A few years ago, I learned of an ancient personality system known as the Enneagram with roots dating back as far as 3,000 years ago. Over the last eight months, I’ve been doing what I would call a deep dive into learning and understanding the Enneagram.
Now, If you talk to anyone that’s done some Enneagram personal discovery work, you might hear them say that the Enneagram can be creepy accurate when describing the motivations, thoughts and behaviors. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to say that the hairs on the back of their neck stand up as they first read about and discover their Enneagram type. I’m not going to go into detail here about the Enneagram, but if you’re curious and would like to know more, I highly recommend starting with a book called The Road Back To You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile
At a high level, the Enneagram is a personality typing system consisting of nine “types” numbered 1 through 9. For each type, the Enneagram system identifies basic fears, desires and motivations.
I identify with the 9 on the Enneagram as my dominant personality type. Nines are generally called the “Peacemakers.” But for me, I tend to think of peace as comfort and a 9’s desire is to have this peace on inside and outside. Some more about 9s: We are accepting, trusting and stable. We are usually creative, optimistic and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. We want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but we also can tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. We typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness.
Along with the positive parts of us (e.g. gold), the Enneagram research also identifies the negative parts of us (e.g shadow). They call it our deadly sin. For 9s, the deadly sin is SLOTH or laziness.
When you hear the word “sloth” you may think of some cute and cuddly, but frustratingly slow creature. While it is true that a lot of 9’s are cute — and I can definitely be cuddly — this is not what it is. Additionally, you may tend to think of sloth as being lazy.
But this is the thing – It’s not lazy. In fact, a lot of 9’s can appear rather busy. Here’s a twist on sloth that I heard on a recent podcast: “It’s not lazy. It’s getting busy doing something that keeps you away from doing the thing that you ought to be doing.”
When I first heard this, it blew me away. In my mind, I was raising my hand and shouting “That’s Me!” The podcast continues “There are things I don’t want to do, but I have to do them and so I find a way to avoid, that’s part of the avoidance, I get energy from avoiding whatever that is.”
I notice this deep down in me. I so often derive energy by my neglect of that other thing that I don’t want to do. In fact, my wife and I joke about it these days. The best way to get me to do something is to have something else that needs to be done so that I can avoid “that” to do “the other.”
It is almost comical as I used to work from home and sure enough, whenever I had something that was coming due for work I ended up getting a significant burst of energy to organize my utility room at home. Likewise, whenever I had to do any project at home I would get some epiphany for improving some process at work. I ended up working some really odd hours all over the place at times.
Proverbs 22:13 reads – The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the public square!” I found another blog post that helped shine more light on what that verse may be getting at: “Sloth is saying no to the endless potential and possibilities that God has given us. Sloth is reaching for any reason to not risk anything. It’s seeing a lion where there isn’t one.”
BOOM. MIND. BLOWN.
After all, I’ve so often rejected my potential by not pursuing a passion. And, I can only assume I missed out on some possibilities along the way. But it’s not like I didn’t have good reasons.
In doing my work, I realized that I was carrying trauma in my body and mind. The trauma was wrapped up in undealt with experiences and emotions that created some stories I had been telling myself. One of them was that I “Didn’t have what it takes.” Fear, sadness, and anger were bound up in this belief.
Thankfully, I had something like The Crucible Project weekend available to me where I was able to learn about and see this belief for the first time. In my continuing work since the initial weekend, I saw not only the experiences — or lack of experiences — that caused the formation of this message. I also saw how the message had served me. You see if it was true that “I didn’t have what it takes,” Then it was also true that I wasn’t responsible for doing the challenge laid out before me. It let me off the hook.
Carl Jung writes: “The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ, all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – – that these are within me, and I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – – What then?”
This resonates so much with what my journey so far has looked like. I needed and continue to need to learn to love and forgive – to be kind – to myself. It has been my experience that when I learn to love and forgive myself in some new area, it opens my heart up more to love, forgive and connect with others in larger and larger ways.
So I wanted to open up a dialogue about sloth because, to be honest, I don’t have any steps or 1-2-3 formulas to overcome it. What I know is that the more that I can see myself – truly see myself – the more I can catch myself in the act.
If I’m slothing it up I can ask myself some questions about what might be going on in me. Lately, the one thing that is helping me has been to do some meditation on a daily basis. But, this passion in me towards sloth will always be there. I often wonder if the thorn Paul was talking about in Romans refers to each Enneagram type’s passion. It’s tied to the one thing that’s so difficult to lose.
However, the more I think of it the more I see that it’s really just a daily journey. The more I can be honest, mindful and kind with myself the more I grow in love and kindness toward others.
And it’s my experience that when we all come to the table and share our stories, we find healing. It’s like each person brings a piece of emotional fabric and when it’s all combined it creates this beautiful multicolored vibrant quilt that envelopes us in love.
That is the invitation. Each man is welcome. We would love to have you.
By Justin Haas
Justin completed his initial weekend in November of 2008 and is a graduate of the two-year Transformational Leadership Program (although he wishes there was a four-year option). A California native, Justin was uprooted at age 8 and transplanted into a “foreign, midwest” world called Chicago, along with its bitter temperatures and murky — sometimes fluffy — snow. He believes the depth of healing one receives is crucial to the level of honesty one is willing to have with themselves and living in the light with others. Justin is a husband to one lovely wife and a father to three wacky & tender kids. Professionally, he hangs out in the I.T. industry.
Photo Credit: Marissa Strniste via Creative Commons