I have excelled at many things and I have always been very driven and disciplined to make sure I was among the top. I have been doing a lot of self-reflection and inner work and have discovered the enormous help of the Enneagram.
While I am attracted to personality typing systems of all sorts, the Enneagram is more than just a personality system, it is a way of understanding oneself, ones struggles, and it provides a way for growth through deep inner work and self realization. In Enneagram language, I am a type 3, but it took me over a year and a half to realize and finally admit that!
Type 3s are driven, ambitious, disciplined and are extremely image conscious. I not only want people to like me, I want them to admire me (which I even feel shame admitting). In The Road Back to You, authors Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron write that average threes “push achieving to overachieving, spending too much time at work or the gym. Highly driven, their need to perform even extends to the time they spend coaching the children’s soccer team or volunteering at church.” I knew I did this, but for the longest time I was unaware that my motives were not always pure. Ouch!
The struggle of type Threes is deceit. When I first heard this I didn’t understand because I pride myself on being honest and could not believe that I would try to deceive anyone. Eventually I realized that my deception is not so much because I deceive others as much as I deceive myself!
What does this look like?
I have acted out many different “personas” in my life. I have played the role of punk skater (with the baggy Jnco jeans and all), Backstreet boy look-a-like (this is just humiliating!), youth pastor, construction worker, professional law enforcement officer, the hipster barista, Rob Bell wanna be, and the perfect stay-at-home dad (“Threes can consciously or unconsciously act the role of the quintessential devoted parent and spouse.”).
Cron and Stabile address this:
In crafting a persona that will impress and perhaps even help them form relationships with high-influence people who can help them get ahead socially or professionally, Threes lose touch with who they authentically are.
It has only been in the last several years that I have come to realize that I often build up a persona based off of whatever or whoever I admire and want to be like at that specific moment; often I am very good at it which only makes it more difficult. For example, when I went through a police academy I threw myself into the world of law enforcement, striving to be the best I could, even though it was completely foreign to anything I had ever done before. It was not a large group, but I made top driver and top shooter of our class. I now recognize that behind this was the drive to achieve and succeed and “to look the part.”
Threes are shape shifters who can switch personas to match the environment.
This chameleon like persona has enabled me to pursue different interests and do well in most of them, but it has left me with a deep sense of alienation. I have felt alienated from who I am or as Thomas Merton would say from my true self. Even as I have pursued pastoral ministry, I continue to struggle with comparison and creating a false persona. The Enneagram has helped me realize that fulfillment will only come through leaning into who I am and not trying to wear a mask or be like others. I am loved by God because of who I am and not what I do. As I continue to settle into this, I have begun to find a more true, authentic self.
As I continue to pursue my calling and vocation, I believe one of the best things I can do is be the healthiest version of myself I can be and to be constantly working on myself. A pastor should be someone who has done a good amount of “inner work,” and is aware of his or her weaknesses, strengths, and pitfalls. This self-awareness brings a lot of humility, and all people in leadership can use more of this – especially those who pastor or lead faith communities where people will look to them for guidance, advice, or direction. The Enneagram is also a wonderful tool to implement in the church environment, as it helps all people realize their own pitfalls and strengths. In the Enneagram, there are nine different types. In most church settings, all types will be present. Each type has strengths and weaknesses that another type does not, so together we can help each other grow and develop much better than we could do alone. It is also helpful for a pastor or faith leader to understand that not every person sees the world the same way he or she does. People are different. They have different lenses, different focuses, different desires, and thus can see the world drastically different from one another.
The role of the faith leader is to help each person on his or her own journey as they grow together in community to help reach out to others. I believe that the Enneagram is one of the best tools to help us grow in self-awareness, and thus become better versions of ourselves.
 Cron & Stabile, The Road Back to You, 130.
 Ibid., 133.
 Ibid., 133.
 Ibid., 134.