Enneagram authors and podcast host Ian Morgan Cron and television star Lisa Whelchel reveal how to discover your true self — and better relate to the world around you — through the Enneagram personality typology. Plus Your Enneagram Coach’s Beth McCord chimes in! Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations — subscribe below!


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Mark: On today’s dinner conversation, it’s really an interesting program. It’s about a thing called the Enneagram. Come to find out, I’m a Seven.

Andrew: And a Two.

Mark: But what it is, it’s a personality test of sorts that helps you figure out what the number you fall into as your priority number. And then you might have a wing. It’s very complicated. But it’s enlightening, it really is. And it’s something the millennials know all about.

Andrew: It’s definitely something that’s new and exciting. Ian Morgan Cron one of our guests today is a fantastic author, author of Chasing Francis and the new book The Road Back to You, which is about the Enneagram, which is all about how we interact with ourselves and others and God. And also Lisa Whelchel, who was on the TV show The Facts of Life, was on Survivor, and is now a life coach for Contigo Life Coaching, which you can find more about at her website lisawhelchel.com. So it’s a fascinating… I mean, Mark is really getting to know himself.

Mark: There’s one seat left at the table, and it’s yours. Let’s join the conversation.

Andrew: Well, okay, so but more than numbers, is it really a simple… This has been my main question from the beginning. Very good or not good?

Mark: Delicious.

Lisa: That’s really nice.

Andrew: I mean, there’s nine numbers. Are there really nine types of people in the world? Can it really be boiled down to a number? I don’t want to be identified as numbers is why I asked that.

Mark: I do.

Ian: That means you’re probably a Four.

Andrew: But I’m a Two

Ian: But you’re a Two.

Lisa: I thought he was a Four, too, as well. When he said Two, yeah, what’s your number? Because in just the little bit of time I’ve spent with you. ‘Cause he was saying he loves to go deep into the dark movies. Man, that sounds so Four-ish.

Mark: Oh my God, I’d rather not. I love them when they have great dialogue.

Ian: I gotta tell you a funny story. My son is a Seven, the enthusiast. I’m a Four, which is the romantic or the tragic romantic type. New Year’s Eve we’re in Connecticut in a town where we don’t know anybody. We have no place to go. It’s New Year’s Eve. He’s 18. And I said, “Let’s go to the movies.” He’s like, “Awesome.” And he’s so enthusiastic. Aidan is perpetually surprised by life. It’s almost like, “Great, let’s go to the movies.”

Mark: I love that.

Ian: So I look up some stuff, and I take him to the movies. What do you think I took him to see on New Year’s Eve?

Lisa: I don’t know.

Ian: Manchester by the Sea

Andrew: Yes. 

Lisa: What?

Ian: You could not take a Seven to a worse movie.

Lisa: What?

Ian: I mean, he looked at me, and he’s says, “I need a drip bag of Prozac right now.” And he says, “If I don’t get some balloons and streamers and party blowers in about 10 minutes, I am gonna die.” And that was only halfway through the film.

Mark: That’s funny.

Ian: I loved it.

Lisa: Well, halfway through the film is still the longest film in history.

Ian: Did you not like Manchester by the Sea?

Lisa: No.

Mark: So you haven’t seen–

Andrew: What number are you?

Ian: We haven’t hit a movie together that we like–

Lisa: No, I’m a Three.

Mark: A Three. Tell me what a Three–

Andrew: But you’re still in the feeling triad, right?

Lisa: It’s the feeling triad with the irony being the feeling (screams).

Mark: Excuse me. I don’t know anything about what you all are talking about. And most people watching this probably don’t. So explain a Three.

Lisa: Okay, a Three, one of the little titles is achiever or performer. Our motivation is to prove that we are worthy of love by the accomplishments that we have and that we do.

Mark: And you said to me… I hope we can talk about this.

Lisa: We can talk about anything.

Mark: Okay, it’s something that relates to that. I said you’re one of the few child… This is hyperbolic statement because I…

Lisa: And you probably never do that.

Mark: All the time.

Ian: Bring it.

Mark: I didn’t know what hyperbole was until Bill Gaither pointed it out that I do it all the time. But I said most–

Lisa: I think it’s funny that hyper is in that word even. It’s all coming together.

Mark: But my question is, I said that God has kept you on a path. From my perspective, I think of Lisa Whelchel, speaker, woman of faith, some virtuous lovely, beautiful, kind person. I’d met you, but I didn’t know you or ever have a conversation with you other than today. But you said…

Lisa: Well, you said you were one of the few child stars that made it out.

Andrew: And weren’t destroyed by the fame.

Lisa: And I said, “I just kept my stuff secret.”

Mark: And you said, “God is teaching you…”

Lisa: That God is teaching me that he’s really not threatened by my sin, mistakes, mess ups, the things that I had avoided for so long, fearing that it would, in some way, say that I don’t love him enough to obey him. And so that was a lot of decades of my life. And it’s only been in the last decade where I’ve been able to rest into it’s not about performance or behavior to gain his love. Which then, of course, translates to my own love for myself or anybody else’s acceptance. But that’s a real Three thing to…

Mark: That’s what I was wondering.

Andrew: So that comes from that achievement. You’re literally trying to achieve God’s love.

Lisa: Exactly, because as Ian said too, the Three energy can show up anywhere. So wanting to achieve to be valued is gonna show up very obviously in writing a bunch of books or being on television or doing the things that I have done. But it also shows up in I’m gonna be the best Christian that ever was. And even recently, this last year, I’ve been going into a kind of an interior not doing journey. But I totally did it with Three energy, like I’m gonna not do better than anybody has ever not done before.

Mark: That is funny.

Lisa: So I went on a 30-day silent retreat. I walked the Camino. I’m going on a 10-day meditation course. I mean, it’s just like, okay, fine. I’m gonna sit still and do nothing the best.

Andrew: Are you exhausted?

Ian: You can be the best Christian ever. Hold my beer.

Andrew: That’s exactly right.

Ian: So let’s start with the heart triad.

Mark: Okay.

Ian: Two, Three, and Four. Twos are called the helpers, sometimes the givers.

Lisa: And you say you identify as a Two.

Andrew: I do because I think the main association is the lack of boundaries, the codependent feel of that. Putting other people’s needs in front of others, et cetera.

Ian: So every type has an unconscious or underlying motivation that drives or fuels the way that they predictably and habitually act, think, and feel. And it also kind of reveals the lens through which they see the world, okay? Because everybody sees the world through a different lens. And that’s one of the gifts of the Enneagram–

“Every type has an unconscious or underlying motivation that drives or fuels the way that they predictably and habitually act, think, and feel. And it also kind of reveals the lens through which they see the world.” – Ian Cron Morgan

Mark: I believe that.

Ian: Is learning that, wait a minute. We are all looking at the same screen, but it’s a different movie to each of us. So the Two’s unconscious motivation is they see a world in which you have to give to get, right? So their unconscious motivation is to meet the needs of others, while at the same time denying or acknowledging that they themselves have needs. How are we doing? Are we doing all right?

Mark: Pitiful.

Andrew: It’s true, yeah.

Ian: Threes, performers or achievers. They see a world in which people only value others for what they do, not for who they are inside.

Mark: Well see, I think me knowing that about him, you said, knowing the numbers. I think it is good to know everyone’s number that you meet.

Ian: Totally

Mark: If you can figure it out because then you know how I need to watch to make sure he’s not abused by me or others because he’ll do anything you asked him to do and that’s the truth.

Ian: Right, so what would be better though, is if he figured it out for himself and told you what it was because only–

Andrew: That would be the healthiest.

Ian: That would be the best way because only he can… We call it self-verifying, right? It’s important for him to be able to own it and tell you what’s the unconscious motivation that you can’t see. All you can see is traits and characteristics that might be a Two or may not. ‘Cause here’s the deal, you and I contain, or all of us, all nine numbers. It’s just that one of them is dominant.

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Mark: Dinner Conversations is brought to you by ChildFund, a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live their fullest potential no matter where they’re from or what challenges they face, and they’ve been doing this since 1938. ChildFund’s mission is to help bring positive and lasting change to communities around the world by removing the barriers that keep children from realizing and reaching their dreams.

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Andrew: We believe every one of us have been created unique with value on purpose and in love by God. We have been created in the image of God. The children we met in Guatemala are image bearers of our Creator. Think about that. And I believe to love God best, we must learn to love our neighbors even better. Our neighbors like these children in Guatemala. ChildFund is giving us that unique opportunity, all of us, you guys and us, to serve God by loving these children through sponsoring a child today.

Mark: Perhaps you already sponsor a child. Would you consider sponsoring another child in Guatemala? Maybe honor one of your children, a new grandchild, a special niece or nephew. These kids are real kids with real dreams, just like the dreams of your kids and grandkids. We know because we met them. Kids that want to be doctors and lawyers and teachers and musicians, just like us.

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Andrew: And while you’re there, check out some of our friendly merch. We’ve got show mugs and Season One and Two DVDs. And we got these little note cards, so Mark can write me a note that says you’re the best cohost ever.

Mark: Yes. Well, you know, you get that after every episode. And what about this mug with our faces on it?

Andrew: What says good morning better?

Mark: It’s like we’re on both sides of them, so lefty or righty, you get to see us every morning.

Andrew: I think it’s time we get back to those guests.

Mark: Probably.

Beth McCord, Your Enneagram Coach

Mark: Beth McCord, thank you so much for allowing us in your home today. And I wanna know, my opening question is what is Enneagram?

Beth: That’s a great question. Well, Enneagram, if people see the symbol, it looks like a nine pointed star with a circle around it, and it is representative of nine personality types. And each of those types lets us know why we do what we do. And that’s the biggest thing is why do you think, feel, and behave in particular ways. For me and what I want to do with the Enneagram, I wanna bring it from a biblical Christ-centered perspective. Because if I can help you to understand why you fall into that common pitfall or why is it that this over here is the best path for you and you feel liberated, that realization really helps you to choose where you’re at in life. But we can’t just manufacture it, right? I mean, if we could, we would. Oh, this is the best path for me. I’m just gonna do it. That just doesn’t happen. So for us to realize and surrender and depend on the Lord is really what brings a transformation. But I can’t surrender and depend on the Lord if I don’t know what’s causing me to do certain things.

“For us to realize and surrender and depend on the Lord is really what brings a transformation. But I can’t surrender and depend on the Lord if I don’t know what’s causing me to do certain things.” – Beth McCord

Mark: Briefly, what are the nine?

Beth: So the Type One is the moral perfectionist.

Mark: Mama.

Beth: Type Two is the supportive advisor. Type Three is the successful achiever. Type Four is the romantic individualist. Type Five is the investigative thinker. Six is the loyal guardian. Seven is the entertaining optimist. I don’t know if you know anyone.

Mark: That was me. I took the test, and that was me.

Beth: And then the Type Eight is the protective challenger. And the Type Nine is the peaceful mediator, which is me.

Mark: So you say they all have positives and they all have negatives or pitfalls, you say?

Beth: Exactly.

Mark: What’s a pitfall for Seven?

Beth: Well, Sevens struggle with gluttony.

Mark: Bing. Bam. Oh my gosh, gluttony.

Beth: Yes, and it doesn’t mean just food.

Mark: Did you know that before I walked in here, or did you just look at me and said, they must struggle with gluttony?

Beth: No, that’s just how it is. So that’s kind of a core weakness of the Seven, and they all have core weaknesses.

Mark: In other words, if a bite is good, the whole pie is better.

Beth: Absolutely.

Mark: It’s true.

Beth: But it’s not just with food.

Mark: No, it’s not.

Beth: The Sevens feel almost that there’s this kind of empty bucket inside that they constantly need to keep filling.

Mark: Full of holes.

Beth: But it has holes.

Mark: Yes.

Beth: And it’s like, oh my gosh, so the more they’re anxious–

Mark: The more you pour in.

Beth: The more they have to pour with experiences and stimulation, excitement, whatever it is. And so they keep pouring and pouring, but the holes just keep it running. But if the Seven can learn to savor and to be great to be grateful and to see the blessings they have, the more the holes plug up and the more they feel filled up and they have satisfaction and they’re more content. True?

Mark: Oh my gosh, yes.

Beth: So each type has something that’s kind of hindering or blocking them from fully understanding the gospel. Not in a sense that… I mean, all the gospel applies to us, but there’s something that’s just kind of blocking us. Can I really believe it’s true for me? And so my goal is to help everyone understand, well, what’s blocking it for you. And how can we open that up so you can really feel the immense passion that Christ has for you. And that brings transformation.

Mark: So everybody should take this test if they wanna know. And there are others. What’s the difference between this and the Myers-Briggs?

Beth: So the Myers-Briggs is great. The Myers-Briggs is great, the StrengthsFinders, DiSC, all of those are great. They typically are kinda showing you your outward behavior or your preferences. But this is just telling it like it is. This is why you do what you do. So we have motivations behind our personalities that are driving our thinking, feeling, and behaviors. And those come from your core fears and your core desires. And also the core weakness, which we just talked about with gluttony. So the core fears are the things that we’re constantly running away from even if we’re not cognizant of it. We’re like, oh, that cannot happened.

Mark: Is just for Seven or everybody?

Beth: Everybody. And then there’s the desires we want, and we’re constantly trying to get those. So for the Seven, their core fear is being trapped in emotional pain, to be limited, bored, missing out on something, especially something fun, so those kinds of things.

Mark: Bam.

Beth: And so, but the core desire for the Seven they’re trying to always get is to be fully satisfied and content. And so then their core weakness comes in there with gluttony. So when we were kids, we had something that we really hoped we could hear or feel or sense. And so for the Seven is you will be taken care of. True?

Mark: That is unreal because I’ve always said my biggest fear is that I would ever be a burden to anybody, and I couldn’t afford to pay someone to wipe my bottom if I couldn’t reach it myself. In a old nursing home– I thought, I don’t wanna beg someone to help me. I wanna be able to say, “Okay, I can pay you to do this.” That fear of being a burden to somebody. Now, is that part of the Seven?

Beth: Yeah, and Sevens feel like, well, I have these needs, especially the empty bucket, right? And they’re kind of looking around even as kids like, no one’s really filling it up. Now maybe I had wonderful parents, maybe I didn’t, whatever the situation is. But it’s like, no one’s really filling it up. I’ve got to do this on my own. So they’re very independent people, and they’re seeking ways to fill it up for themselves. But if they could feel that someone’s really gonna take care of that, that would be amazing. And that’s what the gospel says.

Mark: Well, that’s what Jesus does.

Beth: Exactly.

Mark: Yeah, thank God for him. I’d be a mess.

Beth: So that’s where my coaching comes in. Because we each have this situation going on that we think, well, the gospel is great, but I still gotta do this on my own. And the gospel says no. So for you, filling that empty bucket, there are ways for us to realize and open up our hearts and go, I am taken care of, right? I mean, Christ fully takes care of you.

Mark: So far so good.

Beth: But Sevens out there, they may not fully be experiencing that yet, so we want them to understand what’s blocking them and help them to see past that and how the gospel really opens them up and fills them up.

Ian: So Seven’s the enthusiast, sometimes called the epicure. They love the finer things in life, the Sevens. They really love–

Mark: Like a manicure?

Ian: Yes, something like that.

Mark: But they like finer things in life.

Ian: They do. And they love to sample it all. If you want to make a Seven swoon, take him to a buffet restaurant.

Mark: Isn’t that the truth. Give me a cafeteria.

Ian: Oh my gosh, right?

Mark: I love options.

Ian: Options, that’s so Seven, right?

Lisa: Mm-hmm. 

Ian: I mean, the need of a Seven is to really–

Mark: Don’t miss anything.

Ian: Well, fear of missing out is like horror for a Seven. But they have a need to be spontaneous and fun and always keeping it light. But it’s all in service to avoiding pain. And pain to a Seven would be grief, boredom, stuck.

Mark: Being uncomfortable.

Ian: Anything uncomfortable. It’s they just default to how do we lighten this up. They wanna cram as much pleasure and fun into every given minute as possible.

Mark: And what’s wrong with that?

Ian: Tell him what’s wrong with that.

Mark: Wait, come on, tell me what’s wrong with that.

Ian: There is nothing wrong with it until you begin to overplay it, exaggerate it, and over rely on it. So then it doesn’t become a gift. Then it becomes…

Mark: Annoying.

Ian: Well, it becomes something that is more of a curse than a blessing because you’re now using the gift really that God gave you, which is joy, in service to what your ego wanted to do, which is to protect you against things like pain and all the things that regular civilians have to feel. But the reason that you guys avoid is because you suspect that if I go there, if I go into that space of pain, I may not come out, and there’ll be no one here to support me.

Andrew: Does that resonate?

Mark: Well, kind of a little bit. But I do love a serious conversation. I don’t feel the need to be on all the time. And I don’t like being around comedians who are on all the time. They annoy me because you have to think as hard to follow a joke as you do if we were having a real serious conversation. And I have found that some of the greatest humor I’ve been able to use in my life on stage has come from horrific situations. Hitting Shepherd Drive face first without a helmet. I got 20 minutes out of that. It’s one of the funniest stories I’ve ever told.

Andrew: So he’s gonna turn it to humor, and I’m gonna turn it into a song that dangles on despair.

Mark: One more thing I was gonna say when I talked to the lady the other day is that what I got from that, and I do wanna delve into this more ’cause I did learn so much when I discovered I was a Seven and then she told me what that meant. And I was going, dear God, that is me. And is that I have trouble being here.

Andrew: Being present.

Mark: I am always in the future or in the past. And I have learned prior to this that God is in neither place. He won’t even go with you to either place because neither one exists. I mean, I know this intellectually, but since that meeting with her I’ve been telling myself all the time, be here. In my head, be here.

Ian: Be here now.

Mark: Put the phone down, be here. And it’s just the beginning process for me, but I did learn that from that. And those two words I think are gonna help.

Ian: Well, Sevens typically have monkey mind. They go from one idea, one topic to another one. They skip around like hummingbirds dipping into every flower. And so they have trouble focusing and really oftentimes have trouble finishing things. I tell Sevens sometimes you need a to-finish list, not a to-do list. You need a to-finish list.

Mark: Interesting.

Ian: Because they get toward the end of a project and it’s sort of, I got something else. This is…

Mark: Well, it becomes work.

Andrew: Okay, so all this awareness though, and I was hearing a lot of this in your story too, Lisa, when I was listening to your all’s podcasts together. There’s one thing to become aware of yourself that I think is good, whether that’s through counseling, whether that’s through the Enneagram, whatever. But then what do you do with that, right? If I’m merely aware of myself, self-awareness can’t be the end goal, right? How does this awareness of myself as a Two and my core health, my core fears, desires, and all that, how does that actually help me interact in my relationships with others, in my relationship with myself, especially from a spiritual growth standpoint. That’s what I think of because my core thing is wanting to be loved and valued, which is probably all of our core desire to some degree. I don’t know what mine is at a Two exactly, but how does my being aware of my Two-ness and your Three-ness and your Four-ness and his Seven-ness take us–

Ian: His highness.

Andrew: Somewhere good. You know what I mean? You know what I’m asking?

Mark: How has it changed your life, finding out you’re a Three?

Lisa: Okay, so I think there’s certainly different ways to learn these tools and use them. Ian may have a different way. I’m kind of experimenting more with what you said. Awareness, that’s not an end of itself, but I do think awareness can be an end in itself. Especially if I take the awareness and then try to change myself, I’m gonna just tap into my Three energy and use that to change myself, so I’m just actually reinforcing it. And I’m wondering if that will apply to other numbers as well. But the awareness and then if there is work to be done, it’s in the acceptance, self-compassion around it rather than, oh, ugly. I don’t wanna be a Three. That’s just creepy. Any number, I think if you really do identify your number, there’s going to be an element that’s like, I don’t wanna be that.

Mark: Glutton.

Lisa: Any of them. And so for me, the most important work is awareness and then gentleness toward myself about it. There’s me doing that again. Here’s me feeling insecure again and wanting to perform in order to get love rather than try to fix myself.

Andrew: Has it changed the way then you’ve seen others as you’ve been more gentle and caring with yourself to this? I even think about you saying how you just kept those things secret. Now that you’re becoming aware of those and not afraid of those, at least in regards to God still loves me, through that other people… I mean, does that change how–

Lisa: It changes everything ’cause even in that scenario, the fancy word for keeping a secret was hiding behind the persona. So I created this character, this role, that was perfect, perfect Christian, perfect mother, perfect wife, perfect whatever, because I thought I needed that in order to have people like me. And so, of course, that actually turns out to be more like Teflon, and it actually works against connection. But in the point where I was able to first of all experience that God’s love not only did not retreat or he didn’t leave when I wasn’t perfect but actually felt more connected. When I kind of played into that and experimented, then I began to experiment with coming out from behind the persona with other people and experiencing connection. And then, of course, that then encourages them to come out from behind their self-protective mechanism for whatever they are, for whatever number, so that there was real connection at an authentic level.

Ian Morgan Cron singing “God Believes in You” featuring Mark Lowry and Andrew Greer

When you start to doubt if you exist

God believes in you

Confounded by the evidence

God believes in you

When your chances seem so slim

When your light burns so dim

And you swear you don’t believe in Him

God believes in you

When you rise up just to fall again

God believes in you

Deserted by your closest friends

God believes in you

When you’re betrayed with just a kiss

You turn your cheek with another fist

It does not have to end like this

God believes in you

Everything matters if anything matters at all

Everything matters no matter how big

No matter how small

God believes in you

God believes in you

When you’re so ashamed that you could die

God believes in you

And you can’t do right even though you try

God believes in you

Blessed are the ones who grieve

The ones who mourn, the ones who bleed

In sorrow you sow but in joy you reap

God believes in you

Everything matters if anything matters at all

Everything matters no matter how big

No matter how small

God believes in you

God believes in you

God believes in you

Dinner Conversations Sponsorship Message

Mark: You can help change the life of a child today by partnering with Andrew and me and supporting a boy or a girl in Guatemala through ChildFund today.

Andrew: Your sponsorship will not only improve the future of one child’s life, your child sponsorship will promote communities in Guatemala. The communities that Mark and I just visited. Where we saw parents who are learning to value and to protect and to advance the worth and rights of their teens and children. Who through your child’s sponsorship are literally changing the culture of each child’s community from the inside out.

Mark: Perhaps you already sponsor a child. Would you consider sponsoring another child in Guatemala? Maybe in honor of one of your children, a new grandchild, a special niece or nephew. It takes so little to make such a profound difference in the life of a child. Your sponsored child is a real kid with real dreams, just like the dreams of your children and grandchildren. We know because we met them. Kids that want to be doctors and lawyers and teachers even musicians kind of like us. Your sponsorship gives these children their chance to achieve their very unique dreams.

Andrew: You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the world for one child. Visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations to sponsor a child in Guatemala today. As a small way to say thanks for your child sponsorship, we will send you an autographed Season Two DVD and Songs From The Set CD.

Mark: Yes, plus a special item made just for you by the communities in Guatemala. And every sponsor and a guest is invited to a Dinner Conversations Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville.

Andrew: Hey now, which includes mealtimes with Mark and me, private little concerts and chitchats with our friends, and a special Sunday morning service that will happen right before you head out of town.

Mark: And if you sponsor more than one child, you will have the opportunity to be a guest on an actual episode of Dinner Conversations during the Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville.

Andrew: Does it get better than that?

Mark: No.

Andrew: Does it, Mark? Does it? Stay tuned for exact details. And don’t forget to visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations to sponsor your child today

Mark: What number would care the least about all this?

Ian: About what now?

Mark: About any of this. I mean, ’cause I’m so confused right now. I mean, why does anyone listening need this? And also, why is this any different from Myers-Briggs or one of those others?

Ian: Because lots of people go through life with very little self-knowledge. And when that happens, they go on autopilot of personality. They go to sleep in their personality. They’re just reflexively doing the same stuff over and over. You know this, right? We’re old enough that you can look in the rearview mirror of your life and see a repeating pattern, repeating patterns of the same mistakes over and over and over and over and over again. And the reason for that is is that we haven’t been self-knowledgeable enough and self-aware enough to realize, wait a minute, I’m on autopilot of personality here. These are just defense systems or mechanisms that have been running since or preprogramming that’s been since childhood just running. And once you learn the Enneagram, you’re able, as Lisa was saying earlier, you begin to say, there it goes. I’m launching into that. I’m beginning to become a little manic. My mind is running too fast. I’m telling jokes right and left. And you could stop and say to yourself, in a moment like that for a Seven for example and go, what am I trying to avoid right now? What feeling or fear or something’s going on that I don’t wanna feel, and so I’m just amping up my personality style in order to duck it.

Andrew: And what you’re hitting on is what I’ve heard you say before that the Enneagram is not about just identifying what you do, but it’s why you do it.

Ian: Totally, because all of us have traits of all nine numbers. I mean, if you just were trying to base it on traits, you’d go, I’m that or I’m that or I’m that or I’m that or I’m that. The way you determine your number isn’t by characteristics or traits. They may be clues, but ultimately, it’s by which of these underlying unconscious motivations do you most identify with and that will–

Mark: I asked you about fear. You said the underlying motivation for a Six, Seven, one of these–

Ian: Five, Six, Seven.

Mark: Is fear. But everybody has fear.

Ian: Totally, and everybody has shame and everybody has anger. I would just say that for Fives, Sixes, and Sevens that fear’s the one that’s most close, right under the skin.

Mark: It’s a good motivator. It’s a horrible motivator. But it is a motivator.

Ian: But Five, Six, and Seven, that’s your management system. That’s your fear management system, right? Is the–

Mark: Five, Six, Seven

Ian: What I just said about Sevens, that’s your particular way of dealing with fear, right, in your life is this avoidance of pain and of unpleasant feelings through this constant pursuit of really happiness and spontaneity. When you’re not very self-aware, it has a Peter Pan like quality. It’s like, I just don’t wanna grow up.

Andrew: I’ve always thought of you as Peter Pan.

Ian: He’s just like Peter Pan.

Mark: Well, at least you’ve always thought of me.

Andrew: Okay, but when I think about it, aren’t we all, like when we talk about our core desires and stuff. When I think about my core desire, this desire to be loved, to feel loved, and to understand my value because I am loved, I feel like in some ways, just like he’s saying with fear, aren’t we all desiring the same core thing? Aren’t we all on the same trajectory of wanting to be safe in the knowledge that we are loved and received or–

Lisa: Well, I think you used two different words. Safe and love are not necessarily the same thing. And I think that… One of the questions, like why is this important to know? I think our management, our defense systems, the things that we learned as a child, the things that really do kind of help us identify our number, have been put in place to keep us safe. But they’re a barrier to protect us. And so then later on down the road, we may be safe, but we probably are not experiencing love because there’s a barrier. And so it’s in the breaking through that fear and letting that fall down that we have an opportunity to actually connect with ourself to be authentic, to be who we were all along before we got afraid and hid behind this protection. So I think ultimately knowing it helps us to be able to identify it. So then we can do the brave work of letting it fall slowly to have what we most want, which is to be loved but not loved for whatever it is we’ve painted on the outside of this fun loving guy, successful woman, giver, unique individual, but to be loved for who we really are. And I wanna be loved whether I’m successful or not. You want somebody to think you’re special just because you’re special in their eyes. You wanna be loved…

Andrew: You don’t have to do anything.

Lisa: And you wanna be able to be able to not be funny and not be happy all the time and, as you’ve said, swim around in those places where the real connection is. But that takes bravery, and it first takes kind of knowing what it is we have to gently let drop.

Andrew: Was that harder growing up in a spotlight scenario? ‘Cause you were how old when you first ended up in California?

Lisa: Twelve.

Andrew: In Mickey Mouse Club, right? And so that’s a lot of happy. That’s a lot of a certain exterior, I mean, by the nature of your job, what you’re getting paid to do. Was it easier to hide?

Lisa: I started hiding a lot earlier than 12.

Andrew: It was more innate than just some profession.

Lisa: I mean, I think we do pick up these defense mechanisms, these self-protection management systems, really, really early ’cause there’s just such brilliance in them too. And they really are something to not despise but to say, oh, thank you for keeping me safe for so long. Let’s work together to be loved. But that takes a while to be able to kind of tap into the core.

Mark: How’s that going?

Lisa: It’s a long, hard journey. It’s not easy. And there’s a lot of loss involved. As you mentioned earlier, why wouldn’t you wanna be happy all the time? Or like, why wouldn’t I want to be successful? I remember that early on when I realized I was successful but didn’t have any close friends, and that to really concentrate on relationships, I might not be as successful. And that’s been the truth. I’ve had to let go of a lot of success in exchange for something that’s more valuable, but it’s certainly–

Andrew: Still felt like a loss, right?

Lisa: It doesn’t get what the world tells you and the ego feeds on, junk food maybe.

Andrew: Was there grief involved in that then, even though it seemed like a surface thing? Well, I can give up my success for relationship, right? In our mind, we think, sure, I could do that.

Lisa: Well, people love us the way we are. You may lose friends if you stop giving so much to get love.

Andrew: I’ve lost a lot of relationships when I stop.

Lisa: There’s a lot of people that probably it’s like they just want you because they know you’ll give them anything. So there’s grief in real life. There’s people that don’t wanna be friends with me because I’m not… Like they held me up as a standard and I’ve let them down and they just need to get away from me, so there is grief ‘cause there’s great loss.

Andrew: I mean, you’re hitting on something really… And we may have talked about this before. In all my soured relationships, what I always end up in hindsight going is I want someone who doesn’t need me but just wants me.

Lisa: But see, you may have to make the first step, and that’s to not just feed everybody and fulfill everybody’s need and that’s scary because that’s when you just stand there naked without making the move to get the connection that you know you can and it may not come. But if it does, it’s beautiful. And if it doesn’t, it’s painful.

Mark: Life is just a pain.

Lisa: Spoken like a true Seven. Let’s just stay in the joy zone.

Andrew: So we just pit ourselves against it. So the Enneagram could also, this kind of awareness about ourselves, could also lead to a greater, deeper surrender if we really start to receive–

Mark: How do you get the spirit… Is this a spiritual thing?

Ian: Totally, and you asked earlier about the Myers-Briggs and stuff. I think one of the things that differentiates the Enneagram is that it really has a powerful spiritual component to it in that it really doesn’t just reveal what’s best about you, which it does, but also what’s worst about you. One of the things I often do with people is I’ll show them the Enneagram diagram, and I say, well, you contain all nine of these. And so if you think about it… One is the perfectionist. We didn’t really go over them. But really, when they’re healthy, they represent the goodness of God, right? Twos, the love of God. Threes would be the effectiveness of God, the glory of God. Fours, the pathos, the beauty of God. Fives, the wisdom, the omniscience of God. Sixes, the unfailing loyalty of God. Sevens, the joy of God. Eights, the power and justice of God. And Nines, the peace of God. Now that’s when you’re healthy and you’re using… You have all those inside ’cause you’re bearers of the image of God. But you have a particular gift or charism to bring joy or to bring love, right? But when you overplay that card, when you use it in service to your own ego’s agenda, when you use that card to manipulate other people to build their lives and organize their lives to meet your needs and to fulfill your agenda, that’s when you get in trouble. And so what the Enneagram does is it reveals, here’s this beautiful piece of you and here’s where it can go south.

Mark: Where you need to work.

Ian: And without that self-awareness… It’s interesting, Calvin… This is what actually put me on the track of… One of the reasons when I read this line it said, “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God.” Opening lines of the Institute’s.

Andrew: Which if we’re the bearers of the image of God, that would make sense.

Ian: Right ’cause what Calvin was saying is, if you wanna know about God, what is the closest primary source of information available to you to do it? You.

“If you wanna know about God, what is the closest primary source of information available to you to do it? You.” – Ian Morgan Cron

Mark: So if someone out there Google’s Enneagram, they may not find you or they may not find a Christian enneagram coach. Why have you connected those two? What makes it better?

Beth: That’s a great question. So I’m a pastor’s wife, and we’ve done ministry for years. And as we know, transformation really comes from understanding Christ and what he has done for us. And so when people say, “Well, how does this bring transformation?” I have a really hard time just saying, just believe in it because believe in what? So the gospel is what really brings the transformation. And what I’m hoping to do as an Enneagram coach is to show people that as humans, we end up being kind of in this little box, this constraint box. ‘Cause a lot of people are like, “Don’t put me in a box.” I’m like, “I’m not putting you in a box. You’re already in a box. I’m helping you to get out of that box.” And so what happens with our flesh, our personality, the not so great parts of us, we get real constrained. I have to think this. I have to be this way. They’re bringing self-condemnation, fear, and shame. And I have to be better in some form, whatever the type feels that is, to earn God’s love and favor and other people’s love and favor. So we are very constrained, but that’s not the gospel. The gospel is you are his beloved child, free, forgiven, cherished, unconditional love. And that’s what’s true 24/7, 365. But what happens? Our personalities chime in, the world chimes in, the flesh, all this stuff, and all of a sudden, we come back over here. We fall in those same pitfalls of shame, self-condemnation, fear, all of those things. We feel like we’re an orphan, have got to do it all on our own. And so that’s this common constraint here on Earth. So we are with the Lord, but we’re also here on Earth. So my goal is to help people understand why this keeps happening, and why aren’t we fully experiencing this, and how can we experience the belovedness that we already are in Christ. So that’s my goal.

Mark: How has Enneagram changed your life?

Beth: I’m a very different person. So my personality type goes along to get along. And so I used to basically follow my husband and his career doing whatever, not because he told me I should, just that’s what I did. And so I really didn’t voice what I thought and felt. I didn’t really stand out. Nines really don’t want to do that. But when God said, “You have an important message to get out there,” it was like, oh. And so my work is trusting that God has something for me.

Mark: When you say your work…

Beth: My work as a Nine. So as a Nine, moving into the healthy part of Nine is to assert myself, to have confidence, not arrogancy, but confidence that God has given me a message and to present it to others. So the Nine really wants to just–

Mark: So there really are steps for each number, how you can do better?

Beth: Yeah.

Mark: And mine are?

Beth: Yours are savor. That’s the biggest work for a Seven, to savor the food, the experience, the relationships, the moment. That’s just one really good word.

Mark: I tell that to myself all the time and didn’t even know Enneagram.

Beth: My dad’s a Seven, and he savors his food, and that’s where I got the word–

Mark: Okay, savor and what else?

Beth: So savor and just being in the moment. So Sevens are constantly thinking of what’s next.

Mark: Oh my gosh.

Beth: Because they’re–

Mark: I feel like I’m sitting here with Jesus or something.

Beth: A little ninja, right?

Mark: Reading my mail.

Beth: And so if you’re able to go, I know my mind is going to the next thing because I’m feeling this emptiness, I’m feeling anxious. I don’t need to be like that. I know God has everything.

Mark: Change the channel.

Beth: So you go from, I don’t need to take care of all of these things, Christ is gonna take care of them. He’s gonna fill me up. He’s going to plug those holes and bring me satisfaction and rest. Just the mindset shift will help you to become more calm, to be more present. And even then, when your mind starts racing and starts going off, you can go, wait, what’s going on? So I always tell people, we can parent our personalities. Our personalities are these little kids throwing big temper tantrums that we have to do it this way. And it’s like, no, we don’t. There’s truth that we can hold on to and we can say to the personality in a loving way, “No, we’re not gonna do that.” This is the path that we need to go on because even though it’s hard to grow, it’s what brings freedom and rest.

“We can parent our personalities.” – Beth McCord

Mark: So the word for today is savor.

Beth: Savor for the Seven.

Mark: Well, I’ve savored our time together.

Beth: Well, thank you.

Ian: What the Enneagram does is provide us an opportunity to really look at ourselves. To look at the defense mechanisms and the way that we defend our own hearts. To learn to relax it, to learn to soften our grip on it. To stop using those things to win love, appreciation, to protect us from the things that frighten us, to ward off the world, right? So these are really just systems that came into place when we were young kids to protect our essential selves, right? In a world that felt hostile. They were also ways of… Kids are real smart really. I was reading yesterday… I was away this weekend with Helen Palmer in San Francisco. She’s a great Enneagram teacher. And she says, “Kids know what the family wants from them even before the family does.” Isn’t that amazing. So what she’s saying is that we read faces and responses, and we as little kids go, I gotta get my needs met, so I have to create a personality that may not be consistent with who I actually am. It may not be consistent with how I’m made, but I gotta do this, right? So I gotta be a winner if I wanna get that, what I perceive is my love, my security, the esteem of others, a sense of mastery and control in the world. You see where I’m going? So I think part of the goal of the Enneagram is to get back to who you really are because all these types or strategies or programs for happiness, what we think is gonna get happiness but really they’re false selves, they’re personas, they’re in other words, the ego, right? If we can just relax our grip on them with unconditional self-friendship and compassion, as you were saying not beating ourselves up, like what you might have learned in the church. But just to go, well, yeah, of course, this is a system that I’ve relied on for a long time, but I don’t have to actually live my life chained to it. I can release my grip on it. And when I do and it falls away, I don’t even have to really try. That true self just emerges on its own.

Lisa: And I think, tagging onto that, that would be, if there is a goal that we can define, it would be rest or peace. And so in the Old Testament, God was leaving the children of Israel. The goal was rest, to stop wandering, to just be in relationship with God. And then with Jesus, it was peace. He left his peace. So all of this stuff that we do to protect ourself, that is not rest and that’s not peace. It’s exhausting, and it’s self-protection. And so I think the goal is to stop all that and then just rest in who we are. And the irony is at first it feels like, well, I’ll just rest in who I am. It’s not gonna be as good as what I was.

Ian: Or as interesting.

Lisa: Or as interesting. I’m probably not gonna get what I want out of it. It’s gonna be hard, but I’ll just… The irony is when we discover our true self, because I can’t say that I like myself because I don’t know myself yet, but because I shut myself off at such a young age that after you drop the persona, that little self is still at that age. So I gotta find out who I am and grow up and grow into that self. So it may be little bitty before you even get in touch with it. And then there’s a resting. And you don’t make something grow. You rest, you put it in the sun, it rains, and it grows on its own. And so even that is peace and rest. But then you blossom into who you were supposed to be, who you’ve always been all along, and it’s a beautiful thing. But the interim part, that’s what we defend against with these ways of being most of our life because we don’t wanna go through that middle part either.

Ian: I mean, I love what Richard Rohr says about this. He and I had a conversation on my podcast about it. Of course the Galatians, you know, “For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live…” But wait a minute, who’s that I? There’s an I here in the beginning that you just said you just got crucified. Now in the second half of that sentence, you’re saying the life I now live. Wait a minute, who’s that? So that word I is ego in Greek?

Lisa: You let go my ego.

Ian: Yes, exactly. So maybe what Paul was saying there in the different translation is for my truth, my false self no longer lives, right? It’s been crucified with Christ, that false self.

Lisa: And you know the crucifixion.

Ian: And it ain’t 10 minutes. It took Jesus a while to die on the cross, six hours. And the daunting resuscitates too every now and then. It comes back to life. But it’s the false self that has to go. I used to think what was being described in that first half of that text was that God wants to annihilate my identity. You know what I mean? I gotta go with all those things.

Andrew: Like erase me.

Ian: And I gotta delete myself and become some mimic version of Jesus in the world. No, that’s not what’s being said here. The false self has to go. The true self is the I, I think, in the second half there of that statement. And I love that idea that the goal of the spiritual life is to let go of the false self because nothing could please God more than our being our true selves, the ones that he created, to live in the world and reflect his joy, his love, his glory, right? His beauty and pathos. I mean, we just get our ego out of the way, and then all of a sudden, all those gifts just begin to shine on their own. We don’t have to do anything, nothing to work at it.

Mark: So it’s like dying to Christ. I heard that all my life. You die daily. So it’s the same type thing. I mean, it could be hourly.

Ian: I think with the Enneagram is really good for is self-knowledge and self-awareness. And what I mean by self-awareness is that once you develop enough self-knowledge, you can develop an inner observer that in the moment can monitor and then regulate your thoughts, feelings, and actions. For me, I struggle with envy as a Four, right?

Mark: You struggle with what?

Ian: Envy. Envy is a big deal for me, gluttony is for you, pride is for you, right? Deceit is for you.

Mark: What is for her?

Lisa: Deceit. And a capital Three, which I have been all my life, deceit even to myself. I’m not even aware, mostly in the past, but still, I’m not even aware where I’m not being authentic because I’ve been inauthentic all my life because I’ve been afraid to be authentic.

Andrew: Little lies, little exaggerations, little…

Lisa: Well, I don’t know, just more like performance. It’s performing to be a certain way so long that I think that’s who I am. But it’s because I’ve been too afraid to drop it and really discover who I am.

Mark: Do you like who you are?

Lisa: Do I like who I am? I still don’t know that I know myself well enough to answer that question. I liked who I became. I liked who I made myself to be probably better than I like myself who I am. But I will say that it feels really good to be loved and accepted for who I am as opposed to admired and respected for who I became.

Mark: Someone said I’d rather be loved for who I am… Hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.

Lisa: I don’t know that I’m that.

Mark: Maybe that’s wrong.

Ian: Well, if those are my options.

Andrew: It’s funny ’cause I think about it when I’m just thinking about who I really am, I don’t know that I like that that much. But when I am around people who accept me just as I am, it’s a profound experience and one I don’t want to disengage with.

Mark: And I don’t know if I like who I am all the time either. But I agree with God, that I was worth it. I mean, I agree with God that I was worth dying for. I don’t understand that. But who am I to disagree with God? And I’ve chosen to believe Christ is God. And God thought we were worth it. And so I think the created is rude to tell the Creator that we weren’t good enough. Mentally, I’ve got it figured out that way.

Ian: But do you have it there? ‘Cause I mean, I think it’s really simple to have that as an abstraction or an idea. I know plenty of people who say I love myself because I’m loved. But do you have a felt experience of that, or is that just some–

Mark: Of a what?

Ian: A felt experience of it. Do you know that here so that idea vibrates through your whole being, or is it just like that’s a nice idea that spins around?

Mark: The things I used to wanna change about myself I have learned to accept and love because they’re not changing.

Ian: I have moments of it. I think it’s a little bit like clouds and sun. Periodically, the clouds go by, the sun comes out, and then here comes another weather pattern of self-loathing or whatever.

Mark: We all have days where I doubt everything. I do.

Andrew: Sure, that takes a lot of courage, that translation from the mind, how we work it out in our mind, to believing it in our heart. That translation is where I’m still in that.

Mark: Twelve inches from the head to the heart, and it’s a long trip, ain’t it?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean, it feels that way. It feels like a lifelong trip. And one, is it possible that we’ll never fully get there on this side of life? I mean, is that the possibility too, and there’s a surrender in that that’s sweet. That hey, we can do this self-actualization and awareness, and we’re getting closer to who we are.

Mark: But what’s the goal? What’s the goal with this angiogram?

Lisa: Angiogram, it’s all about the heart.

Ian: It’s all about the heart, bro.

Mark: What would your mother say about all this?

Ian: “Darling, I don’t know.”

Andrew: Details.

Mark: I love your mother. I’m dying to meet that woman.

Ian: You have no idea.

Mark: She sounds like a character off Saturday Night Live.

Ian: She is.

Andrew: But if either of you had to sum it up, and it’s probably non-summary–

Mark: Is the goal to sell books?

Andrew: For you?

Ian: Well, it’s not to not sell books.

Andrew: That’s a good one.

Mark: We wanna thank Ian Morgan Cron and Lisa Whelchel.

Andrew: That’s right. You can find their books and their product of all sorts in our Amazon affiliate link in the episode description below. 

Mark: And if you’d like to binge watch Dinner Conversations, you can do that right now on Amazon Prime. Dinner Conversations is brought to you by ChildFund, a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live with their fullest potential no matter where they’re from or what challenges they face since 1938.

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ChildFund is a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live at their fullest potent no matter where they are from — or what challenges they face — since 1938.

Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world in the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today. It takes so little to make a difference. A child is waiting. And remember, every one who sponsors a child is invited to a Dinner Conversations Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville, plus receives an autographed Season Two DVD, CD and a special item handmade for you by our communities in Guatemala.

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Watch Our Other Episodes:

S03, E01: Orphans No More featuring Lisa Harper
S03, E02: Perfectly Imperfect featuring Wynonna Judd
S03, E03: Surviving Miscarriage featuring Jason Crabb and Sonya Isaacs
S03, E04: Fear Factors featuring Patsy Clairmont
S03, E05: A New Normal featuring Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales
S03, E06: Suicide: Hiding in Plain Sight featuring Mark Means and Wes Hampton