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Self-Knowledge, Sin and a Space to Laugh

Isn’t there a space between “I’ve got it all figured out” and “I need to improve myself?”

Late last year, the Instagram account “Enneagram and Coffee” took the social media platform with a wave of self-aware humour. I got caught up in it too, along with over 300,000 others. Most posts poke a bit of fun at each of the nine different personalities described in the popular Enneagram personality typing system. Wondering how each type would respond to a snow day, fasting for Lent, or an average Monday morning? Enneagram and Coffee has the answers. Day after day, I would race to find my number in the post and then burst out laughing, “that is so me!” A friend would send me a screenshot with a note, “mine is spot on!” It felt good to laugh together about our quirks – to feel seen. I loved knowing that I was a 3, an achiever and knowing that my friend was a 2, a helper. We could start our conversations with: “I was being such a 3 today” or “when you say that, the 2 in me feels. . . .” Our laughter and listening led us to a deeper understanding of each other’s fears and motivations. 

KNOWING GOD
Since the Enneagram accelerates transparent conversations it’s become a widely used tool for Christian discipleship. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile is especially popular amongst church small groups. The authors spend a chapter on each of the nine types, describing each personality’s tendencies towards a particular sin, spiritual gift, work habit, relationship style and path for spiritual transformation. Cron and Stabile concede that, “it’s not infallible or inerrant. It’s not the be-all and end-all of Christian spirituality . . . but it’s very useful.” In the final chapter, the authors delight in the fact that, “every number on the Enneagram teaches us something about the nature and character of the God who made us.” This idea resonates with my reformed woldview. One of the most tangible ways in which I know my creator is through studying his creation. Pastor Michael Johnson summarizes John Calvin’s thoughts on the topic saying, “the knowledge of God and that of ourselves are connected. Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.” Calvin does not say this to equate us with God, but rather to urge us to humble repentance. It is only in knowing ourselves that we know our sin and know our desperate need for a saviour. 

In The Road Back to You, Cron and Stabile argue that when we prize too highly the one dimension of God’s character that we can see in ourselves it becomes an idol. The pursuit of that one quality above all else becomes a sin. Reading the chapter on my personality gave me new language to describe my own sinful heart. Where my prayers of confession used to be “Lord, help me with my selfishness problem.” Now I can say “Lord, today I was more concerned with my own image than I was with loving people. I put success before compassion. Reorder my heart.” My Enneagram loving friends are in on these prayers too. They’ve read my chapters. I’ve read theirs. We all know new and meaningful words to keep ourselves and each other accountable. 
 
PERMISSION TO LAUGH
While I am thankful for the spiritual growth gifts of “The Road Back to You,” I still find myself craving the light hearted posts of “Enneagram and Coffee.” The temptation with some personality tests is to come away relieved to be living with your particular set of strengths or diminished by the work that needs to be done to be a better version of you. Isn’t there a space between “I’ve got it all figured out” and “I need to improve myself?” While I am still committed to using my Enneagram knowledge to better name my sinfulness, “Enneagram and Coffee” helped me see that there is also space for humour in this journey. It’s okay to pause from my self examination and laugh. Laugh at my intensity. Laugh at my hidden laziness. Laugh at the ways I try to win the unwinnable moments of life. 

When my friends get in on the joke, my spiritual growth journey gets a lot less lonely. “That is so you!” they exclaim. Amidst my embarrassment at being seen flaws and all, I have to admit that it does feel good to be known. As we laugh together, we find ourselves in a space where we can exist as neither projects nor achievements. We are fallen versions of who God created us to be, yet our creator delights in us nonetheless. Shouldn’t we join him in delighting?   

Author

  • Meghan is Assistant Editor of Christian Courier and lives in Terrace, BC. She has a degree in History and Political Science from UNBC, but spent most of her time on campus engaging in multi-faith dialogue alongside CRC campus ministry staff. Meghan went on to do a master’s in church history, walk half the Camino, and work as a research assistant in France, before she found her calling in communications. When she’s not going for adventures with her two young kids, Meghan enjoys gardening, board games and crafting.

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