The question I receive most often about my work is a complicated one: “How do you listen to all of those problems and not let it affect you personally? I just couldn’t do it!”
It’s a good and fair question. One I don’t enter into lightly, because what the person is really asking is this: “How can I care in a way that really matters? I feel so helpless in the midst of other’s pain..what’s the secret?”
Let me begin by saying, I am not an expert – in fact, I was in tears this week over a couple I’ve worked with for over a year…and the week before I couldn’t sleep because I’m seeing a suicidal teenager.
Sometimes it feels hopelessly overwhelming, there is just so much pain in the world. But it is my duty and my calling to be a witness to the Light, bringing clarity in confusion, peace amidst the panic and acceptance to the outcast. It is my duty, but it is also my privilege.
But in order for me to do this, I must first and foremost be aware of my own psychological, spiritual, and physical state. In other words, I’m not good to anyone if I’m running on empty. My self-care will look different from yours, but the end result should be the same: I am able to fully offer my presence to others because I know where I stand with the Father, I’m rested, well nourished, and confident in the gifts He has given me.
(Take care of yourself, know your limitations, surround yourself with the people and the things that fill your bucket.)
Secondly, I invite the Holy Spirit into the room (yes He is already there, but He wants to be wanted too). There is a visceral difference in the sessions when I forget to pray beforehand – everything seems heavier, colder and more distant. On the flip side, when I invite God in, His presence is so strong I can almost feel Jesus’ eyes on us.
(Pray before, during and after an interaction with someone in pain, this will do more than any words you might have to offer.)
Lastly, I am nobody’s Savior. Therefore, I am not responsible for another human being’s decisions, emotions, or relationships. I can only offer my presence, and with it comes support, unconditional positive regard and honesty. Yes, I am a licensed counselor, yes I can offer coping mechanisms, techniques, and methodologies…but none of these bring lasting healing, that much I have learned. The gift of my time and my presence is what opens the door to break-through, relational reconciliation, and emotional healing. I don’t need a fancy degree to do that – I just need a willing heart and an open mind.
(Don’t take on the issues of those around you, if you are swallowed up in their situation you will no longer be effective in ministering to them.)