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Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

The Enneagram (Part 2)

Type Eight: The Need to Be Against

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Eight belongs to the gut triad. Their Soul Child is needy and vulnerable—a little Two. The Eight’s primal knowing was that God was warmth, food, protection, empathy, relationship, and total understanding of how needy we all are. Early on they discovered that the strong rule and the weak are repressed, so they decided to be strong and powerful, taking on God’s work themselves and trying to protect the vulnerable and defenseless.

Immature Eights deny their own inner vulnerability. “I will never cry. I will make others cry,” they say. They are perceived as the most negative type and can be cruel, rude, and unkind. But don’t be put off by that; just remember there’s a vulnerable, tender little child inside of all that bluster. Eights are so much softer and kinder than they appear! They have a passion for the poor, the weak, and the oppressed, and like Mother Teresa, a mature Eight, take on the best qualities of their Soul Child, the Two.

The core need of the Eight is the need to be against. Eights oppose you and like it when you fight back. This is their indirect form of intimacy. They think that because they like a good fight, you would, too. The aggression of Eights comes from the gut and is directed against everything they perceive as hypocrisy and injustice. Revenge and retaliation are how immature Eights try to get the scales of justice back in balance. For them, “Whoever isn’t for me is against me,” and the world is divided into friend and foe. The worldwide phenomenon of terrorism comes out of the energy of “retaliative justice,” or vengeance, which is often the way of the immature Eight.

It is very important for an Eight to look powerful and to be in control. They have a hard time admitting mistakes, because that could look like weakness. Because Eights know their own strengths and immediately see the weaknesses of others, they elevate themselves above other people. When you’re really poor, helpless, and weak, the Eight’s protective instinct is aroused, and they will do anything to assist you. But as soon as you express in any way that you have power, Eights will prove that they have more power than you. You will seldom win a dispute with an Eight.

The root sin of the Eight is lust, but closer to the German word lust, which really means passion. Only the encounter with truth can set them free. Eights, who demand honesty from the people around them and who immediately unmask dishonest behavior, must learn to demand this of themselves as well. They must recognize and acknowledge the innocent, vulnerable, and distressed child in their own soul.

A redeemed Eight, who has accepted his or her own weakness, will find that the positive side of lust is the gift of passion, passion in the double sense of a powerful love of life and the readiness to suffer for justice. Redeemed Eights, like Martin Luther King, Jr., can be larger than life and can protect others with their power and vitality instead of dominating them. More than any other type, well-developed Eights have the gift of leading other people to their real potential. They are “tiger mothers” and “tiger fathers” for those in need.

Adapted from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective,
pp. 47, 162, 163-164, 166, 167, 168-169, 170, 173, 176
and The Enneagram: The Discernment of Spirits
(CD, DVD, MP3 download)

Gateway to Silence:
I want to see all—my sin and my gift.


Interested in deepening your
understanding of the Enneagram?


The Enneagram and Grace: 9 Journeys to Divine Presence,
a presentation by Richard Rohr and Russ Hudson,
explores the power of the Enneagram as a spiritual tool.


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