As I’ve shared in the past, the Enneagram is a tool that has helped me to better understand myself and how I view both God and the world around me. It has given me language for things I already knew about myself, but had been unable to verbalize. It also helped me feel normal, knowing I’m not the only crazy one out there constantly thinking about how to make all things better.
It also has helped me in my daily life. I’ve began to realize that I’m looking at the world through a particular lens, and not everyone has the same outlook. As I learn about how others are motivated, it helps me to have greater understanding and more compassion. And as we love people more intentionally, it changes us too.
I was first introduced to the Enneagram by a spiritual director, and following that session, she sent me home with The Enneagram by Richard Rohr. I’ve read parts of other books about the Enneagram here and there, but this one remains my absolute favorite.
However. I would not give Rohr’s book to most people as their introduction to the Enneagram. Rohr’s book is pretty heavy and very detailed. It’s not for the person who is just wanting to learn a little more.
Instead, I’d recommend Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron’s new book, The Road Back to You. It’s an accessible, easy-to-read introduction to the Enneagram.
What I liked about this book:
They acknowledge the Enneagram for what it is: It’s a useful, but not perfect, personality-profiling system that helps us to understand ourselves better. They aren’t crazy, Enneagram-pushing people. They think the Enneagram is incredibly useful in helping people know themselves in order that they can love themselves and others better.
They simplify the complexity of the system without losing much. Wings, stress, and security numbers are sometimes difficult to explain well, but they introduce the concepts well.
Stabile and Cron dedicate one chapter to each of the numbers. In it, they focus on the important:
- What a particular number looks like when they are healthy, average, and unhealthy.
- The number’s dark side, or how this personality type struggles.
- How this number might have looked during childhood.
- How this number interacts with others (relationships, at work, etc.)
- The wings for this number
Most importantly, they dedicate a section of each chapter to the spiritual formation of each number. What does it look like to pursue God? What needs to be let go or worked through so that you can allow God’s grace to penetrate the places you’ve closed Him off to? I LOVE that they give 10 spiritual transformation practices to each number.
Where it left me wanting:
The description of each number is fairly heavy on the negative, or dark side. They do this because it’s in the description of the dark side that most of us have an “ah-ha!” moment. And while I understand that, the chapter on my number left me feeling defensive and a bit bad about myself. They warned against this in their introduction, but I think it would have been better to add more positive attribtues in addition to the negative, especially because they are committed to the idea that “the Enneagram should only be used to build others up and help them advance on their journey towards wholeness and God. Period.” Well, I know that’s what they meant when writing this book, but if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought my number was the epitome of an immature, nit-picking human being who is annoyed with the world.
On the same note, I think they didn’t give an entirely fair description of my number. I’m a 1, which is the Perfectionist or the Reformer. Stabile and Cron chose “perfectionist” which has a slightly different focus than if one chooses “reformer”. I highly identified as a 1 when working with my spiritual director and when reading Rohr’s book. However, I’m not sure I would have as quickly identified with a 1 if I was only reading this book.
They describe 1s as perfectionist, detail-oriented people who care deeply about whether there’s a misspelling in a PTO newsletter or if someone squeezed from the middle of the toothpaste. I care about neither. In fact, I tend to overlook or not even see those small details, because I’m often looking at the big picture. I’m much more interested in making the world a better place through organizational reforms, spiritual formation of people, and helping others to love more deeply.
I do often ask the question, “How can I make the world a better place?” (a common 1 question), but I care about the answer as it relates to how others can be be living a more love-filled, God-oriented life, I could care less about how someone loads a dishwasher.
BUT, I know that this is a primer, and that they can’t include everything. I’ve ran this book by a couple of friends who are different numbers, and they were pleased with how the book reflected their number.
If you are interested in learning about the Enneagram at all, this is a great first book. Stabile and Cron gave a sweet gift to the Christian community- an accessible, funny, informative book that places the Enneagram in a space where it can easily be translated into our spiritual formation practices.
Maybe you’re asking- should I read this book even though I’ve been listening to their podcasts? I was wondering the same thing. Wouldn’t it be all the same information? It’s really not. The podcast gets to the characteristics of the numbers for sure, but I think they focus more on their guest than on getting to the nitty gritty details of each particular number. This book gives the information you need all in one place, with more details than the podcast offers.
Thanks so much to IVP for providing this book as a review copy!