Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Write-Up: Knowing Yourself Knowing God

Dr. John F. Shackelford.  Knowing Yourself Knowing God: From an Ego-Run-Life to a God-Run-Life.  2015.  See here to buy the book.

John F. Shackelford is a licensed psychologist.  He has a degree from the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University.

As the title of the book suggests, Knowing Yourself Knowing God is about how people can know themselves and God better.

The part of the book about knowing oneself discusses different parts of the ego, the false self, and various personality types.  Freud, Jung, Myers-Briggs, and the Enneagram feature in this section of the book.  Shackelford talks about the challenges that different personality types can have in relationships.  He also includes links to online tests that one can take to learn about one’s personality type, and he shares personal anecdotes and anecdotes about others.

The part of the book about knowing God is largely about taking a breather, resting, and being receptive to God’s voice.

The third section of the books has stories about people who have come to know God.  They chronicle their journeys and describe their approach to knowing God and hearing God’s voice.  Occasionally, they say where they are on the Enneagram and how that affects their spiritual life.

The book ends with a chart about ego functions. It draws from Freud, and it describes the ego functions and how people can constructively respond to them.

Overall, this is a very informative book.  There is a scholarly element to it, and the stories add a personal element.  The book sensitized me to how early experiences in life can stifle one’s creativity, if one allows that to happen.  In short, what parents or adults say to their kids can have long-term effects, down the road.

The book also talked about being open about one’s anger and concerns, and the problems that can come from internalizing anger.  This is a struggle for me.  I can easily put people on the defensive when I express my concerns, so I often end up not saying anything.  Finding a way to express my concerns constructively is a challenge.  Overall, though, I find that refraining from complaining and not rocking the boat is a fairly workable policy.

Identifying my own personality type was somewhat difficult for me.  Obviously, I fit into the “introvert” category, but am I an INTJ, an INTP, an ISTP, or an ISFP?  I do like abstract ideas, but part of me likes to be concrete.  I think that I both perceive and judge.  I am not entirely cold and methodical, as some introvert-types are characterized as being (i.e., you’re not efficient, so you’re fired).  Maybe I can take the tests, but, even there, I may have problems definitively putting myself into a single category.  Consulting others about how they see me may be helpful, provided I am not overly sensitive about their feedback.

The book could have been better organized, and the various parts could have been better integrated with each other.  The part about knowing oneself and the part about knowing God are largely independent of each other, though occasionally there are bridges: Shackelford talks about how knowing God through meditation on Scripture and listening to God can enlarge one’s soul; how listening to God can temper one’s listening to one’s ego; and how one can respond, as a Christian, to one’s Enneagram.  Largely, though, the book shied away from talking about how the various personality types can honor God, within their own personalities.  The book could also be rather meandering.

There was one line in the book that I especially did not like, but I am not surprised to find it in a Christian book.  On page 115, Shackelford is telling his own story, and he is contrasting the “drivenness and worry” that he felt with the relaxation and hospitality that he observed in his wife’s friends.  He says: “I realized the life I was living would not be a very attractive life to non-Christians.”  Here we go: Christians have to be an advertisement for Christianity to non-Christians!  We have to put on a show for the outside world!  Heaven forbid that people think Christians have flaws, since then they would not be attracted to Christianity!  I am not suggesting that Shackelford goes that far, but the evangelical idea that Christians need to advertise Christianity to non-Christians just seems to me to go against the authenticity and honesty that Shackelford is promoting, and which he exemplifies as he shares his story and his struggles.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash, in exchange for an honest review.

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