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Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

The Enneagram (Part 2)

Type Four:
The Need to be Special

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Everything I am writing here, including the description of each Enneagram number, is a broad generalization using different common traits. The important thing is to get to the energy behind the traits. Not every trait will apply to each person, so forgive the generalizations you will read throughout this series.

Four is the conflicted number of the heart triad (Two, Three, and Four). Their Soul Child is the One. They try desperately to create an outer world of beauty and symmetry because they originally knew themselves to be an essential part of a perfect and whole world (Ones have the need to be perfect). Perhaps due to painful experiences of loss in childhood, the life of Fours is shaped by longing. They look forward to the day when the great love will come (back), and they are convinced this great love will redeem them.

Fours may blame themselves for experiencing rejection or privation, and so they consider themselves “bad.” Fours trapped in themselves may repeatedly produce situations in which they are rejected or abandoned. Fours have to be depressed or suffer from time to time in order to be happy. The greater the pain and depression, the more creative Fours can become.

The root sin of Fours is envy. They immediately see who has more style, class, taste, or talent than they. Inside a Four is a child struggling with feelings of inferiority: “I don’t deserve to be loved. I need to make an impression so that I’m not overlooked and abandoned again.” Fours strive to be aesthetically attractive, to be exceptional, to be creative, or to appear eccentric. They long to be authentic, but seldom allow themselves to fully enjoy it when it happens. “I will be special” is the mantra of the Four. Their whole life is a search for authenticity. Children, nature, and everything that radiates originality awaken in them the longing for simplicity and naturalness that they lost at some point.

Fours have lived through all the emotional spaces and experiences from agony to ecstasy. They know all the nuances of feeling and understand the human soul better than anyone else. A purified Four can deal sensitively with real life—and not just with imaginary dramas. Working for peace and justice is good for Fours. In this they have to deal with the dirt of the world, which cannot be aesthetically transfigured. Such social commitment also helps them return to their One Soul Child.

Fours put their gifts to work to awaken a sense of beauty and harmony in their surroundings. They are highly sensitive and almost always artistically gifted. They are capable of transforming the negative and experiences of loss into something beautiful and universally valid, be it a poem, a song, a work of art, or an action of civil disobedience.

The gift of redeemed Fours is equanimity or emotional balance. If they can admit that they live in God and God in them, their soul will come to the deep authenticity and balance that they have longed for. They will finally know their True Self.

Adapted from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective,
pp. 46, 98-103, 107-108, 111
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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Promotion valid through June 7, 2014; coupon cannot be applied to previous orders. Coupon valid only for the MP3 format; it does not apply to the CD set. One coupon use per customer.

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