Confession: I'm a Glutton

Dear Matthew,

I loved reading about your enneagram! When I first discovered that I was a Seven, driven by gluttony, I had a similar reaction.

What?!? Gluttony? But I’m not obese!

As I read further along the description, all of it resonated with me.

The enneagram describes gluttony as “an unquenchable appetite for new experiences.”

Busted.

It goes on to say, “The Seven leads a busy life filled with telephone calls, appointments, dates, social engagements, errands, plans and projects. Over-booked and a full plate.”

True. Since I was about three years old. The idea of a “full-plate” is apropos.

And why is the glutton driven to lead a busy life? Because gluttons “Want to maintain their freedom and happiness, to avoid missing out on worthwhile experiences, to keep themselves excited and occupied, to avoid and discharge pain.”

I, too, asked why. The Enneagram says that Sevens often felt deprived by their parents. (Don’t worry mom and dad, it goes on to say that Sevens are so demanding that no parent would ever be able to satisfy the Seven child. In other words, “It’s not you, it’s me.”) However, I did grow up in a home with a very sick sister, and much of life revolved around or was limited by her illness. I do wonder if that played some role. Either way, I can see the seeds of my gluttony way back in my childhood, when my dad’s nickname for me was “Little Bugger” because I was always “bugging” or “pestering” him for something. He would offer me one cookie, and I’d ask for two.

Another thing that came to mind when I discovered that I was a glutton was the fact that I would often ask my husband, “Would you still love me if I weighed 400 pounds?” This question drove David crazy, not so much because he wouldn’t love me if I weighed 400 lbs., but because it seemed ridiculous to him. From his perspective, it was something completely unimaginable. But for me, weighing 400 pounds feels like an ever-present, very real possibility. I have had to have “rules” or “limits” about what I consume for almost as long as I can remember. When I was a child my parents established those limits (ONE cookie!) but as I matured, I established my own. I thought that everyone who wasn’t obese did the same thing! I thought that it was normal to have unspoken rules like I only eat dessert on the weekend, I only ever have one glass of wine in an evening, and I don’t snack between meals. I didn’t realize that all those years, those self-imposed “rules” were protecting me from my own hidden vice.

So my gluttony doesn’t show itself in the realm of food, but as far as a “full-plate” goes, well, in every other area of life, I’ve not been so good about establishing limits.

When I was a Junior in college, my parents came to visit one weekend. Since I was an RA, I had to post my schedule on my door and my dad noted that I had something scheduled every day of the week from 6 am until midnight. Upon returning home, my dad sent me a letter—by post, expressing genuine concern about the hours I was keeping. My response? I was angry. I remember thinking, “What right does he have to criticize me? I’m getting good grades!” I missed the point. I threw away the letter. What I wouldn’t give to have that back. He saw my destructive driven-ness long before I did.

After I got married, David became a sort of “gatekeeper” for me, setting limits, never as a controlling husband, but as a faithful friend. Thankfully, I was somehow able to receive his gentle boundary-setting in the way in which it was intended—as an act of love. But another thing about Sevens is that they often exhaust their partners because those partners are always having to be the ones to set the limits. My husband has the patience of Job, but the truth is, I have and I do wear him out. And he shouldn’t have to be my gate-keeper. It isn’t his job. Unfortunately, my endless demands, coupled with his deep desire to make me happy, often land us in financial difficulty, physical exhaustion, and general unrest.

This is where a Rule of Life has been helpful. Like my eating “rules,” a Rule of Life has helped me to put limits on or establish healthy rhythms for every aspect of my life--from work to play, finances to sex, community involvement to spiritual disciplines. Since I’m a glutton, most of my Rules are limits, such as I stop working every day at 6 pm. But some are positive actions, like I run three days a week and I participate in community prayer every morning.

I’d love to go into more specifics on how to create a Rule of Life, if you’re interested. It has been critical in helping me move from being an unhealthy Seven (i.e. a glutton) to a healthy Seven. In a way, I think a Rule of Life was my way of “stepping into it,” as you so perfectly pointed out. You find healing for your fear of weakness by nurturing your weakness. I am finding healing from my fear of deprivation by choosing certain deprivations.

So what does a healthy Eight look like?

Love,

Jenn