Manual Illusive Secrets: Discovering the Power of Self-Honesty

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Add to Wish List failed. Remove from wishlist failed. Adding to library failed. Please try again. Free with day Trial. Are you an author? Help us improve our Author Pages by updating your bibliography and submitting a new or current image and biography. I reconnected with someone like this not long ago. His ministry fell apart when he cultivated a relationship with an old girlfriend on Facebook, and began secretly meeting with her.

He resisted the wilderness of grace, at first. He scrambled to save his marriage and ministry. But he had a wise community. They held him firmly, in painful love, and showed him a desert path. They knew this Facebook affair was just a symptom of deeper unhealth. He completely left ministry, quit social media, and gave himself to the work prescribed for him, which included finding a completely new way to make ends meet. His church entered into a hard season of honesty, as well, mindful of its need not just to grieve but to address what allowed this pastor to slowly spin out-of-control.

His marriage is healthy. Seven years into the work, he suspects he has another seven to go. He says that for the first time in his life, he feels like Jesus smiles at him. Apparently they are, as I wrote about in a short piece on The Twelve called The Year of the Enneagram in which I share some reflections, positive and challenging. That said, I do have some thoughts. My gut-level experience of reading his piece was that skeptics of the Enneagram would be immediately reinforced in their skepticism, and that concerns me.

Not once in his piece, by my reading, does Joe describe the enormous significance of the Enneagram as a way of understanding sin and the deeper motivations which drive us to disordered desires. Our origins story and flood story, among others, were common pagan myths re-narrated for a new and better story.

Moreover, who of us can read Augustine without the shadow of Plotinus looming, or Aquinas without Aristotle? A more generous origins story of the Enneagram would do a deep dive into the writings of Evagrius, Cassian and Gregory, showing how this modern-day tool is deeply reliant on a Christian theological tradition which viewed sin with a deadly seriousness and refused to settle for moralistic, sin-management techniques.

As I teach it through the lens of Augustine, Evagrius, Cassian and others, it reveals our sin as deadly passions, to use the ancient word. Theologian Wendy Farley writes,. The Enneagram helps identify our passions as false self or selves , a pseudo-identity which keeps us at a distance from our core identity our true self in Christ. The Enneagram is clearly dependent on this orthodox spiritual tradition. This is unhelpful. In a time of identity politics, it probably feels like the last thing we need is another label-maker.

“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”

It raises the stakes in our conversations about how we hurt ourselves and each other. Is this a research-based finding or an observation? In fact, those who are older are the great role models of how to use it wisely and well! Joe and I may run in different circles, but in my experience lay-evangelicals have been open and curious. This may simply be a difference in context.

Over-simplication leads to quick typing. Wisdom leads to a slow process of self-discernment. Our deadly passions become so intertwined with our personalities that it is often hard to discern false self from true self. Again Farley writes:. Thus, the Enneagram, properly used, offers a slow process of self-examination meant to invite us to a larger conversation about our stories and our forms of self-sabotage, not a quick and convenient typing tool. In the end, Joe leaves his readers to discern personally whether this tool can be a helpful pathway for self-knowledge.

I appreciate that. I suspect Joe would agree that self-knowledge is of supreme important to the Christian.

I needed a strong anchor for this work. I am suspicious of quick and simplistic appropriations of psychology, and I hope that is evidenced in my books and other writings. Rightly used, I think the Enneagram is a gift to the church. If you are interested in a process that does this slow, wise work of self-knowledge, I commend to you a wise Christian and Enneagram coach Beth McCord. My friend AJ Sherrill has written a book and leads retreats, and his connections to spiritual practices as well as his pastoral wisdom is significant.

Resist the gimmickification of the Enneagram Yes, I made up that word. Joe, if you read this, thanks for your measured piece. I hope this is received in the spirit of thoughtful and charitable dialogue among Christians. Intellectual critiques of church as Empire are powerful, but it often takes experiential learning for change to happen.

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There might be a quiet advocacy for marginalized women, abuse victims, or the silenced, but it felt like nothing would ever change. Even in my early experience of a supposedly-accountable Presbyterian context where polity was a friend, the systems preserved the powerful and the influential. If there is to be a great emergence of some kind, a new reformation, a dying-and-rising of a new kind of church and a new kind of Christianity, the moment is now — at least for the American church. Revelations of scandal and coverup in the Catholic church have been trickling out for years.

Televangelists have been exposed as counterfeits. But these were not enough to shake us, evidenced in remarkably quick restorations inspired by a cheap form of grace. The church is waking up to the nature of systemic sin, the embedded narcissism of institutions, the impotence of those called to govern and hold leaders accountable. Narcissistic leadership in the church is especially toxic because, unlike politicians, we tend to believe that the pastor is saintly.

Narcissistic pastors are adept at waving their magic spiritual wands, putting those that follow them in a trance. It is gaslighting, plain and simple, as followers, staff, and leaders question themselves well before they question the omnipotent pastor. When the thread is pulled and the systemic narcissism begins to unravel, the wake-up can be abrupt and deeply painful. This experiential crisis is the only hope for lasting change in the church.

When scandal hits Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, we take notice. But when scandal hits Willow Creek and Bill Hybels, we wake up. It hits us in the gut. Bill Hybels? Willow Creek? The thread has been pulled, and we are all beginning to see the toxicity of narcissistic systems. Our illness has been exposed and the watching world has taken notice. The sins of Hybels are not just his, but an entire system is implicated — other pastors in the system, governing leaders in the church, allies outside the church, and more.

Academic conversations about a great emergence or the end of Christendom have made for interesting conversation, but Willow Creek is our moment of experiential learning, our opportunity to die a painful death to our collective ego, grandiosity, celebrity worship, and more. Willow Creek is happening in small rural churches, suburban multi-sites, and city center churches, in black churches, liberal churches and evangelical networks.

It protects the powerful, mocks and silences victims, and covers it all in a shiny spiritual veneer. Our collective disease. This is an experiential moment of reckoning for the Christian church — for Catholics and Protestants, for progressives and conservatives, for each of us. What about us even craves narcissistic systems and leaders? Why is our American culture a perfect petris dish for narcissistic systems and leaders? How do our structures and systems cultivate this quick-spreading virus? Our addiction to success, to grandiosity, to winning has gone unchecked.

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We forgot that we were followers of a suffering servant, bearers of the Cross, participants in a cruciform story. Willow Creek became the ultimate how-to-do-it-and-succeed counterfeit story. Again, it revealed a lot about us. Their story reveals ours. How might you begin? The little boy is terrified. Tears well up as he folds his arms and starts rocking. Everyone is looking at me. His heart races. His jaw clenches. His face burns with a fire that reaches up through his chest and wraps itself around his head, squeezing.

Everyone is looking at me, and it feels so good.

Illusive Secrets: Discovering the Power of Self-Honesty

Adrenaline releases like lightning through his tense body. The little boy fades as he commands the stage. They love me. The little boy or little girl lurks within each of us. Our fears lurk within. Our shame lurks within. A sense of deficiency lurks within. If we are relatively healthy, we befriend our fear, our shame, and our deficiency, becoming an integrated person. If not, we flee from these emotions like threatening strangers, living instead from a contingent self, polished and put together, disconnected from our core, true self where God dwells. But while this contingent self feels the momentary bliss in its detachment from the inner storm, it is in truth not free at all but stuck on never-ending hamster wheel, acting out the same script day after day.

The myth of Narcissus tells the story well.

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While the story is often told as a tale of excessive self-love, it is precisely self-love — a healthy self-love — that Narcissus was lacking. It is instead a story of being stuck, immobilized, fixed in a death-dance. In his youth he ran free, hunting in the forest, loved and desired by young women. But he would let no one touch his heart. Such is the wound of shame. One who is ashamed cannot connect. He is untouchable. Narcissus finds himself thirsty one day and makes his way to a clear pool for a cold drink. It is in the water that he sees his reflection, an image so striking that he reaches in to embrace it.

But the image is lost when the water is disrupted, as it is with each future effort, leaving Narcissus all the more desperate. Immobilized, he pines for the image which will never return his love, eventually succumbing to the neglect of his basic needs. People often think of Narcissus as the symbol of excessive self-regard, but in fact, he exemplifies the opposite.

As the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino observed in the s, Narcissus did not suffer from an overabundance of self-love, but rather from its deficiency. The myth is a parable about paralysis. The youth, who first appears in restless motion, is suddenly rooted to one spot, unable to leave the elusive spirit.

As Ficino remarked, if Narcissus had possessed real self-love, he would have been able to leave his fascination. The curse of Narcissus is immobilization, not out of love for himself, but out of dependency upon his image. Narcissus becomes dependent on his image. He is trapped in a vicious narcissistic feedback loop. The name Narcissus comes from the Greek narc, which means numbness, a kind of stupor. It is the sting of addiction Narcissus experiences. Healthy self-love would have motivated him to befriend every wounded and weary part of himself.

Self-contempt motivated him to search in vain for what he thought he needed to live, only to die from neglect of what he really needed.

But even this story is not without hope, for out of the death of Narcissus emerges a flower. Everyone is capable of a redemption story, and every redemptive story of a narcissist is a story of death to resurrection, death to ego-centricity and resurrection into vulnerable intimacy with God and neighbor.

Perhaps this was the story of King David and St. In one sense, narcissism is an addiction to self — not our True Self, hidden with Christ in God, but a grandiose, entitled, part of us that takes over like a rogue sailor who declares mutiny. One who is diagnosably narcissistic is out-of-touch with their deepest core, inaccessible, immobilized, incapable of real intimacy. They inflict pain on those closest to them because they cannot love, because they are not living in Love. But I learned a long, long time ago not to forget that God is in the business of redemption stories.

Even after multiple toxic experiences with narcissistic men that left me angry, cynical, and at times plotting creative plans of payback and revenge, something in me refused to let the story of judgment overcome the Story of Hope. Etty Hillesum, however, had no such privilege. Her captors and would-be murderers were her enemies, and yet her own deep union with God and newfound intimacy with Jesus did not allow her to write anyone out of the Story.

These words from her breathtaking journals pierce me every time I read them:.


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At the age of 30, James experienced a profound transformation of grace that left him in a state of complete and total surrender. That awakening experience propelled him on an intense journey of self-discovery allowing him to understand and integrate all aspects of the experience into is his daily life.

In the years that followed he experienced a series of inner transformations that shifted the direction and purpose of his life. Each experience brought a deeper sense of peace than the previous and enhanced his devotion and willingness to share what he was experiencing with others. James' awakening has been a real-word process dependent upon the suspension of judgment by looking directly at the suffering our judgments bring us - an experience that emerges from willingness and self-honesty.

He uses an enriching blend of teaching styles and traditions and draws on his education, skills as a training and development professional, personal experience and humorous insight as the foundation for his sharing and teaching. He offers himself as a guide to others ready to rediscover their inner peace through one-on-one mentoring sessions, books and audio, presentations, groups , and workshops. Visit his web site www. LinkedIn Public Profile. Follow Jim on Twitter. FaceBook Fan Page.

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