The Virtue of Type Three: Veracity

Part 4 of 9 in the Enneagram Virtues series.

The Enneathing You Need – Fall Enneagram Workshop Series in Chicagoland starts this Saturday! Here are the workshops:

  • October 5 – “Intro to the Enneagram” (Beginner)

  • October 19 – “Understanding the Three Intelligence Centers - Head, Heart, and Gut” (Intermediate)

  • November 2 – “The 27 Subtypes of the Enneagram” (Advanced)

Plus, as a newsletter subscriber, use this code to get $5 off any ticket: EYNSUB


The Virtue of the Type Three is “Veracity” but you’ll also see it called “Honesty” or “Authenticity.” All three of these terms have their strengths and weaknesses.

“Honesty” fits as the opposite of the Vice of the Three (“Deceit”), but to me it connotes a sense that Threes are inherently dishonest, which sounds more nefarious than their chief compulsion of Deceit. I also find “Honesty” implies that truth without diplomacy is a virtue, which I don’t believe it is. (Picture the defensive person’s retort, “I was just being honest!”) In fact, the Christian tradition says of such blatant “honesty” that Truth without Love is meaningless. And the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that if you speak the truth in a way that the listener can’t hear, it’s no longer the truth.

“Authenticity” is nearer the mark, for me. But in the Enneagram world, this apt description is often mixed up with the Type Four’s compulsion and path of growth since that type is known for searching for the authentic but never quite finding it.

“Veracity,” on the other hand—although an uncommon word today—has many of the connotations that we want. It’s clearly related to truthfulness, squarely in the realm of the Three, and an obvious Virtue to the Three’s compulsion of Deceit. Deceitful how? My teacher Fr. Richard Rohr shared the story of a Three who would come to him in spiritual direction and say, “Don’t let me bullshit! Don’t let me bullshit!”

What Threes Are Fighting

Because, of course, Threes love to “bullshit.” (Excuse the borrowed phrase, but it’s too perfect not to use repeatedly.) They do this mostly on an unconscious or subconscious level. After all, Threes aren’t really known for telling tall tales or being compulsive liars.

But Threes do occasionally “bullshit” on a conscious level. No matter the level on which it’s happening, this “bullshit” has an expanded definition. The compulsion of Deceit isn’t outright lies per se—that would be too obvious. Instead, Deceit encompasses a broad range of activities: outright lies—yes—but also lies of omission, exaggeration, avoiding accountability, putting your best foot forward (and hiding the other one), attempts at filling voids, shape-shifting, being unaware of your emotions, and not trusting others with the real you, warts-and-all.

Again, Threes are often unaware that they’re living this way. But they are.

Many Threes internalize early on (often from a caretaker) that they must earn love. The Ones sense this earning in moralistic terms: to be good enough. Threes sense this earning in terms of success: to have achieved enough. To have added enough value to their person.

It’s an incredible burden to feel you must, in some way, perform your whole life. “I’m only as good as my last performance” is the lie the Three naturally believes. (In this way the compulsion of the Three is Deceit for others but also themselves; they desperately want to themselves buy into the self-image they’re selling.)

The Three believes she is inherently without worth apart from what she does. The Three sadly attempts to compensate for not sensing intrinsic worth and the true self by manufacturing something of worth: achievements. A false self. (You can see how the Enneagram is a tool for compassion.)

The Power of ‘Veracity’

“Veracity” comes from the Latin veracitas. It’s related to the same root that’s in the word “veritable,” which has a lovely definition: “being in fact the thing named and not false.” Allow me to give a modified definition for the Virtue of Veracity as it relates to the Type Three: “being in fact the person who is actually there, fully seen and fully valued.” It’s a truthfulness of the Three’s very being. Veracity is such a strong antidote because, like all of the Virtues, it lets the type “off the hook” for maintaining the fruitless and bankrupt worldview it has. Just as getting to take off the armor and realx into vulnerability is liberation for the Eight, getting to step off the achievement hamster wheel into unearned worth is liberation for the Three.

A life void of “bullshit” is a truthful life. Truthful how? Truthful in what I am presenting to others and to myself. Rather than wearing a mask entitled, “the person who …” the Three can simply be. To believe that you are what you do is a burden too great to bear. And it carries within it the inherent belief that the Three is somehow separate from everything around it—an outside, separate self acting on the world to produce something of value.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Veracity, in contrast, affirms the inherent connectedness of the Three to all of reality. Rather than an outside agent acting to create value, the value is already present through the mere fact of the Three’s existence—a beautiful, infinite, indestructibly linked part of the whole. The Three is connected to all of life, and it is from being present to this truth that the deepest levels of engagement and the true self emerge for the Three.

When accessing Veracity, the Three can actually experience for himself that no value is missing. With Veracity, the Three recognizes that any distortion of reality—any attempt to embellish or “improve” on one’s contributions and self—is a gross and unnecessary disservice. What parent would show up to their child’s recital and play Rachmaninoff on their smartphone, hoping to disguise the child’s true music? It’s precisely the child’s music as it is—just the way it is—that moves the parents to tears. The Three living into Veracity is like that. It’s not that Veracity means being okay with being less; it means seeing that the undistorted you is actually more than what you could ever hope to manufacture through effort or recognition.

The Gift of the Mirror

In attachment theory, one of the main internalized questions people ask in their relationships is “Am I lovable?” The Three seems to be living a life dependent on creating something lovable, which is to say, by having something lovable rather than being someone who is worthy of love.

“What is there to love about me, really?” thinks the Three.

The Three’s energy is attuned to the question of being lovable. (I have a theory that the whole right side of the Enneagram focuses on asking, “Am I lovable?” while the left focuses on asking the other key question: “Can I depend on you?”) If, like the Three, you don’t really believe that you’re worthy of love simply by being yourself, what can you do? One exercise psychologists will recommend is staring into a mirror and saying to yourself, “I love you.” It’s a lot harder than it sounds; often there are tears.

The Three has spent a lifetime practicing Deceit with others—and with themselves. They don’t actually believe they’re lovable apart from what they do.

Threes need the encounter of the mirror—either real or metaphorical—to see themselves clearly. This is often a trusted person in their life. It may be themselves. Mirrors neither embellish nor distort; mirrors speak the truth. And to say, “I love you,” to the unembellished, undistorted face staring back at you is to practice a radical acceptance of the truth: you are beautifully and wonderfully made, perfectly lovable as you are. Your truth, accessing Veracity, is that you are dynamically a part of the whole without any effort required. And it’s from there that you will live your life of intrinsic value.

There’s no need to believe the self-deception because it doesn’t serve you. It may produce affection or admiration—even within yourself. But eventually the aware Three will see that these are temporary and rather poor substitutes. They never satisfy.

James Finley says that “we were created in such a way that only an infinite union with an infinite love will do.” Our life is love; it’s who we are through and through. And to become ever more awakened to this reality is not only our hope, he says, “it is our destiny.” The more often the Three can orient herself to the truth of the mirror, the more she will touch the authentic liberation of Veracity.

A radical reorientation of the Three’s life away from the masks and toward the real is what they’ve actually been waiting for. To do so is good. It’s beautiful. And it’s the Truth.

Also in This Series

The Virtue of Type One: Serenity
The Virtue of Type Seven: Sobriety
The Virtue of Type Eight: Innocence

Samuel Ogles is a writer, speaker, spiritual director, and certified Enneagram teacher living in the western suburbs of Chicago. He co-hosts the Ask a Spiritual Director podcast, and he loves communicating, spirituality, and empowering others with deeper insights and a vision for change. Learn more at

The Virtue of Type One: Serenity

Part 3 of 9 in the Enneagram Virtues series.

Thank you for all of the encouragement and shares I’ve received in response to this series. I appreciate it! And if you’re wanting in-person Enneagram growth, the Enneathing You Need - Fall Enneagram Workshop Series in Chicagoland is just around the corner. Enjoy access to three workshops: (1) “Intro to the Enneagram” (Beginner) on October 5; (2) “Understanding the Three Intelligence Centers” (Intermediate) on October 19; and (3) “The 27 Subtypes of the Enneagram” (Advanced) on November 2. Get discounted early bird pricing before September 18 when you register at the link below. See you there!


The Virtue of the Type One is “Serenity.” But if Ones aren’t careful, they’ll institute a rule-following regimen to achieve Serenity by the “right way” or “correct practices.” As with all of the Virtues in the Enneagram, this one can’t be obtained with its own energy. If Ones try to get to Serenity by striving, the game is already over. Instead, Ones have to learn to relax into Serenity—the exact opposite of what they want to do.

When I think of Serenity, Frank Costanza comes instantly to mind. There’s an episode of Seinfeld where this character—a serial over-reactor and comically unaware person—gains a small insight for self-improvement and attempts to control his frequent outbursts. Whenever an irksome thing happens to him, you can see the tension building just before he, with great effort, summons the will to control himself and shouts, “Serenity now!”

The punchline of the episode is that Frank shouts, “Serenity now!” ad nauseum with increasing frequency, volume, and angst. While Frank is out of earshot, another character finally reveals that shouting, “Serenity now!” doesn’t work; it just bottles up the anger inside. “Serenity now; insanity later,” says the character—shortly before Frank finally explodes in a climactic rage. This is the emptiness of “serenity” as a matter of willpower.

The Virtue of Serenity, in contrast, is not a matter of willpower because it is not a matter of control. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. (And all the Ones said, “Thank God!”)

Serenity as a Virtue of the Enneagram means relaxing and receiving, not striving and achieving.

Where’s ‘the Good’?

Ones are made for goodness—to long for it, to seek it, to appreciate it. Ones have an incredible attunement to the inherent goodness of Creation and Reality.

In Christian circles, “the Fall” is emphasized and given prominence, but Richard Rohr (himself a One) reminds us that before original sin there was “original blessing.” Before everything went horribly wrong, everything went wonderfully right.

To see the true nature of things through the mind of God or Reality is to look upon all of Creation and see that “it is good.” The longing of the One is completely justified. And yet it becomes twisted.

Ones long for the goodness of everything but look around and see not all is as it should be. There’s injustice and evil, pain and brokenness. Where’s the harmony? Where is the true, good, and beautiful Ones were made to appreciate?

The One’s response to this conundrum is a really frightening solution: Let us create the goodness we desire. Let us play at God.

So Ones try to categorize all of life into two camps: good and bad, in and out, acceptable and unacceptable. It’s the dualistic mind at full speed. And, as you might have guessed, when your mission is to fix all of reality by making it all good, your mission to right all wrongs (especially in yourself) will never end. In fact, the more you play the game of perfecting, the more imperfections you uncover.

Getting Off the Merry Go ‘Round

James Finley, the psychotherapist and former student of Thomas Merton, says another way to look at Christianity is like this: (1) the fundamental problem with humans is that we’re ignorant of and blind to Reality as it is, just the way it is; (2) the natural response to our ignorance is fear; (3) the natural response to our fear is clinging. In Enneagram terms for the One—and again in Finley’s words—this would be clinging to our “dreaded and cherished illusions about ourselves.” Ones’ dreaded illusions are that they are what’s wrong with them. Ones’ cherished illusions are that they can somehow manufacture the goodness they so desperately desire through effort—fixing, reforming, punishing, deserving, repenting, judging, and wringing just one more ounce of willpower toward a solution. It’s a cycle the One’s natural energy can never escape; a merry go ‘round that leaves the Ones sick, dizzy, and confused.

The One’s whole world is a series of judgments. But the thing about judgments is you are either questioning them or becoming more attached to them. For Ones, it often takes a “great love or great suffering” (Rohr again) to get them to start questioning those judgements.

There’s one more step in Finley’s assessment of the human condition, according to Christianity, Buddhism, and many other spiritual traditions. (1) The natural condition is ignorance, (2) which gives rise to fear, (3) which gives rise to clinging. And finally, (4) the spiritual master sees that the solution to this clinging is to let go.

Letting Go

There’s a tremendous gift in letting go, a freedom to lay one’s burdens down. To seek to always be the reformer, improver, and perfecter is to seek to, in a way, be God—be someone who is in charge of shaping Reality in a specific way. Serenity opens a powerful gateway to a freedom space for Ones—the freedom to lay down the yoke of playing at being God, to have to fix it all—and to an immense feeling of relief.

Thomas Merton says, “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves.” This goes for the things we love, too. Ones try so desperately to perfect themselves, others, and the world. What they have to realize is that there is a perfection they can access that is available at all times and that in no way depends on striving. Just as Sevens have to realize the satisfaction of any given moment in Sobriety, Ones have to realize the inherent goodness of any given moment in Serenity.

Serenity means detaching from the striving that defines so much of the One’s life. Serenity allows Ones to turn off the Inner Critic and to live a life in grace, which is the opposite of the meritocracy in which Ones assume they (and everyone else) should exist.

On a recent podcast, I heard Beth Moore reflect on her followers interacting with her detractors. She said she wants to say to people who are going after others on her behalf that "It's not my way." Likewise, Ones need to know that their way of being judgmental and trying to right the world isn't the way of whatever we're acting on behalf of: God, Love, Harmony, Order, Reality, Justice, Political Correctness, a Better World. It's not the way.

Letting go is the way. It’s not that Serenity creates Ones who don’t care or who turn a blind eye to the brokenness of the world. But Serenity allows Ones to engage in a way that doesn’t demand a certain outcome for it to be okay. When Ones access Serenity, they access a ground that cannot be shaken by imperfections however great, often, or numerous.

A Goodness Available Now

Serenity is the freedom space from striving. It’s a recognition that the inherent goodness Ones seek is already available right now—no effort required. And it’s available now for anyone with eyes to see.

Finley asks, if we could close their eyes and with our eyes closed be interiorly awakened so that when we opened our eyes we saw with our own eyes what Jesus saw, what would we see? We would see God in all that we saw because Jesus saw God in all that he saw. It wasn’t that Jesus was blind to imperfections; but Jesus’ experience of goodness didn’t require any victory of willpower whatsoever. It required a releasing—a complete fall into the grace of the present moment and finding God in the present moment—warts and all.

If the imperfections of life are waves in a storm, Serenity offers us a an island—a solid foundation that cannot be shaken. To see the present moment as good right now, as missing nothing whatsoever right now, is to be able to come home to the One’s true self. Goodness is given as a gift; it can never be earned. And it’s given freely. In this moment. And this one. And this one.

To access Serenity is to regard all of reality with nonreactivity—patiently, compassionately. The goodness of Serenity is the promise of okayness that a One can access even in the midst of great evil or suffering. From this place of non-striving the One can bring their true gifts to the moment, offering grace, empathy, and compassion without demanding any works whatsoever as payment.

The world needs Ones, but it needs awakened Ones who know that goodness is free, here, and now. The beautiful experience for Ones is to finally access this freedom from striving and to relax into the goodness of being. Once they do, they become their unredeemed self’s opposite: not a taskmaster demanding ever more perfection, but an awestruck child beholding with wonder goodness everywhere they look.

Also in This Series

The Virtue of Type Three: Veracity
The Virtue of Type Seven: Sobriety
The Virtue of Type Eight: Innocence

Samuel Ogles is a writer, speaker, spiritual director, and certified Enneagram teacher living in the western suburbs of Chicago. He co-hosts the Ask a Spiritual Director podcast, and he loves communicating, spirituality, and empowering others with deeper insights and a vision for change. Learn more at

The Virtue of Type Eight: Innocence

Part 2 of 9 in the Enneagram virtues series.

When I was initially learning the Enneagram energies and we got to Type Eight (nicknamed “The Challenger”), the Eight’s virtue of “Innocence” didn’t make much sense. Isn’t the Eight the strong-willed type, the no-nonsense type, the “tough customer”? Shouldn’t the virtue of Innocence be a better fit for a gentler, sweeter type like the Two?

Eights are known for being strong. They feel their own power and desires strongly on a gut level. They also tend to relate better through oppositional energy, a form of control that feels safer. I like to think of Eights as rather streetwise. Ask your favorite Eight if they have any illusions about how the world works, and they’ll immediately give you a direct “no.” They’re by no means gullible, naive, or unprepared for the harsh realities of the human condition. They know what the game is about, and they’re not going to shy away, especially from confronting attempts at control—real or perceived—from others. 

Eights are often described as combative and ready for a fight. If by “ready for a fight” we mean looking to cause trouble, that seems unfair. But if by “ready for a fight” we mean that they have already donned a full suit of armor, then absolutely

I heard an Eight at a workshop once describe why he felt so guarded toward the world as a natural stance. It was precisely because he had a remarkable appreciation for the natural vulnerability of the most tender places within himself and others.

He explained that when you have the world’s rarest diamond, you don’t walk down the street holding it loosely in your hand. No—you put the diamond in a lock box; put that lock box in a safe; put that safe in an armored truck; fill that truck with armed guards; and give that truck a police escort. 

What Eights Know

Eights have a natural and remarkable intuition that the deepest, truest, most vulnerable parts of the human person are like that diamond. It’s the same impulse that makes new parents drive annoyingly slowly and shop for cars with the absolute best safety rating. When you recognize for yourself, in yourself, something of incomparable value and tenderness, you want that to be respected. And Eights are savvy enough to look around and see myriad examples of the world doing everything but honoring that precious part of the human person.

So Eights learned to don the armor, to adopt a hardened exterior in order to keep the deeper, more vulnerable parts hidden. And guess what? It works. 

But developing Eights eventually come to realize that the walls they’ve built to keep things out also keep things in, including all of the authentic parts of them that, like all of us, long for real and safe connection. Eights, like many of us, find it easy to buy into the lie that people will either invade or abandon us.

Eights are natural armorers; it’s probably my favorite image of them. Not only do they protect themselves well through a manufactured hard exterior, but they know the world of protection intimately—so much so that they can size up others’ armor, often with ruthless effect. Their zeal for arming themselves is only matched by their lust for stripping others of all false exteriors in an attempt to see the real person underneath.

When they touch Innocence, though, Eights don’t need to strip someone of their armor; seeing through the armor is itself enough. The unredeemed Eight wants to expose others while never having to expose themselves. The redeemed Eight is the opposite, willingly letting down the defenses of the self designed to keep the tender parts unreachable. This Eight no longer needs to strip others of their own protections as a way of sensing the Eight’s own power, which is to say, as a way of feeling less vulnerable. In this state of Innocence, the Eight does the most gentle thing of all: engaging the world without weapons and inviting—rather than forcing—others to do the same. 

As a way of being, this is actually as wise as it is bold. Shakespeare touched on this when he had his Henry VI exclaim, “What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!” This untainted heart actually invites others in, leading to connection, rather than daring someone to a challenge, which invites disconnection.

‘Vulnerability Loop’

The Culture Code is a book that tries to analyze what highly successful cultures have in common. (Think Google, Pixar, and the San Antonio Spurs.) One of its three key components is “share vulnerability.” The author shares about a series of fascinating experiments.

The experiments showed that the mere act of being vulnerable primes us to feel connected to others—and them to us. When we see someone else being vulnerable, we become more likely to be vulnerable ourselves. They call this a “vulnerability loop.” And the feelings of trust, cooperation, and goodwill transferred to other people whether they had shown vulnerability themselves or not. When a stranger walks into the room after a vulnerable moment, participants are likely to transfer those feelings of connection onto them. We’re hardwired for a loop where connection creates more connection which creates even more connection.

Eights are individuals who struggle to believe this hardwiring of humanity is true, that the more vulnerable we are, the more vulnerable others are—that the more we open up and let our guard down, the less likely we are to be taken advantage of.

So what about ‘Innocence’?

The word “innocence” contains the Latin root noc, meaning “harm.” Something that is “innocuous” is not harmful. “Innocence” means “free from harm.”

The Eight energy in its redeemed form is “free from harm” in the sense that it is committed to not inflicting harm on others—through the usual forceful methods of attempting to tear down the facade another has chosen to put on (often unconsciously). But the Eight also can access a “freedom from harm” in their own experience—a sort of superpower of being free from harm in their own person.

It would be easy to conclude this freedom from harm is an invulnerability, but that only contributes to the Eight’s desire to be impenetrable. As soon as we think that, the unredeemed armorer Eight is back at work. No, the freedom from harm in their own person—the Innocence—is the freedom from carrying harm.

It isn’t that living a life unguarded somehow protects us from the dangers around us. But in living a life that doesn’t need to be guarded we find an inner strength we didn’t dare hope existed. We find a freedom from the harm of harm, a vulnerability that results in allowing more sensation, more connection, more to touch us. This Innocence protects us from nothing yet sustains us in everything. 

This way of being overcomes the harm that may befall us by surrendering to a more unguarded engagement with the world. What’s more, the gifts of this way of being, of Innocence, allow the Eight more of what their true self craves—more sensation, more connection, more access to our own sense of aliveness. In other words, the very zest of life; the real. It allows access to what’s beneath the facade.

When we touch what’s most alive in ourselves, we find we are able to touch what’s most alive in others. We experience for ourselves the “heart untainted” and sense for ourselves that this is the way it is supposed to be. The strength of carrying so much by way of protection is replaced by the strength of risking a life of the real—infinitely more satisfying in its fruition. 

Showing the world our true self, our diamond of incomparable worth, requires an enormous amount of strength. And we do risk that others won’t appreciate the unguarded gift we’re offering. But if Eights can access this diamond at their center, they’ll see that what’s truest in themselves, though utterly exposed, is infinitely unshakable. Besides, what human hand could ever hope to do harm to a diamond?

Also in This Series

The Virtue of Type One: Serenity
The Virtue of Type Three: Veracity
The Virtue of Type Seven: Sobriety


The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Look for an announcement soon about Sam’s fall 2019 Enneagram workshop series taking place in the Wheaton, Illinois, area.

Samuel Ogles is a writer, speaker, spiritual director, and Enneagram teacher living in the western suburbs of Chicago. He co-hosts the Ask a Spiritual Director podcast, and he loves communicating, spirituality, and empowering others with deeper insights and a vision for change. Learn more at

The Virtue of Type Seven: Sobriety

Part 1 of 9 in the Enneagram virtues series.

Note: This is the first in a new series of reflections on the “virtues” of the Enneagram of Personality. They aren’t exhaustive, but I hope they’re helpful in using the Enneagram for real life. I’m also experimenting with format in this newly launched newsletter. If you’d like to share any thoughts on Enneathing You Need, you can always send feedback to me directly: Thanks for reading!

I really like “sobriety” as a virtue for the type 7. I really dislike the cultural connotations we have around sobriety, though. First, we have to do some unpacking.

I was also hesitant to do a second Enneathing You Need on the type 7. But if we remember that in the Enneagram of Personality we all have each of the types within us, then I think learning about the best of the types—any type—can help lead us “home” to our true selves. For some of us, the connection to type 7, though always present, will be even more readily accessible: if you have a 7 wing (6s and 8s), if you’re an idealist type (1s, 4s, and 7s), or if you go to 7 in times of “integration” or “disintegration” (1s and 5s). 

The nine virtues of each type, unlike the passions/fixations, are things we can all resonate with because they are a universal language of liberation from the egoic ways and humanity’s worst into our best. They are relevant to everyone.

What do we mean by ‘virtues’?

In my workshops, I know that I’ll always have to do some translating and qualifying when telling people that the upbeat, joyful, wonder-full type 7 is called to a life of “Sobriety.” I try to explain a new view of Sobriety before the 7s can exit the door...

Classically understood, a virtue is the “golden mean” between two equally unhealthy extremes. 

For the virtue of Courage, for example, the two extremes are cowardice on the one hand and foolhardiness on the other. The former is unhealthy because one becomes paralyzed by fear; the latter is unhealthy because one fails to grasp the risk for self-harm. Courage is a healthy balance between the two, even a holy balance. All of the virtues are like this.

In learning about the virtues, in emulating the virtues, we all seek to live into this place of balance where we are centered on a firm foundation but also with the flexibility to adjust ourselves to discern the fulcrum of virtue in any situation in which we find ourselves. Courage doesn’t look the same in every situation, after all.

The virtue of Sobriety

So what about Sobriety? 

For the type 7, the two unhealthy extremes that provide Sobriety its middle balancing point are intoxication and abstinence.

Intoxication is a bit easier to understand as a vice. It’s got “toxic” right in the word, so how can we argue it’s healthy? Intoxication tells us that something unhealthy is being consumed, which often has the effect of making addiction more and more likely. And addiction is always about one thing: escapism.

Abstinence is a bit trickier. After all, isn’t abstinence a good thing—even a Christian virtue? And when it comes to addiction, aren’t abstinence and sobriety the same thing?

Actually “no” and “no.” Abstinence as a choice is fine. Abstinence as a necessity is a vice. Abstinence, to abstain from something, is completely neutral. We all “abstain” from a number of unhealthy and undesirable life options, which is all to the good. But when abstinence is a necessity because you can’t trust yourself, then that’s a vice. Alcoholics choose abstinence because they have a history of abusing alcohol. That’s fine, but it’s a concession. Christian leaders who live by the Billy Graham rule are choosing a kind of abstinence from women’s presence. For the alcoholic and for the Christian leader who is a sex addict, abstinence is a wise choice. But who truly has the virtue of self-control: the person who can have one or two drinks at a party and stop or the person who avoids drinks altogether because they don’t know where it will end? Is the mature Christian leader the one who can be alone in the presence of women without viewing them sexually or the one who avoids all women for fear of what he might allow himself to do?

This is why Sobriety is the “golden mean” between two extremes, which are both, in their own way, a complete lack of self-control. Sobriety is saying “yes” to a proper use of something and “no” to abusing something. True Sobriety is being able to enjoy something without abusing it. True Sobriety knows how to say “enough” with a contented smile on its face.

What if Sobriety means ‘Freedom’?

But Sobriety still has a connotation to me (and I’m guessing the 7s reading this) of being a good choice, but not really an attractive one. It sounds like “acting responsibly”—very adult and difficult to argue with, but hardly something you can get excited about.

We can begin to imagine a future that is full, attractive, fulfilling when we realize that for the Enneagram, Sobriety is connected to Freedom.

For the 7, life is a quest for freedom. But ask any 7, and you’ll find the freedom they search for, the freedom they often think they find, doesn’t last. It’s impermanent and, often, even imperfect in the moment. It’s not enough.

In our culture today, we understand freedom to be primarily the freedom to choose. Freedom-as-choice becomes a quest for reducing restrictions. For the 7, a world with all possibilities open to them is a utopia, a land of infinite horizons always beckoning, always promising more if you’ll keep moving forward. But like a mirage, the nearer our 7 energy goes toward the horizon, the farther away the goal recedes. We keep thinking we see a life-giving spring in the distance, only to find it has moved on us.

Shawn Achor is a researcher in the field of positive psychology. He studies happiness. He’s found that while most of us think that achieving success is a precursor for happiness, the opposite is true: people who are happy then can become successful. People spend their whole lives chasing success so they can finally achieve their real goal of happiness. Sadly for them—and fortunately for them—happiness can never be found in the future, out there, because we only ever have access to the now.

This new hypothesis flipping the contemporary wisdom on its head holds the key for the type 7. Freedom for a 7 isn’t limitless choice and infinite options.

There is a freedom beyond freedom, a freedom hidden in God that does not require striving or forward movement or the addition of just one more thing. The freedom beyond freedom is the freedom from the addiction for more, freedom to taste the satisfaction of enjoying the present moment just the way it is—no more, but also no less. There is enjoyment, fulfillment, and freedom in life, but it lies here, in the sacrament of the present moment. It does not lie in an idealized future that never quite lives up to what we hope.

Cynthia Bourgeault says that the 7’s true fear isn’t pain; many 7s are quite good at going into dark places within themselves and others. Instead, she says the 7’s true aversion is the cessation of movement. What 7s have to wake up to is that when we settle for freedom-as-choice, we are buying into the lie that we need forward motion, even if it’s not actually productive. Our striving is predicated on the lie that our constant movement will release us. We would rather settle for the ability to pace in circles in a cage than have to sit still on a beach, unbounded by walls. 

True freedom for the 7, true Sobriety, is the freedom to savor and to be satisfied. When satisfaction is always over the horizon, it never comes. When you can find satisfaction in the present moment, every moment and every place becomes a gateway to being deeply, richly delighted and satisfied.

Those who are 7s truly do have access to appreciate this freedom-to-savor more than the rest of us. But it’s not because they have a special “savoring” super power. It’s because when you have spent your life in a cage, the freedom of the open air is all the sweeter.

Also in This Series

The Virtue of Type One: Serenity
The Virtue of Type Three: Veracity
The Virtue of Type Eight: Innocence


The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Cynthia Bourgeault’s take on the Enneagram 7

Look for an announcement soon about Sam’s fall 2019 Enneagram workshop series taking place in the Wheaton, Illinois, area.

Samuel Ogles is a writer, speaker, spiritual director, and Enneagram teacher living in the western suburbs of Chicago. He co-hosts the Ask a Spiritual Director podcast, and he loves communicating, spirituality, and empowering others with deeper insights and a vision for change. Learn more at

The Jaw-Dropping Presence of a 7

The most successful airline executive ever believed in loving people even more than he believed in fun.

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Enneathing You Need, a newsletter about the Enneagram in and for real life. If you’re receiving this, you signed up recently or when I was starting out teaching a few years ago. Thank You! Since this is a new endeavor, I’m experimenting with structures and formats. Below, you’ll find:

  • A “Show” section with an intro pointing to a featured piece of content (housed elsewhere) that is well worth your time;

  • A “Tell" section with a short reflection on some facet of the Enneagram, based off of my years of working with and teaching the Enneagram of Personality; and

  • A “Resource” section pointing to one or more excellent resources for further engagement with the Enneagram.

If you have suggestions for future “Show” features of the healthier side of Enneagram energies lived out in real life, send them my way! —Sam Ogles


For years, I've loved Herb Kelleher knowing next-to-nothing about him. Herb is the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, the most successful airline in the world—ever. I blindly loved this man because I identify as an Enneagram type 1, and I’m easily swayed by a good idea. That idea came in the form of a single quote from Kelleher, a man I’d never heard of, that was at once obvious and bewilderingly uncommon: We take care our employees first; our employees take care of our customers; and our customers take care of our shareholders—in that order. Can we all just agree that this should be the basis of every business school’s curriculum? (Okay, okay, this 1 will take it easy on the shoulding.)

So who is this über successful and sagacious Herb Kelleher? And, in Enneagram language (since this is an Enneagram-themed newsletter), would he have identified as a success-driven 3? A bighearted 2? A wisened 5?

We can never truly tell another person's type, of course. At least, not without them disclosing it. As my friend likes to remind me: It's always about motivation—not behavior. People show us only a fraction of their inner world. Our views of their outward behavior as a window into their whole being are just too limited.

But we can also pick up on the energy we experience from a person. And when I read this profile of Herb, I was floored—stunned. Here was a man whose behavior screamed 7—the fun-loving, can't-get-bogged-down, horizon-seeking Enneagram type—but with a twist. This was a man who was constantly getting caught being too present to people.

If you're like me, you've had more than one 7 friend who has been here one minute and racing away to do something more exciting the next. There's a futuristic orientation that drives 7s (and 3s and 8s), meaning that they can have difficulty with stillness, with letting life catch up with them, with living fully in the now. Heck, we all have trouble with that.

But not Herb. At least, not as he's depicted in the article below.

Herb Kelleher is described as immensely colorful, dynamic, playful, creative, and—perhaps most important—loving. People—actual people, like the one standing in front of him at any given time—were important to him.

Herb would end up late to every meeting because he wouldn’t stop making eye contact and asking you about yourself. He would stay up late into the night, drinking and swapping stories with employees nearly until the next business day began. He would tell you he loved you—and mean it. He saw being in relationship with people as a privilege not to be taken for granted.

And when threatened with a lawsuit over the use of an already copyrighted phrase (“Just Plane Smart”), he challenged the litigious company’s leader to an arm-wrestling match for the rights—complete with faux training montage for his employees—and actually got his opponent to go along with it. They met in a boxing ring and turned it into a press event, then donated the proceeds to charity. Who even does that?!

Herb. I was attracted to him for a principle, but I became inspired by him because of this story. I don’t know if Herb was a 7 or any of the other Enneagram types. But he was a servant leader who combined the best of fun with a desire for real connection. For however you identify on the Enneagram, that’s a lesson worth learning.

Enjoy this profile; it’s an amazing read. I guarantee you’ll learn something about connection. And you’ll smile no less than 27 times.


Russ Hudson is one of the best known Enneagram teachers in the world. Maybe the best known. The founder of the Enneagram Institute, he has an important saying worth committing to memory: You have a type; you are not your type.

It’s easy to identify with our type, that is, to over-identify with it. People always say “the Enneagram type you like least out of the 9 is the one you probably are.” That’s been true for a lot of people, but it was never true for me.

When I found my Enneagram type, I actually liked it; I liked “being” a 1. (I suppose it felt like the “right” type to be.) Later, I would feel guilt for not disliking my type—as if that was somehow the “wrong” way to be.

There certainly seems to be a lot of Enneagram love going on now, and thank goodness. It’s one of the most powerful tools for personal transformation I’ve ever encountered. The world would be better if more people had the kind of tools that allowed them to delve safely into their inner world and clear away the cobwebs.

But there’s a new risk with the Enneagram’s popularity: over-identifying with type.

More and more I hear people using their type as a marker of pride: Oh, that’s because I’m a 3. I can’t help but try to make this successful! There are mugs and t-shirts for your type. But having a mug with your Enneagram number on it—which is a roadmap of your biggest insecurities and obstacles—is a bit like owning a mug with “abandonment issues” or “severe social anxiety” printed on it. There’s no reason that should be a source of shame for you; it’s just a bit odd if it’s a source of pride.

I know people who consider their Enneagram type to be as personal as their medical histories. That seemed weird at first, but then I wondered if they weren’t more clear-eyed than I was.

The truth is, you are more than your type. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m a 4,” or “I’m an 8,” rather than the more accurate “I identify as a type 8.” Common parlance is unavoidable. But I wonder if there isn’t a danger in getting too attached to your type in other ways. After all, the goal of the Enneagram isn’t to become a super awesome version of your type—as if you were a superhero who only used your type’s powers for good. The goal of the Enneagram is to develop to such a degree that you have increasingly frequent moments of breaking free from your type, like a seed bursting through its shell. Our type is a suit of armor we’ve worn so constantly that it feels like our skin; it’s hard to imagine life without it. But the armor isn’t organic; it’s not you.

What would it look like to “break out” of your type? What would it look like for you to have done so much inner work, to have found so much inner freedom, that people around you didn’t see your inner false-self coping patterns oozing out of you?

James Finley, a trauma psychotherapist and Christian mystic says that the trouble with people is we think we are what’s wrong with us. The Enneagram is just a more sophisticated map stating the same thing.

So, first, give yourself a break. And then give yourself an out. What would it look like for you to recognize your Enneagram type today, but to not be stuck in it? What would it look like to envision a “you” who is not bound by the automatic behaviors and false patterns you’ve come to recognize in yourself?

Maybe for a moment you would cease to see yourself as your type, as what’s wrong with you. Maybe you’d catch a glimpse of where we’re all headed—in this life or the next: beyond type.


You should register for the FREE Enneagram Global Summit—a series of live online events from June 24–28, 2019. Seriously.

Most of the biggest names in Enneagram teachers and experts are giving free online sessions—alongside some people you’ve never heard of, but will want to know. Russ Hudson, Helen Palmer, Suzanne Stabile, Chris Heuertz, A. H. Almaas, Claudio Naranjo, Beatrice Chestnut, Cynthia Bourgeault, Ginger Lapid-Bogda, Ryan O’Neal (Sleeping at Last), and on, and on. There’s a paid registration ($97) only if you want access to certain streaming, otherwise it really is free to register.

In my experience, the Enneagram Global Summit has excellent teachers with so-so facilitation for the sessions and perhaps depth that is less-than-hoped-for in the sessions. But take that with a grain of salt because that’s based off of a few sessions during the last two years. If you check out the number of presenters, I didn’t even catch 5% of the sessions in the past.

Bottom line: If it interests you or you want the chance to learn from one (or more) of the world’s premier Enneagram teachers, this is a once-a-year thing for free. You could always register and just see what you’re able to catch live. (Note: The event is presented by the “Shift Network” with a much more fluid spirituality than most. Be aware of that and the fact that they send a lot of emails.) It’s a great opportunity if it calls to you. What have you got to lose?

Samuel Ogles is a writer, speaker, spiritual director, and Enneagram teacher living in the western suburbs of Chicago. He co-hosts the Ask a Spiritual Director podcast, and he loves communicating, spirituality, and empowering others with deeper insights and a vision for change. You can learn more at

Loading more posts…