The Gospel According to an Enneagram Three

Enneagram Threes find their value in how others perceive them, especially in regard to what they do and accomplish.

For this reason, we Threes are very goal-oriented. We tend to be the people you call to get something done. We adapt to situations so that you will still think we are great even when we aren’t. We avoid failure like the monster from the great deep, and we love to win and succeed.

As you might imagine, this persistent need for others to affirm our value to the world through our actions does have its pitfalls.

For example, I can turn anything into a competition. My poor children can confirm this unfortunate fact.

At one point when they were younger, I noticed that it was taking us an extraordinary amount of time for all of us to get into the car and get our seatbelts buckled in the morning. So I did what any Three would do, I turned it into a game that someone could win. “Come on, girls! The first one to get their seatbelt buckled will win!”

After several weeks of this game, and the oldest consistently winning, my youngest decided to bring Jesus into the whole thing. On that morning, once again the oldest had buckled her seatbelt first and yelled, “I’m first! You’re last!” And the little five-year-old smarty pants replied back to her, “Oh yeah? Well, in Sunday school they taught us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. So I guess I’m the real winner.”

Alas, we were back to the mornings when it took 15 minutes to move from the door to pulling out of the driveway. You can’t argue with Jesus.

So, on the one hand, maybe that should be the gospel according to the enneagram Three. It’s not about being first, but being last. It’s not about being served, but serving.

In all honesty, I can even turn the gospel into something to win. It’d be easy to convince myself that if I serve enough people, I get to be last and I get to win. And I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.

As a Three, I have to be reminded constantly that the gospel is not about what I do, but who I am.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I will still notice every time Jesus says to serve others, love others, pick up my cross, bring the kingdom near, help those in need, invite more people to the banquet, and so on. And I will try to do it all.

But the gospel I need to hear is that Jesus loves me no matter what. Even if I don’t accomplish it all, and even if there are some people who don’t think that I’m awesome, Jesus loves me for who I am, not for what I do.

In John, Jesus teaches the disciples, saying, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (15:9).

Jesus continues after that and teaches that if they will keep his commandments then they will remain in his love (v. 10). But, frankly, I don’t need to keep reading after verse 9. Someone else might need to know that doing something, keeping Jesus’ commandments, is the way to remain in his love, but that’s something that I’ll do instinctively. So when I read this passage, I commit the cardinal sin of not reading the whole context and I stop after verse 9. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” is what I need to hear and know.

It may not be the gospel according to the Enneagram Three, but it is the gospel needed by Threes. We are loved and our life’s spiritual struggle is to remain in that extravagant, divine love rather than try to earn it.

If you are a Three, try one of these ideas to help you find interior peace to live in God’s love:
• Spend 24 hours completely alone. Because we find our value in what others think of us, spend some time with no one except yourself and God and begin to find your inherent value as a loved, divine image-bearer.
• Intentionally fail at something (nothing major). For example, if you are bad at ping-pong, force yourself to play against someone who is really good so that you’ll lose. See if you can find joy and peace just by participating in an activity that you know you won’t win.
• If you practice centering prayer, use “love” as your centering word.

Meredith Stone is Assistant Professor of Scripture and Ministry at Hardin-Simmons University and Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, Texas.

Find other posts in this series here.

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