Date read: 08.24.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 10/10.
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When I first mentioned that I was reading a book about the Enneagram, I was greeted with a mixture of shock and startled disquiet. “Doesn’t that have something to do with the satanic pentagram?” a friend asked me. I simply smiled in reply but found the comment rather silly. The author does admit the “curious theory of unknown origin”: “No one knows for certain when, where or who first came up with the idea for this map of the human personality. What is clear is that it’s been a work in progress for a long time.” But amidst the mystery and prevailing Christian distrust of the Enneagram’s dubious origins, the author, Ian Cron, a priest and a therapist, sheds new light upon the Enneagram, an ancient personal-development tool that’s received increased attention over the last several years. Michael Hyatt, the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of several books, is an outspoken advocate of the power of the Enneagram. “GM, Sony, Adobe, HP, Toyota, Motorola, even the Oakland A’s have used [the Enneagram],” Hyatt says. “I’ve been using it for over a decade, first personally and then professionally. It’s the single best tool of its kind I’m aware of.” Perhaps a view of the Enneagram is skewed only through the perspective of each particular author of this topic. Some have drawn strange (humanistic and pluralistic) conclusions. However, this book does justice to this powerful personality tool. Fear not! This book is definitely worth a read.
The perfect starting point for this book’s content may well be John Calvin’s famous words: “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.” This statement is by no means overly humanistic. If we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God, I believe that He takes pleasure in His children as we seek to understand better the glorious nature of His creation. The author guides the reader in a similar manner when he asks, “Do we really know ourselves? How much does our past interfere with our present? Do we see the world through our eyes or through those of the children we were? What are the hidden wounds and misguided beliefs we pick up as kids that continue to secretly govern our lives from the shadows? And how exactly would wrestling with questions like these help us better know God?” The Enneagram helps by detailing nine basic personality types—Achiever, Helper, Loyalist, Challenger, and so on—and showing us where we fall as individuals. Other assessments come close to this—DiSC, Myers-Briggs, and Strengsfinders to name a few. But the Enneagram beats them all. The author’s ultimate goal simply stated is this: “May you learn to see your self with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”
“The Enneagram teaches that there are nine different personality styles in the world,” the author says, “one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type or number has a distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves.” The nine personality types that the Enneagram reveals are highlighted in each chapter, accompanied by their corresponding “deadly sins”. In other words, the author provides healthy, average, and unhealthy descriptions for each personality type. He then expounds upon each personality type, i.e., “ones as children”, “ones in relationships”, “ones at work”, corresponding “wings”, stresses and securities, and spiritual transformation for each style. I felt like this book was mysteriously describing the intimate details of my personality. It was a bit startling! I also easily recognized which personality styles corresponded to friends and family. “The purpose of the Enneagram is to develop self-knowledge and learn how to recognize and dis-identify with the parts of our personalities that limit us so we can be reunited with our truest and best selves, that ‘pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven,’ as Thomas Merton said. The point of it is self-understanding and growing beyond the self-defeating dimensions of our personality, as well as improving relationships and growing in compassion for others.”
The author describes at length each of the nine Enneagram personality types. As stated above, he paints a picture of each type via the lens of descriptive story. This book feels like a mirror. While reading I caught glimpses of my own tendencies and idiosyncrasies and was compelled to grow in the areas where I lacked health and wholeness. I laughed at certain descriptions and cried at others. This book moved me and I felt compassion for others blossom within. One might consider this less a creative aspect of the book than an inspired one, but I feel the two go hand in hand. One of Webster’s definitions of the word “creative” states: “marked by the ability or power to create.” Surely that is the sensation that this book elicits. It inspires the new growth of God’s good creation in the human personality. Rather than woefully sinking into the status quo, I was encouraged to become all that God intended for me to be. The author says it well: “One of the things I love about the Enneagram is that it recognizes and takes into account the fluid nature of the personality, which is constantly adapting as circumstances change.”
There is, at times, a much-appreciated mystical tone in this book. We are, in fact, dealing with the human psyche and thus a mystical aspect should be expected. Body, soul, spirit—we are more than meets the eye at first glance. I came to treasure the layers of personality as I grew more conscious of its depth. The language that the author uses is both down to earth and yet carries a transcendental air. Page after page I stumbled across many gems that awoke me to the deeper heart of God’s creation. “The true purpose of the Enneagram is to reveal to you your shadow side and offer spiritual counsel on how to open it to the transformative light of grace.” The author consistently returns to the spiritual challenge to “know thyself” and thus grow into the fullness of the person God intended you to be. He goes on, “Once you know the dark side of your personality, simply give God consent to do for you what you’ve never been able to do for yourself, namely, bring meaningful and lasting change to your life.” Mystical language like this peppers the pages from cover to cover and thrusts the reader forth with newfound motivation.
I, like Michael Hyatt, have taken all kinds of personality tests and have found the Enneagram to be in a league of its own. The unique nature of this personality gauge reveals the whole man as God intended him to be. This I found both thought-provoking and comforting. It was not just another examination of personality. Rather, it was a gauge of human wholeness in relation to a holy God. It also reveals the multifarious nature of God and His desire for humankind to reflect Himself. The author says, “Part of the Enneagram’s goal is to help us relax our paralytic grip on that one dimension of God’s character so we can open our hands to receive the other characteristics of God our clenched fists will not allow.” My prayer thus becomes, “God, reveal to me Your intentions for me. Give me the grace to become the man you intended for me to become and reflect Your glory to those around me.” I end this review with the following statement from the author: “We most delight and reflect the glory of God when we discover and reclaim our God-given identity, with which we lost connection shortly after our arrival in this fallen world.”
10 POINT RATING
I give The Road Back to You a 10/10.