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Know thyself, know God

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The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
InterVarsity Press

Review by Nathan McCorkindale

 

Can a personality test make you a better Christian, husband, friend, or co-worker? I have benefitted greatly from the insights that come from the Enneagram. It has helped me better understand my wife and how to support her better.

The Enneagram is having its day. There has been a huge resurgence in this ancient way of classifying personalities. Into an increasingly crowded field of books, Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile offer us their book The Road Back to You. Cron, an author, songwriter, counsellor and Anglican priest, and Stabile, a teacher and cofounder of Life in the Trinity Ministry, do an incredibly good job of making this sometimes complex topic into a humorous and very practical introduction into the world of the Enneagram.

“For centuries, great Christian teachers have said that knowing yourself is just as important as knowing God. Some people will say that’s feel-good psychology when actually it’s just good theology,” Cron quotes one of his spiritual mentors.

Cron says better understanding yourself makes room for God to speak into your life. He reflects on Bible teachers and pastors he’s known who have “blown up their lives and their ministries, often on an epic scale, because they didn’t know themselves or the human capacity for self-deceit.” He’s also seen Christian marriages “fall apart largely because neither spouse understood the inner splendour and brokenness of their own souls.”

John Calvin is famous for declaring that “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.” The Enneagram is a tool for that transformation.

More than once since discovering the Enneagram, I have found myself discovering new insights into myself, answers for why I am struggling, and why often I keep dealing with the same issues. I have clearly sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to me through aspects of the Enneagram to move me into greater holiness and personal health.

This is what I think is so valuable about the Enneagram. And Cron and Stabile do an excellent job presenting the Enneagram from a solid Christian perspective that helps us understand ourselves, the sin we are most likely to be tempted by, and some practical insights for what we need to change to grow closer to God.

And here is where I see the biggest difference between Enneagram and something like the Myers-Briggs test. In Myers-Briggs you receive your personality type and you are, for example, an INFP and that’s it. Now you understand yourself better, but where are the steps on how to grow? To become more healthy in your personality type?

In contrast ,with the Enneagram, you discover your number which tells you about your needs, your cravings, and the deadly sin associated with your number.

For example, a seven is most prone to the sin of gluttony, not just a gluttony of food, but for experience, enjoyment, life. This isn’t itself bad, except that it is often used as a coping mechanism. Furthermore, sevens may live as eternal Peter Pans without growing up emotionally.

This does not mean there is nothing you can do, it does mean however, now that we become aware of our masking, pretending, coping, we can deal with those issues and become healthier, holier, people.

People often have trouble placing themselves with a number. In reading and sharing The Road Back To You with others, I found that Cron and Stabile don’t provide the best framework for discovering your number. The book also has numerous characteristics of each type that many people I spoke to don’t actually relate to.

That said, there is certainly enough in each chapter to help you understand yourself, your co-worker or spouse better. While somethings may not ring true for the reader, most often they seem to hit it out of the park, which can leave you with an uneasy feeling that they have been reading your mail. (Or, at least, that’s the case for me!)

The Road Back To You is a great read for anyone who wants to grow in their knowledge of themselves and how it affects all your relationships. I would also highly recommend it for anyone who works other people. It has the potential to give you a whole new understanding of the people you interact with on a daily basis.

[Nathan McCorkindale is currently serving with MB Mission’s Global Servant program in Guadalajara Mexico.

6 comments

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6 comments

Warren Jones December 4, 2017 - 09:01

When a crisis comes the “Enneagram Paradigm” will be irrelevant. Christ in the unique brokenness of each personality will suffice. I wonder what every Christian did before this postmodern systematic phycology? Christian phycology is the book of Proverbs plain and simple.

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Steve December 5, 2017 - 17:15

I am concerned people in the church do not understand the origins of the Enneagram. It was developed largely based on the platform of G I Gurdjieff, author of “Beelzebubs Tales”: and represents a new age eastern mystical invasion into the evangelical church at exactly the time when we should fight against it. It is really no different than astrology or horoscopes, which I myself was once deceived by due to their slight of hand and seeming relevance and even accuracy. Please look up its origins. It reminds me of what the great prophets warned against. Isaiah 2:6 “You, LORD, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs.”

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Nathan McCorkindale December 6, 2017 - 13:43

Steve, the roots of the Enneagram go far past Gurdjieff. It has been shaped and molded by Christians for even longer than Gurdjieff’s influence. Even if it was only Gurdjieff as Christians we could still seek to redeem his work and insight, just as we did with Greek Philosophy, Freud, and a thousand other streams of philosophy, psychology, and theology that have shaped the church today. One of the things that I really liked about this particular book is the thoroughly Christian perspective presented here.. You are incorrect in lumping something like Enneagram and astrology and horoscopes together. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Enneagram is. There is no gazing to the stars or looking for any outside source for guidance or wisdom. There is no asking spirits for insight or wisdom. It is actually a particularly unspiritual exercise. Rather, the enneagram is helping us grow in our self awareness. This is something that comes only from within. In this way it is no different than a Myers-Briggs personality test. I personally have no fear of such a thing, because I know full well that I am a temple of the Spirit of Christ and that I have a new heart and new mind given to me by my Saviour. A tool that helps me look inward, rather than seeking external forces or insight is completely different. Grace and peace your brother in Christ.

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Dora Dueck December 7, 2017 - 10:46

I agree with Nathan; the Enneagram is simply a tool. Does it have human origins? Yes, as do any personality “schemes” that categorize the diversity of humans. I remember when I was a youth–the four temperaments of ancient origin was a very popular help used by Christians. The Enneagram was very significant to me at one point more than two decades ago, in which I came to understand why I felt so “settled” in some work I did and so quickly “unsettled” in others (I’m talking church positions) even though people pushed me to them. It helped me see the ways in which I characteristically went downhill within myself, and the truths by which I could grow. My only caution would be trying to figure out others or fit them into the E., it’s a growth tool for oneself. And though I haven’t read this particular book, I found too that there some books were not very good at helping one understand their “number.” I think Riso was the best on that.

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Harold Reimer March 19, 2018 - 13:49

It deeply grieved me to find such a book as ‘The Road Back To You” favorably reviewed in our MB Herald.
The research I have done since becoming aware of the Enneagram and the push for its use by Christians some years ago, invariably brings one back to its occultic origins, as Steve reminds us.
I understand Nathan, you believe that it (the enneagram) has been shaped and molded by Christians for even longer than Gurdjieff’s influence, and that may be so. My concern, in regards to that possibility with what I have come across, is that I would want to very carefully qualify “christian.”.
Not christian, in the sense that I would allow them to teach in the Church I pastor.
Not christian in the sense that I would allow them access to influencing my children and grandchildren.
I am puzzled. Where does the Scriptures encourage us to seek to redeem his (Gurdjieff’s) work and insight, or Greek Philosophy, or Freud, and a thousand other streams of philosophy, psychology? Col. 2:8 tells us, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Our source for self-understanding and moving towards maturity and Christ-likeness, is God Himself and His Word.
Any road to sanctification, to Christ-likeness, that bypasses Christ Himself – is a dead end and counterfeit.
This by-passing Christ is evident in that this “tool” can be used with supposed benefit by anyone, regardless their beliefs about God. It is no less dangerous, in that its overtly occultic side has been muted and its presentation sanitized, or even “christianized.” “For Satan himself is transformed [as] an angel of light.” Nor is the pragmatic argument of being helped by it – prove its legitimacy, for we are warned by Scripture and forbidden to dabble in such (Deut. 18:10-11).
I wish I could say otherwise, but brothers and sisters, we are told to test all things, and only hold fast to what is good. This is not one of those things. http://www.solasisters.com/2011/05/what-is-enneagram.html

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Kevin K March 20, 2018 - 15:20

I dare you two to get together and have an in person conversation about this and write about it in the Herald.

Kevin Koop

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