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Type Three: The Need to Succeed

Enneagram Part Two: Heart Center

Type Three: The Need to Succeed
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Holy Idea: Holy Harmony, Holy Law, Holy Hope

Virtue: Truthfulness, Authenticity

Passion: Deceit [1]

The Three is the central type of the heart group, but this does not mean that Threes manage their emotional world very well. On the contrary, Threes have the greatest difficulties of all the Enneagram types in perceiving their own feelings; at the same time, they are really good at detecting the feelings of other people.

Russ Hudson and Don Richard Riso write:

As children, Threes were not valued for themselves—as very few of us were. Instead, they were valued for being and doing certain things extremely well. They learned to get validation of their worth through achievement and performance. But it never really satisfied them because it was a validation not of them but of something they had done or something they tried to become. [2]

Threes draw their life energy from their successes. Threes are show-people, achievers, careerists, and status-seekers. They are more comfortable in their roles than they are with their True Self, which they scarcely know. They can slip into almost any mask and act the part to perfection because the roles they play protect and motivate them. For Threes, life is a competitive struggle and they want to be winners. Most Threes seem optimistic, youthful, intelligent, dynamic, and productive.

A good friend of mine who is a Three has the nickname Mr. Perfect. Everything he touches seems to succeed. This friend says, “When I walk into a room where there are lots of people, I know in fractions of a second how I have to behave, how I have to appear, how I have to talk to be accepted by everybody present. If I leave the room and go one door down, then I can play the same game and be a completely different person.”

The pressure to succeed that Threes are under leads to their root sin, which is untruth or deceit. In order to win, Threes tend to deal generously with the truth. They seldom tell bald-faced lies; rather, they use subtle nuancing, airbrushing out the problematic side of a project or exaggerating its advantages.

Immature or unhealthy Threes first and foremost deceive themselves. As Riso and Hudson explain:

In the headlong rush to achieve whatever they think will make them more valuable, Threes can become so alienated from themselves that they no longer know what they truly want or what their real feelings or interests are. [3]

At their healthiest, Threes let go of the belief that their value is dependent on the positive regard of others, thus freeing them to discover their true identity and their own heart’s desire. . . . They become self-accepting, genuine, [authentic], and benevolent. . . . When Threes are able to perceive their Essential value directly, they become freed from the ego’s relentless pursuit of self-esteem through achievement. This affords them the time and space to live with a greatness of spirit, a life of love, richness, and wonder. [4]

References and definitions:
[1] Christopher L. Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth (Zondervan: 2017), 120. 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.

Chris’ new podcast, Enneagram Mapmakers: Exploring the Interior Landscapes of the Ego (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), will begin March 24, 2020 on most podcast platforms!

[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), 155.

[3] Ibid., 154.

[4] Ibid., 161, 177.

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2001, 2013), 81-82, 83, 85, 86.

Image credit: Study for the Visitation (detail), Jacopo Pontormo, circa 1528, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: What does the heart bring us if we actually do abide in the heart, if we just let ourselves be still, be here? We feel this exquisite sensitivity and delicacy. It’s like the Body establishes “I am. I am here. I exist.” It brings me to the sacred now moment. The Heart then tastes what’s actually here, with exquisite awareness. The Heart knows the taste, the fabric, the texture of this moment. —Russ Hudson

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