Enneagram 3: We Need a Good Dose of Inaction


Healthy Enneagram 3: Healthy Type 3’s are hard workers whose strength we can rely on. They see a future we can’t, and it’s often optimistic. They can get more done in a short period of time than most other types while balancing their work life and their rest. Their self-worth lies within rather than in the goals they set and reach. They can be just as easily as they can do or think.

Unhealthy Enneagram 3: Unhealthy 3’s equate their success with their self-worth. Unable to see past their own actions, they further repress their feelings in order to avoid engaging the shame of failure and the emptiness of success. They become deceitful, saying and doing anything to be seen as successful, or at least not as a failure. They will create enemies so as to avoid attention being brought to the ineptitude they cannot admit.

Healthy Stress Move to 9: When healthy Type 3’s feel stress (which feeling stress is a win in itself), they know to unplug and rest. From there, they can see their own worth and give an honest assessment of themselves. They can choose where to put their energy without apologizing for choosing not to accomplish everything within reach. They are OK if success belongs to others.

Unhealthy Stress Move to 9: In an unhealthy move to 9, Enneagram 3’s will simply numb out rather than intentionally rest. They may choose busywork rather than meaningful work. They will become increasingly defensive about their actions out of a fear of feeling shame. They will be lethargic and will self-accuse for being unable to be as effective as they are accustomed.

Enneagram 3’s and Grief Enneagram 3’s struggle with grief because there is nothing to do or think in grief. There is only to be, to acknowledge emotions that have been repressed, and to resist the inclination to be strong rather than vulnerable.


COVID 19 and Church Leadership

Enneagram 3’s are the workhorses of ministry, and churches have rewarded them for being that person. They cast vision and then provide the strong back on which to reach that vision. They come up with ideas, inspire volunteers to join them while they set an exemplary work ethic. They’ll tell you they’re not keeping score but make no mistake, they know the numbers. They’re also going to be confident regardless of what the numbers may say.

Enneagram 3’s are the reason we have church planting movements, mega- churches, small group multiplication. They are also a big reason why we are obsessed with measuring church. They may look to membership, number of volunteers, tithing, or how many hires have been made to the staff. Whatever the measure, the church has done amazing things when Three’s have inspired others and shown them the way.

While rewarding all of that strength, churches have developed a weak muscle among disciples – reflection and stillness. A healthy Enneagram 3 who is leading a church will both recognize her own shortcomings in being still and feeling what is happening while also acknowledging that she is likely not the one to lead that effort in his church.

COVID-19 is an opportunity to choose not to do that which represses the anxiety and too easily solves the feelings of helplessness. We need healthy 3’s who will insist that we slow down and who will give us things we can do AND things we can let go of. We need their strength because there is a lot to do, and we need their self-restraint because there is much that needs to not be done in post-COVID world.

What if, rather than a list of things we can do once our pandemic eases its intensity, we had a list of things we chose not to do, ever again? What if we saw some of our action for what it is – hollow and self-serving? Enneagram 3’s who are living in authentic space can lead us to identify those, acknowledge our emotional attachment to them, and then set them aside.

Three’s, here’s a few questions for you:

What is it you feel compelled to do? Name the feeling that drives that compulsion, and be careful not to give a feeling that sounds suspiciously like an action.

What is yours to do? What are you taking up that others could do? What are you doing that doesn’t need doing in this moment?

How does this pandemic make you feel? Use this moment to carefully consider what anxiety feels like, when it occurs, and how you respond.

How and when are you feeling lethargic? What are you doing to compensate? Acknowledge that feeling to others; stop and choose not to act.

Are you certain about what needs doing and needs doing right away? Great. It will still be there to do after you’ve chosen to sit with that for a time.

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