Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Love Thyself


An old friend from several years ago found my email address and sent me his as well as the address of his blogs. Dan Gilliam is an interesting man with sensitive spiritual insights and he writes them well.

Dan recently quoted Thomas Merton on his blog.

To live well myself is my first and essential contribution to the well-being of all mankind and to the fulfillment of man's collective destiny. If I do not live happily myself how can I help anyone else to be happy, or free, or wise? Yet to seek happiness is not to live happily. Perhaps it is more true to say that one finds happiness by not seeking it. The wisdom that teaches us deliberately to restrain our desire for happiness enables us to discover that we are already happy without realizing it.
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p. 81

I like this quote and do not remember ever seeing it before. He is saying something about life and helping that I started glimpsing back in the late Seventies when we began a serious attempt at Equipping the saints to DO the works of the ministry. EPH 4:11

Over time we discovered that 75 to 85% of our student Helpers were really there to get personal healing. The embarrassment of asking for help themselves was too much to admit so they showed up to counsel other people.

We always tried to say that the most important thing was to know, understand and get along with our self. No matter how hard we tried the students ended up being frustrated with us because we failed to teach them how to "sock it to the people in need".

Let's face it. Most people are completely confused about the nature of Helping/Counseling/ and pastoral care. They think it is little more than preaching, teaching and advising people on a one-to-one basis. Whenever a fledgling Helper tells me what they are doing the story is nearly always about the story teller, the Helper not the Seeker. "I said to him, (blah, blah, blah.) But he wouldn't listen to me.

Many of us are secret control freaks. We enter the Helping process as professionals or volunteers with a hidden desire to tell people what to do. Maybe we try to lecture them on happiness but until we relinquish our desire for control to God we can't even tell ourselves how to be happy, let along another person.

Re-read that statement by Thomas Merton. It's pretty profound.


1 comment:

Vicar of Vincennes said...

how I wish that I could have started "glimpsing" a clearer understanding of life and helping back in the late Seventies. But I have been catching glimpses now. Your description of the student Helpers recruited to help you sound like many of the zealous church workers today out pounding the pavement dispensing answers and "word" relief for the lost and needy. Their suggestions and help are appreciated but seem to leave the beneficiaries of the help wondering why the helpers don't take their own medicine.