When our microwave is done heating something, it beeps, and then the screen reads “Your food is ready.”
Every time it says that, I whisper to myself, I’ll tell you when my food is ready in a defiant tone.
That irrational exchange with a household appliance would sum up what being an Eight on the Enneagram is like. I hate being bossed around, even by a microwave.
I love studying the Enneagram. I love seeing parts of myself on paper and being known. I love processing through why I do what I do and figuring out how to do it better. I enjoy learning how so many of my God-given personality traits can help or harm me and those around me, and then working harder on being a help rather than a danger to others. I love learning about how other people, who are made differently than me, think and feel and operate because it makes me more understanding and more compassionate. I like being called out on the crap and then figuring out how to do life better.
Self-reflection and correction is hard no matter what number you are, but if our goal is to love others well for Jesus, we first need to know and love ourselves. If we haven’t figured out how to love ourselves, loving others doesn’t work out too great. (You know that’s the goal, right? Loving others well for Jesus? Notice I didn’t say condone everything everyone does. We are called to love everyone. There’s a difference and with Jesus you can do the loving well even while not liking someone’s actions or choices. Keep that in mind, ye lovers of the Lord.)
Just like any personality system or study of character traits, there are very few who fit every single characteristic of a type. But the more I study the Enneagram, the more I realize it seems to be pretty close. With that said, let me tell you about Eights. (I could also write that sentence as “With that said, let me tell you about Mary Graham…”)
“Eights impress us as strong and mighty; they are capable of imparting a feeling of strength to others as well. They have a second sense for justice and truth. They instinctively know where something “stinks,” whenever injustice or dishonesty is at work. Eights address such situations openly and directly. They can be a rock of reliability for others and develop a tremendous sense of responsibility and solicitude. When they commit themselves to a cause, they bring enormous energies to bear on it. The word of an Eight can be trusted.” –The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert
“…The Eights exemplifies the fundamental need to be against. Eights are against everything. Even when they agree, they’ll find a way to turn anything into combat or sparring. This is how Eights build trust-through pushing and fighting. It’s their attempt to size up the trustworthiness of others, an unconscious way to determine if people will stand up to them by standing up for themselves.” –The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz
Depending on the book you read, Eights have different names. The Road Back to You calls Eights “The Challenger.” Rohr and Ebert refer to Eights as “The Need to Be Against.” Karen Webb, author of Principles of the Enneagram, calls Eights “Protectors.”
-Feel comfortable taking charge in a group.
-Are known for their ability and willingness to take a stand.
-Get annoyed when other people are indirect or manipulative, or can’t seem to state what they really mean or want.
-Sometimes intimidate people by their tendency to bring conflict out into the open or by their aggressive nature.
-Tend to value being respected more than being liked.
-Find it difficult to trust people.
If you’ve been a reader here for any length of time, you can probably confirm most of that list by going back to previous posts I’ve shared. A lot of those traits set me up well to be a writer on the big, scary internet too. I openly talk about conflict, take a stand for what I feel is right, and don’t really care if people like me. All things that lend themselves well to sharing on the world wide web.
My Intelligence Center is based in the gut (as opposed to the brain or the heart). I trust my gut or my instinct when making choices. I physically feel emotions and stress and happiness as a part of me. This would explain why marriage struggles or disagreements with friends can make me physically ill. At the height of Chris’ drinking before he went to rehab, I couldn’t eat food due to stress. I was surviving on coffee and the thought of food made me ill. I have a strong visceral reaction to things. When I’m living as a healthy Eight, I can harness this gut instinct to build a better world. When I’m living as an unhealthy, everything annoys me and I hate everyone.
Eights are driven by fear and most likely need to practice patience. (Dumb. I don’t have time for that.)
Eights don’t welcome or enjoy self-reflection. I would say this is a character description that doesn’t fit me well. I enjoy reflection. A lot of what I write here is reflective. When you go to school to become a teacher, you’re taught often about self-reflection and self-evaluation. So I started learning at eighteen how to critically look back and grow from it. I do that in my writing and personal life regularly. Cron and Stabile write “Tender, soft feelings are more apt to arise when an Eight powers down–and moving targets are harder to hit than those that are still.”
Eights don’t like to show weakness or vulnerability. That does make sense when I write; I’m often reminding you I’m only sharing the parts I want to and leaving out others. I tell you this is the edited version of a story, and I wonder if, unconsciously, I’m leaving out the parts that would make me look weak. I’m still processing through idea because I can look back at my writing and tell you things I’ve shared that made me feel weak and scared to share, but I can see other times where I could have shared more of my weakness too.
The last Eight thing I need to share before we move forward is how male Eights and female Eights are perceived differently in our world. Seeing this information in print made me cry; it made so many pieces of my work life, dating life, and childhood fall into place.
Male Eights are worshipped. They are valued in corporate America, and “their commanding presence and boundless energy instills confidence in others, and people follow them.”
Female Eights, on the other hand, are considered too much: too commanding, too loud, too intimidating. Our culture tells them to quiet down, not be leaders, to know their place.
A man who takes charge, stands up for what is right, refuses to take crap from others, and gets the job done is called a leader. A woman who does those exact same things is called a bitch.
There are two strong reactions to encountering female Eights. Those who are self-assured and confident see the power and energy that comes with having a female Eight on their team. People who are easily threatened and insecure, immediately set out to destroy and fight against female Eights.
I think about my last teaching job and the three principals I had during that time. A strong female who showed me how to do my job better and used my strengths to help others. A strong male leader who recognized my worth and put me in a place to influence and encourage others. And my last boss who was insecure, immature, and unsure of everything he did. My last three years at that job were miserable. He treated me unfairly, made sure to quiet me any chance he got, and actively sought to remove me from every job of authority I had.
Understanding that my characteristics are God-given just as much as my male counterparts made me feel validated but also angry. The world has constantly told me I am less feminine or too much because of my personality traits; God has not. I was created to be exactly who I am. Can I (or anyone else) be a healthy or unhealthy version of who God created them to be? Absolutely. But my leadership qualities aren’t wrong or only reserved for the opposite sex. And that my culture, my church, and my world has whispered those things to me my whole life just pisses me off.
At this point, you’re probably like, This is interesting, Mary Graham, but what’s the point? GOOD QUESTION.
I’ve touched on this before, but immersing myself in studying the Enneagram just at the time Chris was spending months in rehab for alcoholism was, I know, not a coincidence. Once I saw myself on paper so well, I started to read about who I was married to. And that, on the road to healing our marriage, has been life-changing.
Tomorrow I want you to meet Chris Graham and then on Thursday, I’ll tell you what it means for our marriage. If you can’t wait until tomorrow for a glimpse at Chris, just go ahead and read this whole post again, except for every sentence on Eights, IMAGINE THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE.
I know. What the hell?
Books I’ve referenced in this post & I highly recommend you read if you’re intrigued by the Enneagram:
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz (I just skimmed this for the post and haven’t read the whole thing yet.)
The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert
Principles of the Enneagram by Karen Webb
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED
PHOTO CREDIT: HUFF PHOTOGRAPHY
MAKE SURE YOU SUBSCRIBE TO MY EMAILS! USE THE POPUP WINDOW OR THE BAR AT THE TOP OF YOUR SCREEN TO GET MONTHLY BOOK REVIEWS, GIVEAWAYS, AND MORE STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX. PLUS, NEVER MISS A POST AGAIN!