Separating Soul and Spirit with the Enneagram

Chess pieces soul and spirit

Once you learn the nine Enneagram types, you begin to realize that the implications of how your personality rules your life are deep and wide. I realized early on that if your personality is in control of your life, God isn’t.

So, I wrote a book to help other people see this, too. Below is an adapted excerpt from that book, Becoming Your True You: God, the Enneagram and Your Unique Purpose. It launches Friday, April 3, and I hope you’ll hop onto Facebook at 7:00 pm PT for the virtual launch party.

To get a clear understanding of who we are and what drives us, we need to first understand what we’re made of. That is why we need to know the difference between our souls and our spirits.

Let’s start with a look at 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here we have three parts: spirit, soul and body.

This is the most obvious scriptural evidence for our three-part existence, but it’s implied all throughout the Bible. The body’s relatively easy to understand in this equation; it’s soul and spirit that need a bit more investigation.

The Greek word for soul is “psuche,” where we get the English word “psyche” from. Watchman Nee describes the soul as the mind, will and emotions. This is where thinking, imagination, reason and logic happen, as well as judgments about self and others, opinions, preferences and decision-making. The soul is where you get your feelings hurt, get excited, get angry or jealous, and so on.

The spirit (Greek “pnevma”) is the part of you that is eternal, the part that God restores in salvation. This is the part the Holy Spirit inhabits; it’s where the Father and Son make their home in you. Your spirit is your essential nature, the core of your being, your true self. When the New Testament writers talk about us being holy in God’s sight because of Jesus, this is the part of us they’re talking about.

It’s clear that these two parts of us are very distinct. As long as the soul and spirit are intermingled, as is the natural state of all humans, that old-time concept of “mixture” is in effect. You are operating partly from your spirit and partly from your mind. Your perfect, redeemed spirit has to wade through your soul—which is in the process of being redeemed—to get out. And because it’s now filtered, the message or action is no longer pure.

But wouldn’t it be amazing to be so in step with God’s Spirit living in you that the unfiltered beauty and truth that God has deposited in you flow out with ease? Wouldn’t it be awesome to give God maximum glory with your Earth life, powered by God’s Spirit instead of your own good ideas? Wouldn’t you love to be a living epistle so that people see the character of God shine out of you without mixture or muddying?

That sounds wonderful to me – and though I’m far from this ideal, it has become the goal of my life. I know that as long as I’m operating primarily from my soul, though, this can’t happen.

Learning the Enneagram has helped me to see my personality’s patterns in action, take a mental step back and, sometimes, make a different choice. A better choice. I am working toward my spirit being in charge and my soul being in service to my spirit:

The first chapter of Becoming Your True You goes into detail about the spirit/soul issue, using scripture and digging into the original Greek to get at the underlying meaning of words. That’s important, because it forms the foundation for everything that follows. You begin to understand that when it comes to your personality type, you are not responsible for its creation – but you can participate in its transformation.

I hope to see you on Facebook Live!

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