Written by: Andrew Ware
December 21, 2022

When I Struggle Being an Enneagram 3

What is the Enneagram?

Many of you who have listened to the Active Faith Podcast, will have heard me and some of my guests talk about something known as the Enneagram. You may have also wondered what that is and why I keep on talking about my number. Well to unpack briefly, the Enneagram is a personality typing system of sorts, that identifies people based on certain aspects of their ego (what drives them), virtues, and desires. Now, I really should be more in-depth about the Enneagram, but I do not think I have the time within this post. This is not a system that exists in a brief space, but I will usher you a good enneagram resource should you desire more than my brief understanding.

Learn More at The Enneagram Institute

My journey through the Enneagram?

I am an Enneagram 3 (and those who are familiar with the Enneagram will not be surprised).

I remember encountering the Enneagram in-depth for the first time at a clergy leadership retreat in 2020 (yes, that 2020), and immediately finding meaning behind the language and terminology. I had spent a lifetime in other personality typing systems, and I had always had to chuckle because I fit into very prototypical boxes in each. However, I could never get deeper than the terminology used to describe me until I encountered the Enneagram. I discovered my number, or as Dr. Joseph Howell (of the Institute of Conscious Being) noted at a retreat he led, I found my gate number to enter the stadium. I would later find my specific seat by diving deeper and understanding myself more within several aspects of the Enneagram. 

Even though I had a specific number it didn’t feel like I was lumped into a corner. The cross sections of the entire circle that makes up the Enneagram allowed me to find my place in several different areas. It unpacked what drives me, my fears, and how I often mask myself. It allowed me to unpack how to get healthier and what might happen when I struggle. It helped me develop relationships as I discovered how I am in relationships with other numbers on the wheel.

As an Enneagram 3, I am often referred to as the Achiever or Performer; my biggest desire is to feel valuable, and that often leads to my biggest vice, which is deceit. I have learned how this system plays a role in helping me understand myself, and while not boxing myself in I have learned to recognize how I can grow within this nature of knowing myself. When in the world, I often can amalgamate into whatever is necessary for me in whatever group I am in. This leads to a sense of few people actually knowing who the real Andrew is. It also means that many of my friendships become superficial because they exist on a surface level with others. However, when the time is put in to peel back the layers folks can find the real Andrew.

How does this fit with the title?

My biggest problem (well as I often interpret it) is that I am a people-pleaser. I am one who just wants people to be happy (with me). I don’t do well when people are angry at me, and I often take it very personally when someone is mad (even if it is something I didn’t do). As a pastor, this is very difficult because I serve people who are historically hard to please, and especially as a millennial pastor, I struggle most to stay on the “good side” of many of the older folks who I have often found the most critical. This is not meant to be a blanket criticism, but it is born out of some of my scars from previous appointments as a pastor. 

Much of this comes to a head as I sit and listen to reasons people in my church have conflicts with how I order the church. One time, in particular, I struggled because I felt like I was a pushover to a smaller crowd who may or may not have represented a deeply theological issue in the church that I serve. As I sat in the room, I felt like I met the needs of those who were seated in the room. However, upon leaving, I felt conflicted with whether or not I had allowed this group of people to sway me one way because they were the ones in front of me as we had conversations.

This is just one conversation, and I am sure one that many folks in several vocations can empathize with. I feel like I forsake my own feelings on a matter in favor of those whom I am seeking to please. I want to avoid conflict, I want people to be happy, and all with ME. The biggest way I am trying to grow is to be more aware and conscious of when I get in this people-pleasing mode. I know there are times when I need to empathize and listen to where folks are coming from, especially when they have an issue with a decision I have made as a pastor. However, at what point do I make decisions sacrificing my own feelings, or even at the risk of ignoring those whose voices may not be present in the room?

How am I growing?

I sometimes fear this is a part of who I am, and it will be difficult to change. I am thankful for others in my congregation and in my support system who help me to understand ways I can continue to move forward.

Did I make the wrong decision by catering one way or another? I don’t know…

Did my desire to please people overpower my ability to be a strong leader? Who knows?

All I know is that as I move forward, I continue to put my trust in the leaders and community I am a part of. As we grow further together, I must consider if I have people who are willing to come behind me and help me along this journey of building a better community where I am serving.

This opportunity has reminded me of the hardest part of my job. I often cannot keep everyone happy, but I can make sure that I am always listening and understanding folks who are within this community. I can make sure that their voices are heard and that I am helping them to learn my side of why I have made a decision as a pastor. There is quite often room for negotiations and finding a middle ground, but there is also room for me to make decisions on where God is calling this community.

The Enneagram, beyond anything, has taught me to be comfortable with who I am. While I am still growing in my understanding of lived experiences, I must be willing to critique myself in these situations, discern what I have learned from them, and continue to grow.

Now, may God bless each of us, and may we find ways to stay active in and for God’s Kin-dom. AMEN!!!

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  • Andrew Ware

    My vision as the RunninRev is to build community and faith relationships through running and self-care. I have become an advocate in the church for clergy care, and helping clergy prevent or recover from burnout. I see my primary outreach to the community as building these communal structures through running and having fun together on the run.

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