Monday, April 3, 2017

Being a Listener/Counselor: When the Counselor Needs Counsel

Often, the counselors are perceived to be the strong ones, the wise ones, the ones who have it all figured out.  All too often, we counselors begin to believe that.   We tend to try to fight our battles on our own.  After all, we are the listeners of problems...what will happen if people find out that we do not, indeed, have all the answers?  To open up about our own struggles, we reveal the chink in our armor.  We reveal that we are human.

We are vessels made of flesh only used of God.  In our pride, we forget this fact.  Then, when our flesh rears its head or when the trials of life begin to impact our own lives, instead of opening up to someone as we encourage others to do, we hold it all in.  While we show compassion to so many, we tell ourselves that we are not worthy of that compassion.  While we spend hours listening to others, we hesitate to require the valuable time of another wise person.  While we will drop everything to help a friend, we refuse to ask for help for ourselves.

Then we feel alone.  We continue to struggle alone, cry alone, fail alone.  We put on a smile in front of people and exhaust ourselves trying to convince everyone that we still have it all together while inside we are falling apart.  What will they think of us if they knew we were weak?

Truthfully, many people take for granted that those who are the listener/counselors do, indeed, have it all together.  It is natural and wise for people to seek counsel from those whose lives are in order.  It is rare for a person to ask us how we are doing because it is assumed that all is well all the time.  To be fair, a hurting person struggles to see beyond their own  hurt to anyone else's hurt.  They are not necessarily a selfish's just natural.  

However, it is nothing but our pride that keeps us from seeking counsel.  We are prideful enough to believe that no one can show us the compassion, understanding, or mercy we show to others.  Only by our pride would we believe that it would be a burden for someone to spend time with us while we find it a blessing to spend time with another.  Pridefully, we think we have enough strength and answers to deal with things alone.  

Pride comes before a fall.  We fall under the pressure of the battle.  We fall on our faces in tears.  We fall in a pit of despair and grief.  It is then that we finally reach for help.

I've been there.  For many years I fought battles alone.  To be honest, I  did ok with that.  Or so I thought.  Then, there came a battle that I tried to fight and I was being defeated.  It was a battle that I believed would have devastating consequences if I told anyone about it, but God knew it would destroy me if I didn't.  I never planned to open up to anyone but my husband.  Then, one day, a wise woman - a listener herself - asked me, "How are you doing?  How can I pray for you?"  Before I knew what was happening, the words flowed out.  For months this woman listened to me, talked with me, advised me, prayed with me, spent time with me, showed me great compassion and understanding.  This woman was a gift from God.

It was incredibly difficult for me to be the one needing counseling.  It was humbling, but it was life-saving.  There were times when my pride got in the way and I refused to reach out when the struggle became difficult.  I again tried to fight alone.  But, somehow, God never let that happen.  He would always tell my friend to pray for me and to ask me how I was.  Then I would talk and she would listen.  

I wish I could say I learned my lesson and that now I ask for help the instant I know I need it.  But, I don't. Maybe you struggle with that, too.  We need to always remember that our pride will destroy us.  A wise person will seek counsel.  If we refuse to seek counsel for ourselves, we really have no business counseling others.   

I believe, that while we shouldn't air our struggles to the world, it is good for others to see that we are weak.  When they ask how we are doing, it's ok to let them know if we are having a difficult time.  We don't need to get into specifics with everyone, but when they see that we are real, that we live in the same flesh they live in, that we are weak at times, they know that our counsel comes from personal experience.  In some odd, God-ordained way, our weakness gives us credibility.  If others know that we have walked the valley, they will be confident that we can truly help them as they walk through it. 

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:" -Romans 5:3-4

No one is immune to trials.  We become weak so that God can reveal Himself to us - through others.  Only He is always strong.  Only He has all the answers.  We need to humble ourselves to seek godly counsel and be patient with the time it takes for us to heal and/or receive victory.  The experience of being the counseled is invaluable as we later can give hope to those who sit across the table from us seeking help.

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