“Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise.”
Proverbs 12:18, Message
Lately, I have grown skeptical of my own ability to give out sound counsel. For the most part I have refrained from doing so, lately, I introduce them to the wisdom and love of Jesus. It seems like a it’s a bit like a triangle– Jesus, them and myself–we each have a corner. All I do when I counsel someone is to help them see the Lord. Hopefully, once a dialogue has taken place I step back and let the supernatural happen.
Much of counseling is facilitating or creating an environment that you can gather information. Probably your friend feels that you and your surroundings are “safe” and he/she can open up in that situation. Almost all of the time, a certain level of confidentiality must exist and be understood as being “in place” even among peers.
A key fact is getting permission to counsel.This should happen in order for the counselee to really receive.
Usually when if I meet with someone, I don’t want to sound profound, or wise; I’m still trying to follow Jesus myself. I recognize the Holy Spirit gifts the un-gifted. But I’m also pretty much aware of my own short-comings. (I guess this can make me a better listener and not a talker?)
Remember that Job’s friends were at their best when silently sitting with him in the ash and rubble. At that moment, they were very effective counselors. The problem came when they verbally explain why Job’s personal disaster took place. Very often I find that people have a need to be needed. Some well-meaning believers give counsel so they can feel good about themselves.
I’m afraid there is a lot of Christian counseling out there that is sabotaged by this inherent flaw.
Part of speaking wisely to a friend must include the option that I might be totally off-the-wall! Whatever I say must not be “ex cathedra“, or as truth unchallenged. And just because I’m giving you counsel does not make me superior, wiser or more authoritative. It really should take as much humility to counsel, as it takes to be counseled. I can think of an easy dozen encounters that I’m embarrassed by– and will never be able to retract. Mistakes are made, but we should trust the Holy Spirit to use those missteps. He is sovereign.
Peer-to-peer counseling is very much a blessing. A great need exists in the church for this particular ministry. But to be a source of wisdom to another should be both a sobering, and a clarifying experience. To be a counselor can be quite dangerous, spiritually speaking, and I should not seek this place unless its thrust on me. A good counselor is almost always reluctant.
“If you young fellows were wise, the devil couldn’t do anything to you, but since you aren’t wise, you need us who are old.” Martin Luther
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.” Thomas Fuller