Episode 73 – Chris Heuertz, Activist and Enneagram Coach

From being mentored by Mother Teresa, to launching South Asia’s first pediatric AIDS care home, to writing the incredibly inspirational The Sacred Enneagram – Chris Heuertz possesses a special blend of wisdom and insight. Today, Chris and Jessica talk about his incredible journey, the importance of community, and how every number of the Enneagram tackles grief and loss.

Chris Heuertz


Jessica: Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Are you ready for honest and vulnerable conversations that will inspire you towards action? Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.

I’m so excited for today’s episode. Today’s guest is Chris Heuertz. Chris Heuertz is an Enneagram expert. And if you’ve followed me for a hot second, I am a huge Enneagram fan. For those of y’all who are still holding out and still resisting, maybe this episode will bring you to the other side. I was introduced to the Enneagram a few years ago, and it’s been such a valuable tool in my husband and I’s marriage and even in our family, we’ve started to talk about it. I think this breaks some Enneagram rule about not figuring out what your children are, but my kids are getting to that age where they’re exhibiting some obvious numbers, so we read a lot of the descriptions out loud and two of the descriptions in particular my kids were like, “That’s me. That is totally me.” We’ve even used it here at the office at Noonday Collection. Our head of HR, Leslie, has become a certified Enneagram expert, and it’s just been a really great way to create empathy, and understanding, and self-awareness.

But we don’t just talk about the Enneagram today. First of all, I wanted to include those of you who may not know what it is and still appreciate and enjoy this conversation, but also because Chris has an incredibly rich history. He was actually mentored by Mother Theresa. That’s right. The Mother Theresa. He then spent 20 years with Word Made Flesh which works in more than 70 countries building community among victims of human trafficking, survivors of AIDS, abandoned children, child soldiers, and war brides. And then in the last seven years, he and his wife, Phileena, who is coming on the podcast next month, have started Gravity, which is a center for contemplative activism.

And his work, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, came into my life at a really beautiful time. And, honestly, we cover so much today. We talk about community and how community and friendship require effort. We talk about grief and suffering, which is very much antithetic to what my Enneagram number is, which is a Seven. We tend to flee grief and hard feelings, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, and I wanted to invite you all into that. So, sit back and enjoy this conversation, and definitely … I put my podcasts on double speed … Chris has so many meaty things to say … if you do that, sorry guys. You’re gonna have to keep this on … you might even want to put it on a lower speed. He has so many rich nuggets to share in today’s episode.

So, Chris and I … I was telling him before we started recording, that I could totally geek out with him on Enneagram, which he is an Enneagram expert. And I love the way he writes about the Enneagram as really more along the lines of how we can use our knowledge around our Enneagram number to help it bring spiritual transformation. And I loved your book, Chris, that you wrote about that. Read it, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, has been super helpful in my life. So, we could really just dive in, go deep, probably lose some people. We could geek out so much on the Enneagram. But what you guys might not know about Chris is he has this very rich social justice background. And that is really where I wanted to start. Because when we speak to someone who spent years with Mother Teresa, like the actual Mother Teresa, it’s hard to not begin with that. So, I just would love for you to share with us the nature of your time with her. And what was it like being under her mentorship?


A Rich History Among Poverty

Chris: Sure. So, when I was in university, I spent a summer term in the fall semester, studying in Jerusalem. I had classes on campus, this little school just on the old Mount Zion there, right outside the city walls, the old city walls. Whenever I was out of class, man, I was poking around the city. I was hanging out with Palestinian kids, kicking a soccer ball around the Hinnom Valley. I was just sort of trying to figure out what was going on there? And in the early ’90s, this was during the Second Intifada, there was a lot of political, and ethnic, and religious repression and suppression of the Palestinian folks. And it still is to this day. But it did something to me. It changed how I viewed and understood notions of poverty and who the oppressed really were.

And what it was doing was kind of confronting my own sort of normative gaze on how I had experienced that, right? I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. I was the oldest of six. Neither of my parents graduated from university. And so, they worked really, really hard to take care of the six of us kids. And in fact, they ended up, by the time I was in grade 11, between my mom and dad, they were working 7 jobs between the 2 of them so that they could put us in private schools that they couldn’t afford. And so, my dad’s first job, of course, for 40 hours he slogged away every week was in sales. And he did come home for quick dinner. And then he’d run out and was a custodian at one of the telemarketing companies nearby. And then to close out his evening until sometimes 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, he worked at that convenience store there in the corner. And then on the weekends, he officiated whatever sport was in season. So those are my dad’s four jobs. Like I said, my mother also had three jobs.

And you see, we grew up with hot food on the table. We were in school. We had shoes on our feet. But when I was kicking these soccer balls around with these Palestinian kids, these internally displaced folks, their parents were also working 10, 14 hours a day, 6, 7 days a week. Their parents were also struggling, but man, these kids’ childhoods looked different than mine, because they weren’t in schools. Their clothes were torn. They were undernourished and hungry. And I think what it did was it confronted my whole notion of what it meant to be poor in different contexts. And I think then, I brought that back to sacred texts in the Scripture, and realized that there was so much in the Hebrew Bible, and then the Christian New Testament that I had spiritualized when it came to understanding around who the poor were and what poverty meant.

“It confronted my whole notion of what it meant to be poor in different contexts. And I think then, I brought that back to sacred texts in the Scripture.” Chris Heuertz on witnessing poverty in Jerusalem.


Finding a Mentor: Mother Theresa

So still a student. I finished my junior year. I jumped on a plane and started to poke around South and Southeast Asia for a couple of months, looking for signs of hope, looking for communities that were actually addressing some of the most pronounced human needs in the world. And of course, that led me to Calcutta. I knocked on the door of the convent where Mother Teresa lived and asked if I could volunteer. And they sent me to the house for the dying, one of the first homes that Mother started. And in those two months, I attended to 50 folks who didn’t survive the end of that summer, and it wrecked me. I was devastated. Yeah. I mean, there was a 16-year-old boy from the village who died in my arms on July 4th. And I just had this collision of what is independence and what a twisted sort of Independence Day, in a sense.

So yeah, I carried 50 bodies out of Mother’s house for the dying that summer. And she was … You know, a lot of people were able to visit with her. She was really accessible, and I ended up spending two or three sort of afternoons sitting with her that summer. I came back to the states, finished my senior year of university, and then quickly moved back to South India where I worked with kids who were orphaned because of the AIDS pandemic, or were born HIV positive. And while I lived there in South India, I’d routinely go up to see Mother three, four, or five times a year. Whenever I’d have groups visiting, I’d bring them up to visit with her. And again, when she was well, because of course, towards the end of her life, she was getting sicker and sicker, but when she was well, she’d always make time to meet with us and share a little reflection or sort of devotions with us. I mean, just an incredible human being.

And I’ll say this, we know this intuitively, and I think sometimes making the implicit, explicit sort of languages experience, but yes, I think that the things that we learn on a most impactful, internalized, metabolized level from our mentors, and teachers, and guides, aren’t the things that they say, but it’s watching them sort of live with the embodied credibility of their values, and convictions, and how they love, and in how they serve. And that was Mother. I mean, she really showed up. She really was present. She really was a source of love and a source of strength in the world. And I can’t imagine another person like her.

“I think that the things that we learn on a most impactful, internalized, metabolized level from our mentors, and teachers, and guides, aren’t the things that they say, but it’s watching them sort of live with the embodied credibility of their values, and convictions, and how they love, and in how they serve. And that was Mother [Theresa].” Chris Heuertz


The Power of Presence

Jessica: Tell me a little bit more about what was happening in South Asia that prompted you then to help launch the pediatric AIDS Care Home?

Chris: There’s a few folks that I had gone to university with who had made trips to India also while they were students. And one of them, this guy from Georgia, actually started this little nonprofit as a way of trying to give platform to some of the opportunities he was seeing there, and some of the opportunities that maybe were going unaddressed. So, like I said, I joined up with these guys. And as soon as I graduated from college, moved straight away. And when I joined this little community, this little team, there were just four or five of us involved. There was this South Indian couple that had been a part of the children’s organization for 20 some years of their life, and really respected leaders in that part of the country. There was a social worker from the National Addiction Research Council out of Bombay. She came down and joined us.

And as we sort of put our heads and hearts together and tried to discern, in this sort of spectrum of unmet needs and some of these under resourced and underserved communities, what was really the most urgent of them? And at that point, there wasn’t a dedicated home in those eight South Asian countries for kids who were HIV positive or who had AIDS. And so, we sort of just rolled our sleeves up and sort of plugged in the possibility of opening the doors for kids suffering the disease. And it was remarkable the resistance we got. And it was remarkable that so much of that resistance actually came from goodhearted Christians, clergy members, and church leaders in that part of the country.

And that was typical back then in the early ’90s. I mean, the stereotypes and sort of the cliches and the tropes that were getting rolled out were all terrible. They were all dehumanizing and belittling. But it surprised me. I don’t think I was prepared to also hear that from folks who claimed to be rooted in a faith community and in a faith tradition. So, the resistance was pretty fierce. But as soon as children started showing up, as soon as folks started bringing kids down, I think none of that mattered any longer. I think our hearts were all pretty blown wide open. And things started to change.

And I say this a lot, but it’s true, that was at a time in my life when I should have been visiting more delivery rooms, celebrating the birth and arrival of my friends’ and my peers’ children. But there were a few years where I was standing more frequently at the side of a grave where we had buried a little girl or a little boy that we had brought in or that we had cared for while they suffered the end of their lives. And it was devastating. And in that, of course, there were multiple conversions. And in that, everything was turned upside down. I mean being with little kids who are suffering in such unspeakable ways and there being no way to help these children understand or make sense of their suffering, but to just be present, to be a source hopefully of comfort and a companion was a huge honor.

And what it did was it started to change my notions of what sort of mission might have been, right? Because when we’re young, we have this idea that we’re gonna go out there and save the world, that we’re gonna go out there and make the world a better place, that we’re gonna go out there and heal what’s broken in it. But I think as soon as you get close to folks who have been broken by the system, who are on the underside of oppression, who are internalizing injustices, you quickly realize that they’re the folks that we follow to God’s heart. They’re the folks who convert us into the new we, that we have nothing to offer other than validating that the resources they need have always been theirs, have always existed in their lives and communities, and their strength and resiliency puts ours to shame.

“When we’re young, we have this idea that we’re gonna go out there and save the world. … But I think as soon as you get close to folks who have been broken by the system … you quickly realize that they’re the folks that we follow to God’s heart … that we have nothing to offer other than validating that the resources they need have always been theirs.” Chris Heuertz on taking action by being present.

And so, there was a kind of reframing of community during those years. And I try to say this now like a lot of the work that I’m trying to get myself to is helping sort of support those of us who want to be the midwives to the new we, the sort of kind of integrated, honest human community that we know we already belong in but we want to see you find freer, safer expressions to be honest in the world. And I think it was those little kids back in the early ’90s who sort of helped spark even that imagination in me for what I’m up to today.


Defining a Community

Jessica: Well, I love that you brought up community because, I mean, you went on to spend 20 years with Word Made Flesh, which works in more than 70 countries building community among victims of trafficking, survivors of HIV and AIDS, abandoned children. I mean just the small problems in the world. And I know that you have been in different communities throughout that time and have been exposed to different communities. What are the ingredients? How would you define community for kind of our listener that’s listening right now? I mean, I had similar exposure to radical community.

There’s a church called Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC that impacted me as a teenager. And they were all about you live in the city and your mission is birthed from community. And then I went on to live overseas after college. And all of those things impacted me to ultimately do what I’m doing now, which is that I do see entrepreneurship as a solution to helping people emerge out of poverty. But when we talk about community, I still have this idealized view that I honestly would love … Honestly, I could be a communal person. Like "Sister Wives?" That’s not a far reach for me, not a far reach, like I was made for proximity and for community. And yet, I feel like our modern-day world, it is challenging. So, I would love to hear how you’ve taken your sort of radical communal experiences over the years and then translated that to Omaha, Nebraska.

Chris: Well, I think we have to be careful with what we mean by community because I’m afraid that we sometimes kind of fill it up with maybe the wrong notions of what we hope it can become. And then of course, that leads to really unsatisfying experiences. And my teacher, Richard Rohr says, "Every unrealistic expectation is a resentment waiting to happen." And I think what happens for a lot of people is they sort of over inflate what they hope a community will be for them, which it generally never is. And then when they are disappointed by it, they put that on the community. And this is why a lot of us had, yes, such rich and tremendous healing experiences in communities, as well as having probably experienced some of our greatest wounds and betrayals in communities.

So, I think we have to be really clear like we what do we mean by community? And I think this is kind of a used-up, thinned-out word now, because you can be part of your neighborhood association or your condo association, or you can be part of your professional affiliated associations, and that is a kind of community, and actually not know anybody in your zip code, in your building, or your sort of professional colleagues. You can be part of a religious community and not actually have any friends, right? I mean, we live in a time where we walk into auditoriums, we do 20 to 40 minutes of group karaoke, we hear a lecture, pay a cover, and walk out. And that’s a kind of community for some people, but that still doesn’t meet sort of our intimate needs for human connection.

So, I think we have to really be intentional about what is community for you, and what is community for me, and how does communities sort of support our becoming as we contribute to the becoming of others in community. And I am. I actually wrote a book on that. Actually, I wrote a book on the gifts and the challenges of staying because if you stay in a community long enough, there’s inevitable reasons why you will want to, need to, or why you should actually leave. And that’s true in every friendship and every relationship. There comes a time when something comes up, and it’s going to be kind of a crisis, it’s going to be an invitation to either stay or go. And usually, when these inevitable challenges arise, yes, most of us transition out, most of us cycle out, most of us sort of bail and move on to what’s next, which is generally and usually what’s easier. But if we stay and face these inevitable challenges, they become unexpected gifts.

“If you stay in a community long enough, there’s inevitable reasons why you will want to, need to, or why you should actually leave. And that’s true in every friendship and every relationship. There comes a time when something comes up, and it’s going to be kind of a crisis, it’s going to be an invitation to either stay or go. … But if we stay and face these inevitable challenges, they become unexpected gifts.” Chris Heuertz

And so, I think, failure, I think betrayal, I think loss of identity, I think restlessness, I think these are some of the unexpected gifts that community offers us to sort of slog through and to figure out. Because when we feel and experience these challenges, I’m gonna say this, it’s generally not the community and the community that we find the most difficult, it’s a confrontation of our own unobserved, unreconciled, unredeemed humanity that we’re bringing in community hoping that community will remedy. And this is the bummer. I see this with especially a lot of younger folks. It’s like we show up with this sort of subconscious script in mind of a sitcom where we are the main character. And everybody that sort of becomes part of this community is the sort of window dressed, curated, sort of diverse set of friends that will change us, will help us grow up, will help us mature or evolve.

And if that’s what we’re doing, and I believe this is generally subconscious, that we’re not aware of it, then we’re using community even for our own formation, our own maturation, our own awakening. And if that’s what we actually want from our communities, if we’re actually taking from them, then we’re actually the toxic participant. And that’s a bummer for most of us, because we don’t wanna be honest about that. So, yeah, I’m a huge advocate of curating, of diversifying, of developing mature communities with value-based cultures, and levity, and community that’s actually built around friendship. And I think it’s just getting harder and harder. And then I think compounded on that in an age of social media, where we can observe relationships on our terms, where we only have to interact with them sort of in digital spaces. It’s further sort of ill-equipping us to actually participate in real life communities. And so, it’s a tough time out there.


Real Friendships Require Real Effort

Jessica: It is a tough time. And I think you said, it’s gotten harder and harder. And I would say it’s gotten harder and harder because it requires more effort. And we are easy, everywhere people. You know, if it’s easy … We’ve become so consumeristic. And so, we expect community to just sort of happen. We think it’s supposed to be as easy as giving some likes on Instagram. And we aren’t stayers. We’re goers, where it gets hard, we’re out. And that is the opposite of everything that is community. And it is about owning the fact that, gosh, what you just spoke of … I think you used some of the words transparent, authentic, vulnerable, truth-telling communities, that requires an enormous amount of effort.

And it’s that, are you willing to make the effort in a society where effort is … A lot of things in life don’t require much effort anymore, you know? But gosh, so worth it. And I write about this in my book, Imperfect Courage, just there was a time when I was starting Noonday Collection, and I mean, starting a business with three kids, one whom I just brought home from Rwanda, I look back and I’m like, "I don’t know where my capacity … where that came from." But I remember I was in a neighborhood with a lot of friends that were raising littles, and they weren’t working. And I began to tell myself a story feeling very alone. And I would come home for lunch from the office, and I would see cars parked in driveways and tell myself the story, you’re all alone in the world. And which, by the way, I think is a lot of … Enneagram Seven, too, is the scaling that I’m all alone in the world, and no one’s gonna come to rescue me.

“Transparent, authentic, vulnerable, truth-telling communities, [they require] an enormous amount of effort. And it’s that, are you willing to make the effort in a society where … a lot of things in life don’t require much effort anymore?” Jessica Honegger

And so, I started telling myself this story and feeling more and more isolated. And then finally just realized, I could change the script here. And I could actually reach out and build community. So instead of having that consumeristic mindset, I was like, "Well, what can I give?" And I reached out to some of these women and said, "Hey, could we get together intentionally?" And we went through one of Brené Brown’s books, The Gifts of Imperfection. And we met up at the Noonday offices. And every single person, it was like, four or five women, they all said, "I’ve been dying to do something like this."

And that was what changed the script for me was realizing like, this requires effort, you know? And I don’t have to just keep driving by these cars. And also, in the middle of an insane life of business building and family raising, this matters, of equal importance. What matters is real life friendship. And I was just with some of those girls this morning, the same girls that I reached out to, it’s been nine years now, which is crazy, those are the same girls that this morning, we worked out before work. And I’m, like, pouring my heart out about some hard things that are going on. And this requires effort and work. But that’s the benefit. The benefit is connection, which is what we’re actually designed for. So how are you doing real life community, because you have got a lot going on yourself?

Chris: Yeah. So, I’m on about 130 flights a year, actually. And so, I just got back from a trip last night, and I leave in two days again. And that’s been pretty consistent pace that I’ve kept up for about 20 years. And as you can imagine, that creates some pretty unique challenges, coming and going, coming and going, coming and going. And I think years ago, I realized … And look, I’m guilty of this too. If I reach out to somebody, I’m like, "Hey, let’s go grab dinner or coffee, or let’s go catch a film at the cinema," and they can’t. Then I reach out again a few days later, a week later, and they can’t. I usually give people about two or three chances before I kinda give up on them. And it’s just like, yeah, that’s gonna be too much effort. But I’m really, really lucky that there are really, really great people here in Omaha where we live, who actually haven’t given up on us, and who actually pursue us, and understand the life, and the demands, and the strains on our lives.

And so, I’d say over the past … You know, we moved back here in Omaha in 2002. I’d say some of my most richest experiences in community are with friends here in town. And those are our chefs and local news anchors, and I mean, just folks who live really great lives being excellent at what they do, and there’s no pretense, and there’s no posturing, and there’s no flexing. And I’ll say this, these are generally folks who are way outside the nonprofit space. These are folks who don’t share with Phileena and I sort of common faith backgrounds or faith traditions.

But I think all of that actually helps, because I think when you do have kind of unique sense of demands and strains in your life, yes, you need the support of people who understand that, who are sharing your phase of life, tradition or experiences, but I think you also need folks who kinda give you perspective outside of it, and can kind of keep you accountable to some of that, or can actually really appreciate things that should be celebrated, and aren’t impressed with things that shouldn’t be impressed by. So, we’re lucky. We have really, really, really good friends out here. And that’s…

Jessica: But like you said, it took effort, effort and time.

Chris: Yeah, it took a lot of effort. And it took a lot of commitment. And it took a lot of making memories together, and celebrating together, and suffering together. And it took a lot of meals. And I believe that. I believe that when we sit at the table, that’s it. That’s one of the things I think that sort of shows us our shared humanity, because in all the major world religious traditions, notions of paradise is this metaphor of a banquet. And if you can understand that, we’re sort of all being invited into this sort of existential feast beyond this human experience, then yes, there’s something deeply spiritual about sitting at the table, sharing a meal with friends. So, we’re lucky.

And I know that we’re lucky because I know this, I know that, community does not imply friendships that sometimes, the strongest communities are actually the communities that are held and knit together by friendships. But man, I somehow think we started with friendships and community that ended up being built around friendships. And I think that was maybe a correction to the mistake that I had made in my former nonprofit work, which was, let’s start with community and then try to force friendships and community around shared vocational commitments, around shared sort of cause and concerns. And what you would see happen in communities that are formed because of community is that when somebody transitions from them, the friendship generally doesn’t sort of last. Whatever it is that holds community together is what sorta creates scaffolding around notions of friendships. And so, I think we have to maybe also reconsider that at a certain point as well.


Enneagrams and Suffering

Jessica: I’m curious, if I can take this in a real wacky direction that is not even on the questions that I have written down, which is very Enneagram Seven of me, let’s talk about the numbers and how we interact with emotions like grief and suffering according to our number, and what is our line towards health?

Chris: Sure. So I mean, it’s interesting that you would bring this up as a Seven because in particular, you know this, Sevens are the type other than Threes … we would say Threes are probably the most disconnected from their heart, because there’s a kind of repressed heart or a suppressed heart there at 0.3. But Sevens are actually in … literally disconnected from their heart. When you look at the drawing of the Enneagram, you’ll see this. You’ll see that a Seven has an Eight and a Six wing. So that’s a wing into its body center, or its instinctive center, and then to its head or thinking center. And then the Seven has two lines, and one reaches to the One, which is still in the body center, and one reaches to the Five, which is still in the head center. And so, the Seven is the only one of the nine types that actually doesn’t have a natural connection to the heart center. There’s no wing, there’s no path.

Jessica: Yes, I know. I have no heart. I have no heart. That was my…

Enneagram Seven: Reflective Heart

Chris: That surprises us about Sevens because Sevens present as so winsome and warm and heart-forward. And Sevens present as so connected and emotive. And there is a kind of drawing into, let’s say, what seems to be the heart of the Seven that they sort of project out there. But you see what they’re doing in a lot of cases is kind of overcompensating for what they can’t find inside themselves. So, they’re attaching or latching onto outside of themselves, and then they’re mirroring it. And this is one of the reasons that the late Claudio Naranjo, the old gestalt sort of psychoanalyst, this Chilean psychiatrist who came up with Enneagram types used to say, he used to say that the Sevens were the charlatans. That the joke was kind of, like, if they went to an Enneagram workshop on Saturday, the following weekend they would be teaching the Enneagram as if they were an expert.

And that happens with a lot of Sevens. They can pick up. They can internalize. They can own and understand a lot of information and would sort of present it back. Well, you see, they’re also doing that with the hearts of others, because there’s no natural connection to their heart, they attach onto the hearts of others. They latch on to the hearts of others. And in latching on to it, they mirror it. And then mirroring it, they sort of show or present as if they’ve sort of gone into their own.

But you see, the real ache here for the Sevens is that they’re kind of on the run from the pain that’s located in their heart. And because they’re on the run from the pain that’s located in their heart, it’s one of the things that keeps them up. It’s one of the things that keeps them out positive. They have that sort of drive and that ability to initiate. They have that sort of vision to sort of see around the bend. And they’re some of the fastest thinkers out there. And so, when you look at this, I don’t have a connection to my heart. I’m on the run from the pain that’s located in my heart. But I’m gonna observe your heart and mirror it back to you. You see Sevens showing up in the world as incredible humanitarians. You see Sevens showing up in the world as incredible therapists or crisis managers. And this is because they can get really close to suffering. And they can get really close to other people’s pains.

And because they’re actually in their head center, and because they don’t have that natural connection to their own heart, they don’t get emotionally drawn into the suffering and the pain of others. And because Sevens are such great problem solvers and fast thinkers, they make incredible like, I said, therapists, humanitarians. They can see ways forward. They can see alternative pathways. They can come up with solutions for what keeps people stuck, or trapped, or really rooted in their own pain because that’s the habit. That’s the pattern. That’s what Sevens have spent their whole life doing is finding ways out of their pain.

“Because Sevens are such great problem solvers and fast thinkers, they make incredible … therapists, humanitarians. They can see ways forward. They can see alternative pathways.” Chris Heuertz

So, it’s tough being a Seven. It’s a contradiction in so many ways, because you’re so good at observing this in the world. But so many Sevens still need to observe it in themselves. And you see, this is what’s happening with the Enneagram in nine different ways. This is what we’re all doing in nine sort of different sort of strategies, is we’re projecting outside of ourselves what we don’t wanna contend with inside of ourselves. And that’s what makes us really good at how we show up in the world. But that’s what makes it really hard for us to sort of find the breakthrough that we want in our own lives or our personal lives.

Jessica: Yes. Let’s go around the circle and talk about, yeah, suffering and grief, and how it relates to our number.


Enneagram Eight: Silenced Child

Chris: We’ll just go, let’s say, clockwise around the circle following Seven. So, type Eight. So, Eights have this fear of being controlled or being destroyed. And what that basically does to the Eight is that sort of creates this unfortunate relationship with their own vulnerabilities. Or you’ll kind of see this with Eights, the kind of silencing of their own inner child. And you see, what the Eights are really doing here is they’re kind of protecting that tender part of themselves by not letting that inner child show up. And so, what Eights do then is, like I said, project that into the world and try to protect vulnerability wherever they can.

And I hate this about myself, because part of me thinks when I was an international humanitarian for 20 years, and as an Eight, that I even have a choice. As an Eight, was that kind of just what I had to do? But you see, Eights are really good at that. They’re really good at protecting vulnerabilities outside of themselves, because for our entire lives, we’re protecting our own vulnerability, being sort of subconsciously diluted that our vulnerability is actually weakness when it’s our greatest strength. Now, when the Eights don’t know that about themselves, when they’re running from that, that’s when they sort of show up as contrarian. And even though Eights hate bullies, we’re the biggest bully, and you see this, you see the blind spot of the Eight, keeping it disconnected from its own sort of innocence. But you see the Eight out there in the world trying to protect innocents.

Enneagram Nine: Inside Out

The Nine internalizes its own grief, because the Nine’s childhood in the early holding environment, sort of learn to minimize what was important to them. And in learning to minimize what was important to them, what the Nine did was it made everything else important. Everyone else’s issues are more important, and everyone else’s sort of concerns prioritized over their own concern. And so, what this does in terms of how Nines relate to grief or pain is it allows them to show up as, or present as, incredibly empathetic when in fact, there’s almost no empathy in there because there’s no empathy for self.

And so, when the Nine finally comes to terms with their anger, which is very infrequently, that anger is the eruption of their own internalized grief. The sadness that what was important to them all along was never allowed to be important, first by them, but then, secondly, by the people in their lives because we took their lead on it, and we didn’t realize it needed to be more important. And so, you see this with nines that they relate to the externalized … how they externalized grief is really how they’ve sort of suppressed it inside.

Enneagram One: Perfectionist

The Ones kind of relate to pain, and suffering, and grief in the world through a kind of resenting themselves for not being better, for not being the source of alleviating it, for not actually having sort of created spaces where pain should never have been possible. And so you see this as the kind of compounding of the inner resentment that the ones aim at themselves, that as they idealize goodness and perfection in the world, they realize that they’re the first ones who have sort of jarred that goodness out of the sort of space that they’ve tried to sync it up in. And this is the basic fear, the basic fear that One essentially being that they are somehow inherently and irredeemably corrupt. And so, the anger that the Ones sort of show us isn’t true rage, it’s also a kind of sadness. And the sadness is “I wish I could be better because I know what better looks like.” I wish I could actually live into my unrealistic idealized notions of perfection, so the world could be healed. But if I can’t, then nobody has the chance.

Enneagram Two: Transactionalist

Now, the Twos, they just, with this open heartedness, they do give themselves away. And the Two gives themself away because she or he thinks that in terms to be loving, there has to be a denial of self. And in that denial of self, that’s what it means to be present to suffering, to the needs of the other. But for a lot of Twos, this is a kind of self-made trap of giving parts of themself away at their own expense, thinking that love is transactional, thinking that suffering is a trade of, "I’ll take it for you if you can give something back, or validate, or see, or acknowledge my sort of generosity here."

And when that’s not the case, because generally, it shouldn’t be, it creates a different kind of sadness that creeps into the heart of the Two. And that denial then becomes presumption. And that presumption leads to kind of a self-abnegation. And the self-abnegation of the Two is really the fatal trap there, that if they actually think giving themselves away at their own expense is going to heal the suffering they see in the world, they don’t realize that it’s just the source and the cause of their own suffering, which is then a new element of suffering they’ve contributed to.

Enneagram Three: Generous Appraiser

The poor Three, like I said, has the most repressed of the heart centers. And because of that, the Three spends most of their lifetime to fill their heart with sort of proxies or substitutes for love. And this is why Three presents as so ambitious, so driven, so sort of determined to ascribe value to everything and everyone in their lives. And it’s not because that they’re obsessed with winning or losing, success or failures, because they also, just like all of us and in different ways, wanna be loved. You see the suffering of the Three is, “If I don’t have value ascribed, if I’m not validated, recognized, affirmed, or seen, am I really loved?”

And so, when a Three sees suffering, when Three sees loveless, when Three sees isolation or loneliness in the world, that’s why they sort of draw significance out of these ordinary, mundane spaces. This is why they add so much value to their communities and relationships. And that’s why they’re out there trying to solve and create great solutions to the world, because if they can actually earn the love that they’ve always had ascribed, then maybe they can also ascribe that to places where it seems that love is void or lacking.

Enneagram Four: Dramatically Empathetic

Poor Fours are really painfully misunderstood, right? This is the need to be unique. This is the type that sort of suffers this loss of identity, as if there’s no sort of rooted place or origin for it to sort of be cultivated from. And so, because of that, there’s a lot of suffering already taking place in the psyche and the ego of the four. And so, fours are highly attuned and sensitive then to the suffering outside of themselves. Now, people will maybe sort of want to drag the Four on this because they feel like maybe the Four suffers a little too much, maybe the Four is a little too dramatic, or maybe the Four is a little overly sensitive. But you see, the Four’s brilliance is their sensitivity. And really, there’s almost no better person to be present to your suffering than a Four who can validate the contours, and the textures, and the substance behind it. But again, this is because the Fours lived with their own suffering, and this becomes so familiar with it that they’re capable of being sensitive to it and others.

Enneagram Five: Engineer

Now, the Fives, these are the most sort of cerebrally evacuated of all types, and much like the Fours, super misunderstood, because the Four and the Five sit there at the bottom of the drawing in the Enneagram. They’re sort of the guardians of the existential hole, that gap there underneath the circle. And so when Fives observe suffering, when they observe tragedy, when they see lovelessness and pain in the world, what the Five realizes very quickly is they can offer solutions, they can offer ways forward, they can maybe find exit ramps and ways to prevent this. And so, there’s a kind of brilliance, of wrapping structure and theory, and analyzing causes, and solutions here. And this is really what the Fives do to love the people in their lives is bringing that forward.

Enneagram Six: Careful Planner

And then, the Six. This poor Six is also are some misunderstood as sort of the quintessential fear type. But the Six is not a coward. And the Six is not fearful as much as they are constantly threat forecasting and contingency planning. And they’re doing this to keep us safe and secure. And when they don’t see security, and stability, and safety in the world they show up because they’re a kind of guardian. And they will sort of take that for us. And they’ll internalize that for us. And they’ll worst-case-scenario think it through on our behalf. And what I think they’re doing in a sense is maybe trying to subvert our concerns by internalizing the concerns so that when we get there, they’ve already found ways forward, or ways out. But that leads to, for a lot of Sixes, tons of inner anxiety. And it can really lead to kind of anxiousness that sort of derails their courage or their sense of faith.

Owning Our Identity

Jessica: And the fact that I’m even able to ask this question really speaks volumes to how the Enneagram is helping me to discover my own health, because I have been so radically committed to solitude. And your wife’s book, Mindful Silence, came into my life, right, when I needed it. And other books and teachers along the way, I’ve always been … I attended one of Richard Foster’s first ever Renovaré retreats back when I was 21. So those spiritual disciplines, I think, especially for a Seven because they’re about putting in proper boundaries into my life, saved my life. I mean, really saved my life.

And speaking of Mother Teresa, I’ve recently read this, I’d never heard this story before, that Henri Nouwen once asked Mother Teresa for spiritual direction. And she said, "Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring our Lord and never do anything which you know is wrong, you’re gonna be just fine." And I think it brings me back to this idea of solitude and these practices that can all bring … whatever number you are, I think different practices, are going to help anchor you in health. And solitude for me right now is absolutely just … it’s saving me during a time that is I’m walking with people through suffering, we’re going through some times at work that are requiring a certain level of stress tolerance. And I’ve got three kids, two in middle school.

And so, it’s been so good. And I’m curious, when I think about you, who literally carried 50 dead bodies out of a door back in your early 20s, and I know this was before you discovered the Enneagram, how has, as an Eight, how has the Enneagram helped you … When you look back on that time when you were 20 and how you embraced suffering and grief then, how would the Enneagram maybe help you now? How would you have maybe done things differently then?

Chris: Yeah. Well, I think … Look, I wanna be honest here. Like, I actually do believe that the work I did for 20 years was me saying yes to the right things. I do think there was a lot of vocational fidelity and faithfulness. And I don’t wanna sort of reduce myself to a type and say, "Oh, I didn’t have a chance," or, "I couldn’t have helped in any way other than to have done that work." I actually do think that in aligning with my best self, that was some of the best work I could have done, personally. I’m not saying that for all Eights, I’m just saying personally. I think had I known the Enneagram sooner, had I been able to sort of bring that into awareness in terms of how my vocation was expressed and supported, I think I would have hopefully have allowed myself to have been more honest with my vulnerabilities, and more in touch with my own sort of inner child and innocence.

“I actually do think that in aligning with my best self, that was some of the best work I could have done, personally. … Had I known the Enneagram sooner … I would have hopefully have allowed myself to have been more honest with my vulnerabilities, and more in touch with my own sort of inner child and innocence.” Chris Heuertz

And I think without the Enneagram, that was happening. It was in some of the relationships with some of the folks that we worked with who had been trafficked into the commercial sex industry, or had been conscripted to fight in the civil wars, or who were living in refugee camps or slum communities, or in sewers on the streets, that were breaking that down in me, that were opening that up and allowing me to sort of make peace with it. But I think now, having done a lot of sort of inner work with what the Enneagram and type of structure shows me, I am, I think, a lot more sensitized to my own feelings, my own suffering. How I can actually live out of my sensitivities, rather than having to protect them, how I can actually open myself up in friendships and relationships without having to control them.

And like I said earlier, learning to not project outside of myself the sort of healing that I want in the world but really see in myself what still needs to be healed. And so, I love this. Phileena, my wife, says this a lot to the extent that we are transformed, the world will be transformed. And I think actually, like, later in life, I’m realizing that, like, the best thing that you can do to heal the world is to actually bring into awareness what you parked in your blind spots that’s causing you harm, and that’s not actually radically learning to live compassionately and self-accepting, but the projection of all of that.

Jessica: I told you that that would be a rich conversation, and it was. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, I would love for you to share it with a friend. Repost it. I would also love for you to hop on over to wherever you listen to your podcast and give a review, give a rating. It will help more people discover this very important conversation.

Today’s music is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz, and I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.