How 8 Thou Art (Reflections on My Enneagram#)

For about 6 years now, I have known that I am a type 8 on the Enneagram, what is often referred to as the Challenger/Protector. Even before I had a name and a number to describe some aspects of how I show up in the world, I was aware of many of the dimensions of my “eight-ness”. About 16 years ago, at the time of this writing, a former mentor had me take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator where I was identified as an INTJ with some P tendencies. With her encouragement, I started examining the “Why of Me” more deeply and took her advice to leave the military and to look into corporate recruiting and building a public speaking skill set in order to cultivate some dimensions of my being that were underdeveloped.

Having never had someone take this level of interest in me professionally, and seeing that she had succeeded in her own endeavors, I pretty much followed her guidance. Eventually, she told me that her intention was to groom me to take over her business. That was a surprising revelation. But not too long after revealing this to me, she died. Armed with just the confidence that she placed in me, I largely did a lot of self-guided work continuing to try and both understand myself and other people’s experiences of me with the intent that I might be able to use the best of my gifts and weaknesses in the service of myself and others. But even after all of the work I had done, I still felt like I was missing something.

In the years since Kaye came into my life and then left, one way or the other I found myself developing the skills that she thought I should build and learning to work with the potential pitfalls of my personality types. So much so, that in many ways, I am almost a completely different person in terms of expression, even if many of my core motivations remain the same. But, it wasn’t until I started studying the Enneagram over the past month after returning from a retreat where this was the focus, that what I felt was missing started clicking for me.

In my effort to improve myself and my relationships to others through all of this work I was putting in, I started to lose sight of some of the gifts of what I am calling my “eightness”. As one of the most misunderstood numbers in the Enneagram, as I understand it, many 8s are often accused of not caring about other people’s feelings and despising weakness–especially what we consider emotional weakness. We also typically respect what we consider to be strength while not liking the idea of being controlled. Rather, we have a strong desire to “control our own destiny” which can come off as intense and domineering to some people. I won’t pretend that I haven’t been accused of some of this in some situations, but I can wholeheartedly say that I have never intentionally put myself out there that way. And as an almost lifelong student of Jesus’ teachings, I like to think that some of those tendencies have been less pronounced. But if I get pushed…

The main gift that I have received from owning my eight-ness is the relational perspective it has given me. Even when reflecting on some of my inactive relationships, I can see even more clearly how my characteristic directness could have seemed abrasive to some people. I also discovered that eights have a difficult time abiding by injustice. This is me all day! And there are many other facets of this personality type that match me and help shape how I engage with others in the world. But, the most glorious is that I feel this knowledge will increase my capacity to love people in a way that speaks to them. To illustrate how I am using this tool, I wrote the following poem.

I Have Learned to Love
I have learned to Love you 
In a way that you can see
That gives to you what you think you need
Without betraying me

I have chosen the Cross of Compassion
But I don’t see it as a burden
It is a gift to give what I receive
When I am the one who’s hurting

Even though you still don’t know me
I no longer imagine that you should
I see that we see the way we see
And that in every way there’s good.

Isn’t it strange that it’s so perfect
That we will never get it “right”
But in the spaces between your side and mine
There is an emergence of the Light

Now I’m no longer who I used to be
Once I accepted that we can’t change
This frees us all to be ourselves
In the space of gift exchange

Now I love you like no other
Because now there is no other one
Born again as who I’ve always been 
From the moment being had begun

©️ Copyright 2019 Pedro S. Silva II

As I have said many times here and in other settings, I am sincerely trying to live the experience of loving God with all of my heart, mind, and soul and loving my neighbors as myself. And I experience the Enneagram as a tool that facilitates that practice. Where I feel most served by it right now though, is on better loving myself.

For the next year or more, I have decided to spend at least an hour a day studying the Enneagram and sharpening my ability to engage people in the most receptive way possible. Likewise, I will be mindful of the strengths and learning edges of my own personality type with the hope that—at some point—I can move beyond personality into pure presence.

Realizing that most personality traits seem to be adopted as a defense or survival technique, it is my hope that I will get to a place where I will not rely on a programmed mode of encountering the world. Until then, I will continue my work of developing awareness of my motivations and intentions and serving those who have a desire to have as authentic encounters as possible.

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