I was thinking about how my perspectives and behaviors have changed since being a counselor – and specifically a Christian counselor practicing in a church.
Although I do not officially carry the title of pastor, I often am seen this way. It may partially be my age, but it is more likely the “office” which I hold. I have, at different times, been addressed as “Pastor Dave” and ‘Father Dave” (as in a Catholic priest). It always reminds me that we who work in a church setting carry a responsibility that goes beyond any specific job title. Like it or not, we are held to a higher standard as representatives of our church and more.
- I stay aware of my visibility in my church and in the local community. I don’t always know who is watching. That means that my “at work” and “off work” behavior must match. That would be a good definition of operating with integrity. I want to be viewed as sober in all of my actions.
- There are parts of my life that I must keep to myself. All of us hold passionate beliefs about some subjects, but I must be careful about what I express. It is not appropriate for me to share my political viewpoints publicly. It could make some people feel very unsafe and mistrusting. It is the same with social issues that are “hot button” topics.
- I work hard to be a good listener. That requires listening at a deeper level than I had been used to. I watch more carefully to people’s body language and nuances of speech. I try to understand what the speaker needs from me: a platform to vent, empathy or advice. I must concurrently listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
- I have to watch every word that comes out of my mouth. I no longer have the luxury of uncensored conversation. People will weigh and judge my words. Because I can be viewed as an authority they often take what I say very seriously. I have had people quote my words back to me many years later.
- I have stripped my speech of cursing and extreme adjectives. I must be “wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove” in my communicating. I want to be an encourager and build people up in love.
- My educational focus has changed. I realize that continuing to grow as a counselor requires an ongoing pursuit of relevant knowledge. I must be aware of cutting edge trends as well as solid Biblical counseling principles.
- I treat social media as if the whole world is reading my posts. The metrics that I get back from this blog show that there are many readers beyond our borders. Automatic language translators make that possible. Hello China, Korea, UK, Russian Federation, Brazil, Ukraine, France, Germany, Spain. Canada and many more.
- I get to wear jeans and wear a beard to work. Flip-flops are optional.