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Nine numbers take over JBU

Head, Heart and Hand, one of the historic mottos of John Brown University, is the core of a popular personality test that has become the newest addiction of JBU students’. The Enneagram Test, which has a base of head, heart and gut, originated in South America and became well known in the U.S. in recent years.

The Enneagram Institute, formed by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson in 1997, is a group formed to research the findings of Oscar Ichazo, a native Bolivian, who formed the Arica school to teach his findings on the Enneagram. Ichazo created the Enneagram of personalities by drawing inspiration from “soul numbers” used by early philosophers. The Enneagram test gives information on nine different personality types, identified by numbers and descriptions about each. These descriptions include ego-fixations, holy ideas, passions and virtues. The types also go deeper into the healthy and unhealthy reactions of people with different numbers.

At JBU, freshman and new students are required to take the StrengthsQuest test. This mandate has led to questions about Enneagram types and comparisons of the two tests. For JBU sophomore Maddy Joyce, the Enneagram addiction began in her leadership class when she was discussing her strengths. Joyce is a driven, achievement-oriented person, which is seen in her leadership on campus on the Student Ministries Leadership Team.  She believes the Enneagram typing and studying of the types has positively affected her life.

What makes this test different than other personality tests? For Joyce, the Enneagram was more open to different people types and less inclusive to particular personalities or personality traits. “I think a lot of people are opposed to the Enneagram because they don’t like being put in a box, but even the Enneagram has a type for that … I liked the Enneagram because it’s not a ‘this is who you are, and this is what you should be,’” Joyce said. “Even when you’re unhealthy and healthy and stressed and growing and everything in between you can still be a type without being exactly like somebody else.”

The Enneagram test is not only popular on the campus of JBU, but at other universities as well.  Emily Callon, resident director of Walker Hall, worked at Messiah College where she first learned about the Enneagram Test in 2015. She said she thinks the Enneagram test is different than other tests because it goes deeper than just the functionality of a personality. It gives you something to reach further into your soul and spirituality. She uses the Enneagram test to help her find her identity in Christ. “I heard somebody say once that all of these things are just resources for how we function on earth, but really our identity is in Christ. If I can use this resource to help deepen my identity in Christ, I think that’s good, but if I’m using it in replace of that, I think that can become really unhealthy,” Callon said.

Callon’s Enneagram type is a Three, otherwise known as the Achiever. This has helped her during her time at JBU as a resident director where she coordinates events and works to encourage her resident assistants. Callon has also taken the StrengthsQuest test. In this personality test, her top three traits are WOO, Communication and Individualization. These are all contributing factors to her occupation.

The difference between the Enneagram descriptions and the StrengthsQuest themes are the depth of the descriptions. A “WOO” is described as having “a great capacity to inspire and motivate others,” according to the Leadership Vision Consulting’s website. This description, while a great, simple description, is not as deep as the Enneagram. Enneagram numbers are not just actions of a personality but tell about the motives of different types. Callon and Joyce are both Threes; the description of threes on the Enneagram Institute website says Threes are “diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness.” The site goes on to tell about Three’s basic fears, desires and key motivations, giving much more details than Strengths Quest does.

JBU’s Enneagram addiction can be credited to one thing: development. College-aged students are in a growing phase of life and are trying to understand themselves better. They want to know why they do what they do, and that is exactly what the Enneagram test tells them. The test not only tells you that you are empathetic or generous, it tells you how that generosity is seen in times of growth and stress. “Ichazo saw the Enneagram as a way of examining specifics about the structure of the human soul and particularly about the ways in which actual soul qualities of Essence become distorted or contracted into states of ego,” the Enneagram Institute said. The numbers are not created to validate why someone feels how they feel; they are reflections to help people grow in their souls. The descriptions dig into how a person can grow healthily in their personalities in a much deeper way.