In today's society we are surrounded by individuals suffering from mental/emotional issues, such as depression; disorders; obsessions; addiction—work, drugs, alcohol, food, immorality; anxiety—fear, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); anger; hurt; sadness; personal relationship troubles; sexuality—adultery, fornication, promiscuity.
What is our role? How can we help friends and those put in our path who are facing such problems? After all, we are not all trained counselors. There are circumstances where professionals are required, but I wonder whether we could learn how to help each other before those accredited counselors are required.
Here are some basic ‘Biblical counseling principles’ that I have found. They are simple but are very useful if fully understood and implemented.
Counseling Principle #1: LISTEN
There's more to listening than simply having our ears open, and certainly much more than already having an answer before hearing all of the words. Truly listening means recognizing the tone behind the words and listening for hints at what the problems are beneath the surface. Listen with compassion, patiently allowing the person to share things that might be really difficult to share with someone else. Show respect for their willingness to confide in you by being an active listener.
Counseling Principle #2 = ASK
Learn to ask more questions in a compassionate way, so that people know that you care, that you are interested, that you want to help. Seek to go deeper so that you can understand the person, not just the symptomatic behavior.
Counseling Principle # 3 = SHOW COMPASSION
Having a listener who truly cares makes a big difference. Whereas a listener who doesn't really care leaves the speaker wondering why they ever opened their heart and mouth. Maybe you have had an experience with a bad listener? If so, we can use these experiences to recognize how not to be.
If we have a hard time being compassionate, let us look at the example of Jesus Christ. He is our best pattern for genuinely caring for others.
Counseling Principle # 4 = INVEST TIME
Helping others is not something that can be done in 5 minutes or less. We need to be willing and able to invest our time in others. This doesn’t mean that you are available 24/7 whenever someone’s whim dictates that they call or visit you. Professional counselors have offices and appointments for more than one reason.
Having been a wellness consultant over the years, I have come to recognize that unless we individually learn the importance of boundaries in our own lives, it is easy to be overwhelmed in trying to meet the needs of others. We need to be in communion with Christ so that we may know what the Lord wants us to do, and not do, and then set healthy parameters to protect our time, our energy and our talents for God’s glory.
For example, I can be so invested in meeting the needs of others that I don’t allow time to eat, sleep, exercise, have quiet time, or social time with my family. That causes my own energy to be depleted making me ineffective in helping others, but there can also be effects upon those around me, especially in the family setting. Life becomes unbalanced and spouses or children or both can then become the one in need, having to look elsewhere for help, encouragement and relief from their pain and sorrow.
Let us pray for God to give us the necessary wisdom to help those He places in our lives.