One of the questions I will sometimes ask a new client is this:
“If this counseling process is successful, what will be different in your life/relationship?”
It is a powerful way to help a client define goals so that we might be able to measure progress and success. Most will respond with a variation on one of these two themes:
1. I will be out of pain
2. I will be happy (with myself, my situation or my relationship).
Although these can be good short-term goals for counseling, they should not be the only ones because they often do not speak to deeper issues. Sometimes healing is found in the direction of pain. Sometimes doing the right thing will make us unhappy (at least for a while). Rarely do people answer the question with a response like this:
“I will have increased in my emotional, relational and spiritual maturity.”
Now, to be fair, some do. They tend to be the ones who are headed for deeper levels of integrity in their lives. They understand the toughness of the battle that is before them, and they can also envision the rewards. Make no mistake about it – it is hard to say yes to the right things, and to deny ourselves things that we desire but are counter to our growth.
What is the feeling you get when you think of self-restraint? Do you feel angry or sad or controlled? Do you feel exited about the challenge? Do you feel good about yourself because you are doing well at managing your temptations?
If I were to be completely honest I would have to admit that I rarely feel good about restraint in the moment. It is mostly in reflection that I appreciate my self-controlled responses and understand the value of unspoken words or actions.
Regardless of how you feel, who you are is God’s Beloved Child – and deeply accepting that reality should be your highest goal. It may not eliminate your pain, but it will give you a reason to be joyful.
One good book that I recommend is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. His basic premise is that it is impossible to mature spiritually while remaining emotionally immature.
Just something to think about.