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Thoughts from "Self to Lose - Self to Find" by Marilyn Vancil (Part 1)

I am not interested in using the Enneagram as an excuse for my deficiencies. Nor am I am interested in it, if it shows me new ways to fix my old problems. Trying to fix myself isn't going to work. The machinery is faulty and no amount of oiling is going to fix it. I need new machinery.

As I continue to examine the Enneagram, I am in constant scrutiny. Does the Bible say this is true? Is this true of me and those I know? And does this lead me into a deeper faith in Christ?

Marilyn Vancil's book, Self to Lose - Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types, has done a marvelous job not only explaining the Enneagram, but how the Bible views this information. I hope to share some of her wisdom here as well as add my own thoughts to it.

Vancil uses the Enneagram in the context of Luke 9:23 (NASB): "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Similar language is found in the gospels. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25 NASB)

The Enneagram has widened my understanding of what it means to lose and find my life in terms of "false" and "true selves." Vancil says we have "two identities at the same time, one that is pretend and one that is true" (Vancil, 28). This sort of language reminds me of Paul's language in Romans. He calls it the life ruled by the flesh and the life ruled by the spirit. The flesh or pretend self is "the self that tries to meet our own needs by our own striving. It's the persona we want others to see to ensure we receive love, find worth, stay safe, and maintain control" (Vancil, 49).

We create this pretend self in early "childhood to protect our tender lives. These play an essential part in our human development to ensure we survive and blossom" (Vancil, 36). I think of this "pretend self" as the manifestation of being born without the Spirit of God. We start life disconnected from the one who meets all of our essential biological needs: "security and survival, power and control, affection and esteem." (Keating, Thomas as cited in Vancil, 38).

In an attempt to meet our own needs, we learn to take on this persona that we "believe we have to be in order to survive and have our basic needs met" (Vancil, 27).

Some protect themselves by becoming this tower of strength. Others withdraw into their own minds. Others perform to gain the approval of their peers. Others are always preparing for the worst. Some are fiercely loyal, and some are fiercely distrusting. Some ignore their own needs, and some strive to always be the givers and never the receivers.

Since we have fashioned this persona to ensure that our life brings what we want and need most, we cling to it long past its value to us . . . It turns into defensiveness and resistance. It's the source of anger, fear, and shame. It causes us to bristle and brood, worry and fret. We clamor for attention and validation. We are discontent. We exert power and manipulate. We are independent and stubborn. We become attached to our strengths and minimize our shortcomings. We lose track of our real purpose and strive to please. We sometimes act as if, and even believe, the whole world revolves around us. 
Basically, the fruit of our made-up persona is self-centeredness, self-reliance, and self-protection. (Vancil, 40)

To have faith in Christ is the opposite of this self-centered state. It means we trust Christ for our value, our protection, and our strength. That doesn't means we never do anything to protect ourselves, exercise strength, or add value to society. It means whatever we do, we do out of security in Christ.

Two people might be doing the exact same thing, say stocking their pantry for a possible power outage. One might be doing it out of fear of protecting themselves; the other is doing it because they, led by the Spirit of God, are loving their family. One is striving; the other's yoke is easy and burden is light. It's the motivation that makes one action a work of the flesh and the other a work of the spirit. It all depends on the state of the heart. Is the heart relying on itself or God?

The 9 Enneagram types are like 9 ways of looking into the heart to see why we do what we do. Vancil likens it to a microscope.
This model is unlike any other personality typology. It taps into our deeper story, going below the surface of outward behaviors, social styles, strengths and weaknesses, traits and talents. It sheds light on our inner motivations, ardent longing, and deep sufferings. It reveals the filters through which we view life and how these influence the choices we make. (Vancil, vxi)
The Enneagram model also shows us the unique ways we can reflect God when we are walking in the Spirit. I particularly like the terminology Vancil uses for this:

Used with permission by Marilyn Vancil from Self to Lose - Self to Find, Pg 65

I particularly like this terminology because this highlights our worth. This was something I struggled with in High School. Why do I matter? What's so special about me?

I think that I, when walking by faith and not my own striving, am capable of displaying a unique part of God that no one else can. How cool is that? I believe this is true of everyone. And because God is so deep and rich and multi-faceted, everyone's ability to do likewise doesn't diminish the radiance of God in me.

On the flip side, each of the 9 Enneagram types can distort this image of God in them when relying on their own strength to get things done, attain value, and stay safe. "As long as we believe we must prove ourselves worthy of esteem, we must ensure our security, and we must maintain control, God's transforming work will be limited" (Vancil, 41).

Thus the Enneagram 1's try to establish their own system of right and wrongs apart from God. The 2's give of themselves to stay above others and gain affirmation. The 3's perform to acquire esteem. The 4's get lost longing for depth. The 5's withdraw to conserve. The 6's make plans to preserve themselves. The 7's keep the fun times rolling to protect against sorrows. The 8's dominate to stay in control. The 9's do a self-disappearing act so they don't have to deal with their own needs.

This is a rather crude description of each type. There's far more to them than this, but I don't plan to go into detail here. The goal of each person, though, is to look at these attempts to self-fufill and say, "This is not me. This is the old self. I don't need this anymore. God will protect, provide, strengthen, and give me value."

More to come . . . (See Applications from Self to Lose - Self to Find)

Keating, Thomas. The Human condition: Contemplation and Transformation. As quoted in Marilyn Vancil's Self to Lose - Self to FindA Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types. Enumclaw: Redemption Press, 2016.

Marilyn Vancil Self to Lose Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types. Enumclaw: Redemption Press, 2016.


Patty said…
This is really great, Abby. I definitely need to get this book! The Enneagram is new to me, and I've wondered how it fits into our walk with Christ. Thank you for sharing!!

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