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Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

The Enneagram (Part 1)

Type Three: The Need to Succeed

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Three is the pure compulsion of the heart space, because even their wings (Two and Four) are heart based. Threes are the most disconnected from their own feelings and the most in tune to the feelings of a group or audience. The very young Three knew, like a healthy Six, that all things are passing and their only real security is in God. But gradually, through the encouragement of others for their many natural talents and good looks, and the praise of others for their accomplishments and wins, reliance on God is replaced by reliance on their own competence and effectiveness.

Threes have a strong need to succeed, and they often do. Their self-esteem comes from competence in the outer world. They thrive on praise, recognition, and admiration. They can play whatever role any group expects of them. Their root sin is “deceit” (embroidering the truth so it will sell!), and first of all they deceive themselves. They are so wrapped up detecting the feelings of others in order to embody the expectations and values of whatever group they are in, that they are totally out of touch with their own true motivations and needs for affirmation.

Threes create a superficial image that looks good, can be sold, and will win. Most Threes seem optimistic, youthful, intelligent, dynamic, efficient, and highly productive. But often there is a terrible, deep fear in Threes that they would not be loved if they were not successful.

Threes find their way to their virtue of truthfulness only when they take the painful path of self-knowledge and look their life-lies in the face. Their conversion is often precipitated by a major failure. Their “fall from grace” in others’ eyes is actually a letting go into God’s grace and unconditional love. They return to their Soul Child and find their true identity and strength grounded in the Lord (Isaiah 40:31) like a healthy Six would do. Mature Threes are able to use their tremendous gifts and energy to help other people competently and effectively, and to motivate them to discover their own potential. Much would not happen in the world if we did not have Threes. America is an Enneagram Three country, and many of our recent presidents and nominees for the presidency are Threes. They fit into the American self-image of “can do,” and they look good while doing it.

Adapted from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective,
pp. 46, 81-89
and The Enneagram: The Discernment of Spirits
(CD, DVD, MP3 download)

Gateway to Silence:
I want to see all—my sin and my gift.


Interested in hearing more about the Enneagram?

Richard Rohr’s The Enneagram: The Discernment of Spirits
is a great way to get started.


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