As I listened to our pastor talk about feeling superior this morning (and why it is a sin) it triggered a thought about counseling and one misunderstanding that can occur. We often dig through a client’s personal history in an attempt to find root causes of certain behaviors. It is very helpful in making sense of why we do the things we do. But there is a danger, particularly when it comes to issues relating to our family of origin. What is that danger? It is possible that we can use this discovery to excuse our bad behavior and/or not make necessary changes. After all, it’s not our fault that we act the way we do. We were victims of a bad childhood, bad parenting, etc. Right?
And we can use psychological posturing to act superior to people in our past and present.
I have seen this attitude when one spouse has had more counseling than the other. There is a smugness that emerges that communicates “I know better than you do because of my past experience with this process”. These clients will often try to form an alliance with the counselor in order to get the upper hand. Certainly familiarity with counseling can be helpful when it is not used as a way to gain power or advantage, when it is understood that we are all broken and in need of healing.
Understand that I am talking to myself as well. I can assume this stance too easily since I wade in deep psychological and emotional water during many of my days. If I am not careful I might not allow enough time for clients to fully express themselves before I start forming my opinions. That arrogance leaves me vulnerable to errors and perhaps a lack of accurate empathy – and that’s the last thing I desire as a counselor.
It is not easy to call someone out on their sin. It is much easier to talk about psychological issues resulting from someone else’s behavior. The risk is joining in a blame-shifting party which is not helpful for a client or a friend. It’s also easier to blame a disorder for everything toxic in a person’s life. I am not minimizing the effect that a disorder has on someone’s life, but it does not usually cover everything. There is still a degree of choice involved with most people – free will, if you will. The condition of my heart will affect the way I deal with situations and people.
We are made up of mind, spirit and body – and they interact to make up who we are as a whole person. To ignore one aspect is to forego an essential element of our being. Each part helps keep the other parts in balance. That is why I must allow my spirit to inform my mind, my emotions, and my behaviors. Integrity means integrating all the pieces of me into one cohesive self. When I submit myself to God, He instead becomes superior in my life and I do not assume that posture, but rather one of humility before Him and others. And at that point I am free.