What is counseling?
Recently I had an interesting interaction with a man who happens to be a client that was a great reminder of part of why I wanted to be trained to be a counselor years ago, and why I love having the role of a shepherd in people’s lives.
I have been working with a really quality couple of people who have been married for many years, but largely due to some bad communication habits, especially on the part of the husband, they had drifted apart. The process of drifting had taken many years and was now a situation that reminded me of the Proverb “a deferred hope leads to a broken heart” (13;12). However, the husband has been recently working hard to save his marriage and make it great.
Side note: I have watched many wives work very hard to save their marriages and fail. I have only once in 25 years of counseling seen a husband work hard to save his marriage but fail. My experience has taught me that, generally, husbands have the marriage that they create. Now back to my story…
Even though he has been trying, and I believe legitimately changing, his wife has, quite reasonably, been dubious. There is so much more I could talk about here, but a case study is not the purpose of this article…
The wife came in to talk to me, and due to a series of very Providential events that allowed her to identify and sympathize more with her husband, she found her heart melting to the point of being willing to forgive him. I had the gratification of knowing this before he did, and knowing that she was intending to talk to him about it that night.
The next day, he came in to talk. First he told me about some of the Providential events, and then made the comment that this post is about… He said, “This is the part of the conversation you will really enjoy…” Then he told me about the forgiveness conversation with his wife, the first tentative steps toward true reconciliation and his renewed hope.
What I mean when I say “I am a counselor”
Here is what that means to me about counseling, shepherding, disciple making, spiritual parenting, etc. “Here is the part… you will really enjoy…” Seems small, doesn’t it? But I think it reveals something important. Maybe he had come to believe was that I believed in him; he had seen that I was on the side of their marriage; he accepted that I was honored to be able to share in his enjoyment as I had shared in his sorrows. I would like to believe that this phrase indicated that he didn’t just think of me as an uncaring hired gun, or an objective referee, or any of the other things that people come in looking for. I was grateful that maybe it meant that inside he knew that I wasn’t objective – I was invested. In some way, he apparently thought I, too, had staked some joy in all of this. And he was right.
The Greek word for “counselor” is “Paraklete.” It literally refers to a person who comes to walk alongside. Too many people attempt to journey down all the paths alone. What I do as a counselor is come alongside others and walk with them down the hard paths of life. Now in marriage counseling the same rule applies: I am invested in the marriage. I rarely, if ever, take sides in marriages, but I do take sides with the marriage. I believe in this man’s wife in the same way, and believed that helping them reconcile their marriage to true greatness was in both of their best interest! Apparently, that had become visible, and I am glad.
I think very few people ever get to have someone come alongside them and believe in them, and invest in them. It is an honor to get to do so… and that reminds me to thank all the people who have had that role in my life. Thanks.