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.