Book Review: Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage
I got my copy of Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage the day it dropped, both because I try to stay on top of emerging Enneagram literature and because I wanted to provide a review in a timely manner.
First of all, the book is beautiful. If you’re wondering why a paperback has the regular price of $25 (as of this writing), it’s because the book is full-color, with a great interior design. As I’m preparing my own book for publication, I notice things like that. In Part 2, for instance, each Enneagram type has its own colored section.
In this book, Beth McCord, aka Your Enneagram Coach, and her husband, Jeff McCord, are quite transparent in discussing the communication difficulties that caused a lot of grief in their marriage. They pull back the curtain and cite specific fights they had to illustrate the points they are making. They are to be commended for that. It shows a real humility and desire to help others, whatever the cost.
The first chapter is called “Assumicide” – what a great word! I don’t know if they invented it, but we all know immediately what it means. The authors give some great examples of assumicide from their marriage and how damaging and unproductive it can be.
They go on to talk about their own courtship and marriage, as well as how they came upon the Enneagram. Then they give a summary of each type for those who aren’t familiar with the system. They speak of how the Enneagram can act as a “rumble strip on the highway,” another great image, to show you when you’re veering off course and into the relationship danger zone.
Next, the authors discuss childhood messages for each type. It was refreshing to see a whole chapter dedicated to this topic, because it really drives home how important they are in terms of understanding what triggers us.
“As adults, we can find it enormously helpful to look back on our childhood (particularly when we know our Enneagram type) to help us further understand why we interpreted events in a particular way. It is also beneficial to see if we interpreted events correctly or misinterpreted them based on our understanding of our Type’s perspective and interpretations. This new awareness will also enable us to see how our Type’s perspective is still impacting us as adults and the stories we tell ourselves.”
That’s good stuff. The next chapter is about communication, and what I think will be really valuable for couples is the section on clarifying questions. Rather than committing assumicide or asking yes/no questions, spouses can learn to be curious and ask questions that get to the core of the issue at hand.
There are a couple more chapters on conflict and hope, along with what it takes to become our best selves. Then Part 2, the Enneagram Roadmap, begins. It’s what I’d call a quick field guide for each type. What’s most helpful here are the conflict style, communication tendencies and “Understanding Them” sections. If you know your spouse’s type, you can get a quick run-down of how to recognize when he or she is “activated,” how to improve communication and how to relate to him or her in a conflict, among other things.
There are two issues I have with the book, the first of which I wouldn’t bring up if I didn’t think it were such a big deal. In the introduction, the authors make it very clear, repeatedly, that it’s God who changes you, not the Enneagram:
“But if you hear nothing else, please hear this: The Enneagram is an insightful tool, but the Gospel is the transformation.”
My experience doesn’t bear that out. I’ve attended classes with people of all faiths and no faith, and the Enneagram work they do transforms them. Most of my primary Enneagram teachers are not Christians, yet they are living lives of incredible freedom and transformation.
That’s because the Enneagram is just true. It’s how our brains work. It applies to all people, irrespective of faith. It’s like gravity: it applies equally to all people, whether they believe it or not. Some indigenous peoples who have never heard of the concept of gravity still benefit from it every minute of their lives.
Now, that’s not to say that God doesn’t transform people. I’ve had plenty of healing and transformation in my life, both before and since learning the Enneagram. Curiously, the paragraph right above the one I just cited is one I can absolutely get behind:
“The Enneagram became a tool for our growth and sanctification in Christ. Though it’s a great tool by itself, it’s an exponentially more powerful tool in the hands of God shaping us than it is in our hands alone.”
I say “curiously” because I can’t see how you can go from saying the Enneagram is a great tool in God’s hands to saying “Only God transforms.” Or why you would feel compelled to make that statement.
The other issue is that the references to Jesus are a bit…overwhelming. Another reviewer said that these non-stop insertions of his name were sometimes cloying, and I’d agree. The audience for this book is Christians, since the subtitle clearly states that this is about creating a Gospel-centered marriage. So, Christians don’t need to be sold again on Jesus. If the book falls into non-Christian hands, I can’t imagine those folks not finding the extravagant use of “Jesus Christ” anything but irritating. The authors seem a bit confused about their target market, then. Or perhaps they were worried about the anti-Enneagram naysayers in the Christian community and were trying to make it REALLY clear where they stand.
Aside from these two points, I think this can be a really valuable book due to its specific application to marriage. As the Enneagram becomes more mainstream, Christians who have begun to learn it will find practical tools in Becoming Us that can bring real healing to their marriages.
Have you read the book? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments below!
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.