through the outcomes or consequences.

Life as a 4 is colorful and creative, full of empathy and action. It’s a meaningful way to live when we understand and embrace the true self inside and harness that goodness for our calling. It’s going to be OK – you are, in fact, a rock star!

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