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Type One: The Need to Be Perfect

Enneagram Part One: Body Center

Type One: The Need to Be Perfect
Friday, February 28, 2020

Holy Idea: Holy Perfection

Virtue: Serenity

Passion: Anger [1]

This is my own type, so it’s easy for me to talk about it. I just hope I’ve done enough inner work to be able to present a balanced picture!

Ones are idealists, motivated and driven on by longing for a true, just, and moral world. They are honest and fair and can spur others to work and mature and grow. They are often gifted teachers, but they have a hard time accepting imperfections—other people’s and, above all, their own.

Starting back in their early years they internalized the voices that demand: “Be good! Behave yourself! Try hard! Don’t be childish! Do it better!” It is as if they had decided, even then, to earn the love of everyone around them by meeting such expectations and “being good.” Those demanding voices within them never fall silent.

Type One children have renounced the development of their True Selves to please others (in my case, my mother) and earn the love of people who have sent them the signal “You’re okay only when you’re perfect.” Ones have the childhood driven out of them; too soon they have to act like adults.

The search for perfection is the specific temptation of Ones, and it rules their lives. Ones are always frustrated because life and people are not what they should be. Ones are conscious of duty and responsibility and are often compulsively punctual. They are serious people and seldom tell jokes. They allow themselves relaxation and recreation only when they have thoroughly and completely finished their tasks. But that seldom happens because there’s always something or other that could be improved. Above all, Ones are disappointed by their own imperfection.

Because the world is so imperfect, Ones can be resentful. At the same time, they avoid acknowledging the anger that often motivates them. They simply see it as another form of imperfection. They can barely perceive their own resentments (suppressed anger), but others generally recognize their sin much more readily than they do. That’s one reason why they need to be in fellowship with other people.

The special virtue, or fruit of the spirit, that marks mature persons of any type is always the reverse of the root sin or passion. The fruit of the spirit of the One is cheerful tranquility or serenity. I hope I live there now much of the time.

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson describe the emergence of Essence in Ones:

Deep down, Ones remember the essential quality of perfection. They know that, at a profound level, the universe is unfolding exactly as it must. (As in Julian of Norwich’s famous dictum, “All will be well. Every manner of thing will be well.”) . . .

Staying with awareness releases a profoundly wise and discerning intelligence that illuminates all that [they] attend to. When Ones, through patient self-acceptance and open-mindedness, are able to relax enough to recognize that this quality is, and always has been, available to them, they become the true instruments of the Divine will that they have longed to be. [2]

References and definitions:
[1] Christopher L. Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth (Zondervan: 2017), 113. Chris defines these terms as follows (see pages 246-248):

Holy Ideas: The unique state of mental well-being, specific to each of the nine types, in which the mind is centered and connected with the True Self.

Virtues: Like the nine fruits of the Spirit [see Galatians 5:22-23] the Virtues are . . . gifts of a centered heart that is present, nonreactive, and at rest in the True Self.

Passions: The inverse of the Virtues are the Passions . . . [which] emerge as the heart indulges the Basic Fear that it will never return to its essence and therefore seeks out coping mechanisms that ultimately compound each type’s state of emotional imbalance.

Watch for Chris’ podcast, Enneagram Mapmakers: Exploring the Interior Landscapes of the Ego (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), coming March 24, 2020!

[2] Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types (Bantam Books: 1999), 123.

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2001, 2013), 49, 50, 53, 54.

Image credit: Last Supper Study (detail), Andrea del Sarto, 1520-1525, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Our Intelligence Centers help us hear and invite us to greater discernment. . . . Discernment is our ability to judge what is good, true, and beautiful. Discernment is also the inner knowledge of how to act on that which we perceive. Our use of discernment relies on the clarity of our centered minds, the objectivity of peace-filled hearts, and the unobstructed impulses or instincts of our bodies. —Chris Heuertz

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