I love getting counsel and trying to understand how to live life better. I’ve had the opportunity to be counseled from different students fulfilling their clinical practice requirement at the university they attend. I’ve received good counsel and bad counsel from people I consider Godly; probably better men than me. In the future, I want to make sure I can counsel well and help others counsel well. Below are a few observations of how we should counsel well that I’ve learned throughout the years-
1) Focus on what they are doing right
Our brothers and sisters should be doing something right. I mean, if they are true Christians, they will be producing fruit of some kind. We can encourage them in how they are loving others well, serving in the church, etc. Counseling can seem like such a formal process sometimes. What a blessing it would be to do it with someone you consider a dear friend.
2) Don’t make assumptions
It’s easy to make assumptions about other people. Sometimes, we tend to make the biggest assumptions about people we barely even know; people we have almost never talked to. We draw conclusions about others based on rumors and inaccurate information. It happens all the time. I’d encourage everyone and myself to be careful with our words and draw on the facts that you know for sure. And if the facts lead you to believe something sinful about that person, we can encourage that person with the Word of God. Even through the trials of life, we need to have an attitude of encouragement. We are all sinners and we need each other. Be that person to encourage others.
3) Empathy and Selfishness
When someone expresses a desire of theirs, we can automatically say that they are selfish, sinful, and prideful. While this may be true, I think there is a time and place for that. People need empathy and want to feel like someone understands where they are coming from. Below are some characteristics of empathy that I feel are important really not just for counseling but for relationships in general:
Characteristics of Empathy
People need their feelings validated. They need to hear that they aren’t alone and that you can see where they are coming from.
Example: If someone tells you that they are sad because of situation x, it’s important to show them you care and see where they are coming from. Saying something like I’ve been in situation x and have never been sad because of situation x is focusing on yourself. We have to remember that just because we experienced a certain situation and felt a certain way doesn’t mean that it can affect another person a different way. You can validate how someone feels even if you don’t necessarily feel the same way in that particular situation.
Although it seems simple, I know that godly people can get frustrated with other peoples sin. Our attitude needs to convey that of someone that wants to talk to that person, is there for them, and genuinely wants the best for them. In the best counseling situations I’ve experienced, I leave feeling like the person cares, has empathy, and has directed me toward the Word of God to see my sin. That is quite a skill and is hard to implement! Sometimes its easy to think that counseling is about fixing the other person with God’s Word. But it’s not. It’s about loving the other person with the Word of God and realizing that there really isn’t anything we can do to fix that person. We can influence their heart but ultimately, only God can fix that person and that person’s heart.
4) Getting Counsel
I highly encourage people seeking counsel to focus on getting counsel from older leaders in the church and not their peers; even if they are on staff. I do believe that young people can have great things to say and can have lots of wisdom. However, I also know that young people haven’t experienced a lot of things in life that older people have. Sometimes, older leaders in the church have been through more counseling situations and will have a better perspective on the topic.
5) Make definitive plans and follow up
Sometimes the person getting counseled needs a date to follow up on. We need to see how they are doing and get a better picture of the situation later on. Make the sacrifice and spend a little bit of time with this person and be a blessing.
I’m just making observations. I believe that if people I consider very godly can make some of these mistakes, I’m prone to make these mistakes too and I probably have. I hope that in the future I can help counsel well in all contexts whether that be with friends, in the church, or with my wife if God provides one. All for the glory of God and His name.