1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 (The Message)
13-15 Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
And for the purists here is the NKJV translation
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
Nan & I were talking this morning about different approaches to counseling for our clients based on the individual temperaments and situations they faced. It can be tempting to rely on a “one size fits all” kind of mentality based on the “issue” rather than really getting to know the person’s deeper personality, background and other struggles before coming up with a treatment plan.
We were reminded of the above passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 which first calls out those who counsel to be aware, and then guides them in their task. I have included two different translations because I think both interpretations are rich with wisdom. Do we give too much grace to freeloaders? Are we too harsh with weakened people? I know you have encountered both, maybe even in your own family while dealing with spouses, parents, children or siblings.
I do not believe that all of us are called to counsel, especially within our own family. God gives each one of us special gifts for the benefit of the community, but He does not give all gifts too all people. Words are very powerful and have long lasting effects. Just ask any adult who has suffered at the hands of an emotionally abusive parent. But for those who are called upon to fulfill this sacred role, I would caution them to think carefully about the difference between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Godly wisdom takes into account the “whole counsel of God”, not just slices of scripture. And it is always respectful of the person’s worth.
It is very discouraging to have great intentions of helping someone only to discover you have made their problem worse. How can we do this?:
- Challenging them when they need encouragement and support
- Minimizing a serious problem
- Shaming them when they reveal something difficult
- Overreacting, overstating or overwhelming them with your response
- Being critical, self-righteous or analytical with an emotional or delicate issue (the person will likely feel unfairly or harshly judged)
- Answering without having fully listened (the person feels unimportant)
- Interpreting (inaccurately) rather than listening and reflecting
- Listening and responding with a “black and white, all or nothing” or predetermined mindset
I am sure there are many more I could add, but I’m sure you get the idea. We cannot group people into convenient categories and apply stock responses. We have to honor each one as an individual who is deeply loved by God and worthy of our best efforts. That requires us to dig deeper within ourselves at times and not succumb to our own frailties. It means managing ourselves when it’s easier to manage others.
But I want to give a shout out to all of those who care for and counsel others. It’s rarely easy to share in someone’s pain. But it’s part of God’s plan.
Galatians 6:2 (NLT) Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.