Is Self-Discovery Actually Self-Worship?

I thought self-discovery was the best thing I could do for myself. I remember back in Junior High finding little quizzes online that told me what color I was, what my aurora was, what kind of animal I was, etc. At the grocery store I would sneakily flip to the horoscope section of a magazine in the checkout line just to see if that was the week I would find my “one true love.” As I grew older, I was introduced to different personality tests in high school, such as the Myers- Briggs. I had finally found my niche. Finally, I had stumbled across a tool that told me all about myself and put things into words that I had never known how to express.

I began to identify myself based off of what the tests said about me, instead of what I knew to be true through experience, relationships, and the truth of Scripture.

  • The test told me that I was an introvert, so I didn’t ever want to be viewed as “too outgoing.”
  • The test told me that I was creative, so I felt an added pressure to live up to an invisible line.
  • The test told me that I was sensitive, which confirmed in me that I was justified in being overly emotional and erratic because that’s “just the way I was.”

“That’s just the way I am” was a phrase that wove its way into my vocabulary. If I acted out in rebellion, if I spoke harshly, if I was impatient or selfish, I always chalked it up to that just being “who I was” and “how I was wired.”

I believe that personality tests can be extremely useful. The enneagram continues to spike in popularity. I have a dear friend who swears by this magical tool. “They are being SUCH a 7 right now!” she would giggle and say. She was always able to look at someone and take a guess at what number she believed they were. It made me want to study the Enneagram even more. It really can be quite unifying to take a test and in a matter of moments be told who and what I am. After I took the enneagram test for the first time, I began studying the number I had been given. I found a relief that I wasn’t “the only one who thought that way.” For the first time, I didn’t feel entirely crazy for some of the emotions and thoughts I experience because– OH! other people feel that way too! I wanted to know more about who I was and why I was the way I was.

As a woman who is in recovery from multiple addictions, I have bathed in self-discovery for years, especially when I first began my sobriety journey. Therapists had me dissect my childhood. I had to create timelines and collages and different art projects depicting my different addictions and work to uncover the underlying beliefs and concepts I held on to when I was at my darkest. All of this was good and needed. I believe that understanding our roots can help us heal, grow, and move forward. My husband recently challenged me though. As we were discussing sin struggles in our lives, he suggested that my pursuit of self-discovery could come across as self-worship.

“What!? But I’m just trying to know myself better so I can BE better! The more I study myself, and the more I understand why I do what I do, the faster I’ll grow!”

But then I stopped. Wait.

  • I study myself more than I study Christ.
  • I seek to understand my thoughts and feelings more than I seek to know the truth of Scripture.
  • I place more value on figuring out my emotions than on figuring out the savory riches of my Abba’s words.

Where my attention is directed, my worship is soon to follow. Even though self-discovery may be leading me to uncover the unpleasant nooks and crannies of my heart, I’m still more focused on myself. I’m making myself an idol in my own life. I’m actively and passively declaring that I am more interested in myself than in Christ and what He has to say.

Brilliant minds created the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs test and all those other personality tests out there, and I’m thankful for them. But as with anything in this world, good things can become abused things. Good things can become the enemy of the best things.  I think of Colossians 3:1-3 where it says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

I will best understand who I am when I seek to understand who Christ is. A thousand man-made tests can’t explain to me who I am as a child of God, but there is a whole book written about the One who I have been put to death and then raised up with.

It’s often times easier for me to trust and rely on man-made materials to uncover who I am, opposed to looking to Scripture and depending on that as the key source of truth in my life. But I have to stop and ask myself- “why am I trusting the created more than the Creator?”

I certainty believe there is a time and space for self-discovery- and even a necessity. We must examine ourselves and determine what in our lives must be demolished so that we can cling tighter to Christ and better glorify Him. Without self-discovery, we may quite easily (and intentionally) overlook sin in our lives. I can’t, however, justify my sinful choices by chalking it up to the “way I am wired.”

It is a choice to be selfish.

It is a choice to be impatient.

It is a choice to allow the words people say to have such an effect on me.

We have been handed a life full of choices, and we’ve been given great responsibility. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us, “We demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

If we are commanded to take every thought captive, then I promise you God will equip us with the tools we need to be able to do that. No number on the enneagram is an excuse to not “walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”

Is self-discovery self-worship? It certainly became that for me, and I know it’s an easy pit to fall into. The question that needs to be asked is this: Whose words do I value the most?

Our actions will answer that question for us.

The enneagram tells me I’m a 4. The description of this number hits the nail on the head of so many pieces of my personality. “Yes, yes, yes! Me!” I thought to myself as I just went back and read my personality description. I guess I want us get more excited about what Christ says about us than about what a man-made test says.

Christ says we are chosen and dearly loved. He says that we will struggle with many trials and temptations, but they aren’t unique to us, and that there is a way out from those temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13). Christ says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. He says that we are weak, but in Him we are strong.

The accuracy of Scripture, the life-giving, God-breathed words, were in existence long before any test was. I pray that I begin to intentionally worship Christ and His truth, directing my attention on Him, first and foremost.

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