For the wrong reason

We've all heard the maxim, "Follow your bliss." Here's a similar quote from a medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart.

We ought simply to follow where God leads -- that is,

to do what we are most inclined to do,

to go where we are repeatedly admonished to go --

to where we feel most drawn.

If we do that, God gives us his greatest in our least

And never fails.

If you understand the Enneagram, then you understand that this is mysticism, not good advice. There is a difference. As good advice, this is like pouring gasoline on fire. Telling an Eight do what she is most inclined to do seems like a waste of time, a motivational redundancy. Telling a Nine to go where they are repeatedly admonished to go will merely draw a nod of affirmation. After all, that's what they've always done and look where it's gotten them!

The mystic understands that our deepest longing is to do the will of God, to seek perfection. In the New Testament, one's obligation to ministry, one's work in the world, is always based on gift (charism is the technical term). We are to do what we are equipped and drawn to do. We want to do what we are best at doing. Many arguments about motivation could be short-circuited simply by asking about talent. It is terribly difficult to motivate people to do what they do poorly. What appears to be laziness is often a failure to understand the mismatch of talent and task. My personal visions of hell would be to teach pigs to sing, recite poetry to a fundamentalist or discuss ethics with Karl Rove.

But the Enneagram teaches us that there is a first level, an ego level. If an impulsive Seven is told to do what she is most inclined to do, she may very well get drunk, pregnant and remorseful in about three weeks. And she may say, "Well, the spiritual master said to do what we are most inclined to do!"

This paradox gives rise to Thomson's First Law: "You never get enough of what you really don't want." When we do what we most want to do for a while (years)? and it doesn't really satisfy us, then we discover that we don't want to do what we had felt sure we wanted to do. One way to spot an addiction is that we keep doing it after we realize it is no longer a source of pleasure or satisfaction. That's why God invented mid-life crises. AA explains this with a teeter-totter. In the beginning, an addiction is all pleasure and no pain. Then it begins to be a lot of pleasure but some pain. Then the balance moves from less pleasure and more pain until the final stage is no pleasure and all pain. Then you often quit.

The study of the Enneagram tells us where to look for the false promise of perfection. This is subtle, because our fundamental energy is healthy but distorted. Threes, when faced with an opportunity for growth, work harder, Nines agree spiritual development is a good idea and they should do it. You know Fives give it serious thought -- we all have a technique for doing what is superficially right and dreadfully wrong.

So it seems to me that one more reason to study the Enneagram is to protect ourselves against the wisdom of the great masters. As T. S. Eliot wrote (Thomas Becket, a One, is the speaker), "The last temptation is the greatest treason, to do the right thing for the wrong reason".

The Enneagram is all about our wrong reasons.