IVP - Strangely Dim - The Sins of the Author Are Visited on the Editor

December 10, 2008

The Sins of the Author Are Visited on the Editor

Sometimes when you edit a book, particularly a book of nonfiction and especially a book of Christian nonfiction, you get the feeling that the author has been spying on you. Call me a megalomaniac, but I had that experience today. What follows is a lightly edited pair of paragraphs from a draft manuscript for an as-yet unscheduled, untitled book:

I am an ENFP. If you know the Myers-Briggs personality types, you know that the ENFP is the easily distractible, often zany, poor at follow-through, overly dramatic personality type who speaks in run-on sentences and is apparently personified in the character Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid, which is weird because my college Spanish teacher suggested I take the name Ariel since words that begin with the "s" sound are nonexistent in Spanish and ... See what I mean?

There are numerous aspects of this personality type which make us very poor tyrants. Namely, we are too obsessed with being liked. Add to this the fact that I am a nine on the Enneagram (another personality measuring tool based on your chief sin), and dictatorial leadership becomes nearly impossible. The nine on the Enneagram struggles with sloth, or the need to avoid. In other words, that sound the car is making will probably go away if you just stop listening to it and those complaints about your supervisee will work themselves out eventually if you pretend they don't exist. Nines on the Enneagram have given us such memorable leaders as Dan Quayle and Gerald Ford. No, not the guy who mass-produced the automobile; the U.S. president Rolling Stone magazine called the most forgettable since Millard Fillmore (Millard who?).

I am an ENFP and a nine on the Enneagram who ignores noises in the vain hope that they'll resolve themselves and is mildly obsessed with being liked. The only thing about these paragraphs that I don't identify with myself is the stuff about Spanish class and The Little Mermaid. I think perhaps my phone has been bugged.

It's one thing when something you read that reminds you of yourself is objectively positive--for example, "ENFPs can make friends with pretty much anyone." Ah, that's nice. But that's not what this author is doing here. My dear author is being confessional, and he's implicating me in his confession. How dare he?!?

That's a hidden value of confession, I think. It has a corporate aspect to it that is often overlooked--sometimes even on purpose. When people hear statements that cut a little too close to the bone, they often quickly distance themselves from it: "You're right. I like being liked as much as anyone, but you're crazy about it. You should lighten up." The degree to which a personal confession takes on a corporate life, however, is the degree to which it is prophetic.

I'm reminded of Isaiah's confession in the presence of the Lord seated on the throne: "Woe unto me! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips." If I had been within earshot of Isaiah, I most likely would have said something equally pious such as "Hold the phone, Isaiah! Speak for yourself!" But he was right, and there's no sense denying it once it's out there. Behold the power of confession: it opens the door for a community to better understand itself and its need for the grace and mercy of God.

Confession also, of course, alerts the community to the reality of God's grace and mercy, which is a nice side effect. At my church we offer a corporate prayer of confession, followed by a time of silent confession, followed by the passing of the Lord's peace. We wind up being the hands of Jesus for each other, speaking the words of Jesus to each other--"Peace be with you"--in the immediate wake of our acknowledging our failings in the company of one another. Behold the power of a community of faith: in case you forget, you're reminded that God is love, and sins are forgiven.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at December 10, 2008 2:45 PM Bookmark and Share



I am an INFP, which is very close to your results, and therefore can relate SO much to what you are saying. I can't get my ENTJ husband to realize that sloth, distraction, and poor follow
through are part of the package for which he signed up. Ha. Thanks so much for reminding me of the power of confession and for reassuring me that my confession about time management in my small group last week was really appropriate and a reason to pray.

Comment by: Carolyn Strafford at January 16, 2009 9:35 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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