Enneagram 2 (and in youth ministry)

Enneagram 2- The Helper. The Giver. Sounds like the best pastor ever, right? In so many ways, the positive qualities of the Enneagram 2 (intuiting the feelings of people around me, incredible commitment to relationships, being able to navigate relational tension with tact and grace) have been a great asset to my life in ministry. But, like with all the Enneagram types, the shadow side of being 2 can bring with it some great challenges. Here are just a few lessons I’ve been learning (and keep re-learning) about how to be a healthy Enneagram 2 in ministry:

People Might Not Like You…and That’s Ok (really!)

In Ian Morgan Cron’s great Q Talk, he says, “Take an inventory of all your…failures over a lifetime, and you’ll notice a very uncreative pattern.” As I’ve studied the Enneagram, and grown in my own self-awareness, I can tell you that the number one thing that has restricted my growth as a church leader is the need to be liked. Relationships are everything to 2s, and if we’re being honest, being liked by as many people as possible feels pretty great. What feels less great? Compromising my integrity to be likeable. The pit in my stomach when I KNOW I should have spoken up but kept silent to make someone else happy. The times I haven’t voiced the dissenting opinion and have carried my resentment around until I explode (I see you, 8 arrow).

The growing edge for me is to live into the truth that I do not have to be liked by every person who meets me- because (spoiler alert) I don’t even like everyone! And if pushing back or speaking up creates a conflict or causes a relationship to be strained, I can make it through those difficult moments. I have to remind myself that truth and integrity win over false likeability every single time.

You Don’t Have to Fix It

As the name might suggest, we helpers, well, like to help. I’m currently applying for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and one of the questions is, “Tell about a time you’ve helped someone.” How much time do you have, CPE Facilitators?

When we use this gift of sensing the needs of others well, we 2s can help in incredibly uplifting and empowering ways. The trick is to not be compulsive with that help and either create a dependent relationship (a HUGE RED FLAG in ministry) or miss out on a chance to exercise empathy and just be with people. Recently a dear friend in a group I lead had surgery and I didn’t bring her a single meal- not because I’m a jerk, but because there was a whole small group of women who wanted to love on her, and the best thing I could do as a pastor was to get out of the way and let them do just that.

No is a Complete Sentence

As a 2, there can be a lot of pressure to say yes- yes to the person who insists they need help, yes to the idea you might not love in order to make someone else happy, yes to a commitment to appear available and willing to do the work. But, as many wise people before me have said, a yes to one thing is always a no to something else. Sometimes a quick yes means an unintentional no to my family; sometimes it means a no to someone who should get the chance to try out their own gifts of ministry or do their own work.

The shadow side of 2s is that underneath our helpful exterior often lurks the destructive desire to be needed by everyone at all times. The “deadly sin” of 2s is Pride, and for me this is one of the primary ways that Pride expresses itself in my life and ministry. It is scary to say no- the fear of missing an opportunity, the fear of becoming dispensable…it’s all real. It is a true spiritual practice for me to be slow about my yes and strategic and firm with my no. The greatest growth comes when I can say no, experience someone else in that place, and then genuinely celebrate the good work and gifts God has given them. That  is a 2 at our healthiest- selfless, compassionate, and able to operate from a place of abundant confidence that allows us to genuinely lift up the people around us.

Name Your Needs

Twos are true masters at sensing the needs of others…and can be incredibly blind to our own. That pesky pride can  twist this so I view myself as selfless and altruistic…but if I’m honest, habitually ignoring my own needs just buds into resentment and rage, with a fun drizzle of martyr complex. Naming my own needs feels like a risk for a couple of reasons- what if these needs aren’t met? Or worse, what if naming them makes me seem needy and unlovable?

The contrast here for 2s is kind of wild- we love to tend to other people’s needs…but we think having our own somehow discounts us. What?! For me, this contradiction is rooted in the lie that I am not able to be loved unless I am acting in a way that is easy and loveable. The antidote to this cycle of untruth is continually reminding myself of God’s grace and cultivating a tight knit circle of friends who I trust with the good and the bad and everything in between. Several months ago, one of these friends said to me, “Let us be there for you and support you right now.” Find your people who will show up and love you for no good reason, and hold on to those relationships with all you’ve got..

Go Boldly!

I recently purchased a mug with that saying on it, and in related news, my word for the year is “brave”. As a 2, I’m becoming aware that boldness and tenderness do not need to be mutually exclusive. I’m uniquely wired to sense and respond to the needs around me- and I have the ability to do so in ways that can be honest and uncomfortable, not just make the people I interact with happy. To be a dynamic and effective ministry leader, I have to fight people pleasing and be willing to engage in healthy conflict in order to grow. That takes bravery, immense trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, and confidence that God is pleased with me, just as I am. That’s a truth that isn’t dependent on the approval of others and keeps me rooted in the true source of love and affirmation.

If I could share one nugget of advice with other 2s in ministry, it would boil down to this: God’s grace isn’t just for other people. It is just as much for you, and your need and ability to receive it doesn’t make you less than. In fact, you won’t possibly grow without it! It’s this grace that lets us ask for help instead of always helping others. It’s this grace that frees us from shame when we have a hard social interaction or feel like we’ve failed. It’s this grace that fuels our tank more than good feelings and being liked ever could.

So, go boldly with tenderness, fellow 2s. Live into the gift of God’s grace as you share that gift with the world around you.

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