Enneagram: Week 1
Type THREE: The Need to Succeed
Friday, April 29, 2016
THREEs began with the primal knowledge that everything is unstable and passing and that only God endures and gives us the endurance to withstand the passing nature of all things. But, at some point, an experience of wounding convinced THREEs that they are separate from God and Wholeness. This perception makes THREEs think it’s up to them to keep things from falling apart. “I will prove by competence and overproduction that I will not fall apart,” they say, instead of resting in the impermanence and fallibility that they deeply know and now deeply fear. They are afraid to look inside themselves because they feel there is really nothing there. THREEs need endless successes and feedback to reassure themselves against a very honest and realistic insecurity. They are afraid to say yes and cooperate with the dissolution and death of all things unless they reconnect with the permanence and endurance of reality, which is precisely a God-experience, whether they call it that or not.
The THREE is the central type of the heart triad. It’s harder for THREEs to perceive their own feelings than for any other type. But they are experts at reading the people around them and immediately knowing just what role to play to be successful in others’ eyes. They can slip into almost any mask that will please the people around them and act the part to perfection. The role protects and motivates them. They are really looking for praise from outside, because they often feel worthless inside. They identify with their group, organization, or project and they work very hard. They are efficiency experts. THREEs are show-people, achievers, careerists, and status-seekers. They live out of roles much more than their True Self, which they scarcely know.
THREEs are competitive and want to be winners. “I’m good when I win” is their motto. Many THREEs are physically attractive. Most of them seem optimistic, youthful, intelligent, dynamic, and productive. They run circles around others because of their amazing energy. They can sell anything because they first sell you on themselves. Immature THREEs have no longing for depth. What’s the point of depth when superficiality works and when image without content sells? THREEs are extremely pragmatic: if it works, it’s true. The question of objective truth isn’t even raised.
The pressure to succeed leads to the root sin of the THREE, which is deceit. While they don’t generally go around telling lies, they do embellish the truth and put the best face on everything. They create an image that looks good, can be sold, and can win. The person they deceive the most is their own self. They have often been so spoiled by success that in the end they believe everything they do is good and great.
Unredeemed THREEs avoid, fear, and hate failure. When it does occur, they find ways to extricate themselves. Sometimes they polish up their defeats and reinterpret them as victories. Often they blame others. And they frequently leave the scene of the wreck as quickly as possible to plunge into a new, promising project.
THREEs find the way to their gift of integrity only when they take the painful path of self-knowledge and look their life-lies, big and little, in the face, refusing to gloss over them anymore. Since this is insight into their own failure, it is very difficult for them. THREEs who have found their way to truthfulness and authenticity can put their tremendous gifts to work to help other people competently and effectively, motivating them to discover their own potential. Redeemed THREEs manage to organize groups or communities sensibly, expose society’s lies for what they are, and spread the truth in a way that is professional, efficient, and up-to-date. Their sin has now become their gift.
Gateway to Silence:
Open me to Presence.
Adapted from Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2001), 46, 81-82, 85-86, 88.
Is the Enneagram new to you? Are you wondering, what is the Enneagram? How can the Enneagram help me? Which number on the Enneagram am I? Does the Enneagram work? This is just one post in a two-week series about the Enneagram. Click here for an introduction to the Enneagram and links to additional reflections and resources on the topic.