Several years ago, one of my friends went through a devastating divorce and lost custody battle for her 5-year old. She was completely broken at the time, fragile in every sense, my heart truly went out to her. It was as if she could no longer think logically. Jaded and consumed with bitterness she began to lose everything else as she pulled away from her other relationships (family, friends, church, etc.). Hopeful for restoration, she decided to go to a counselor for some help. Unfortunately, the counsel she received was not good and ultimately turned her into a horribly self-righteous person who blamed everyone and everything for her circumstances. For many years after that we struggled to maintain our friendship, today we are no longer in touch.
This left a permanent impression on me; and since that day, I have been somewhat weary of “counselors.” Yet, I think that many of us (who aren’t even professionals) find ourselves counseling or giving advice to friends in need. Not just the “what shoes should I wear with this dress” kind of advice… but the real stuff. The stuff when people are hurting or when they are at a real crossroads in life. What an enormous responsibility this can be! The thing is that our words of advice could impact the direction someone takes, it can put thoughts in their head, and words can both help and hurt, that’s why we need to be careful.
So, if you are the type of person that people open up to and you usually find yourself in situations where you are being asked for advice, you could be counseling without realizing it.
Since I am not an expert or a professional therapist, but I often find myself in sitting in the “counselor’s seat,” I have looked to the Bible for the best way to handle it. Here are 6 things I’ve learned in my study.
What the Bible says about how we should counsel others:
- Pray first. Ask the Lord to guide your words and be in your conversation. Psalms 25:5
- Listen… without drawing conclusions and definitely without judgment. Try to fully understand the facts and remember that a lot of times, people are just looking for someone to listen they may not even want your advice or counsel. As Christians we are to bear one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2
- Express Empathy. Show genuine concern for someone who is hurting and in need of counsel. If you dismiss someone’s feelings or fears, it will not help them. Remember that to the individual, the emotions are real. Proverbs 20:5
- Know the Word, use it and reference it. The Bible is your instruction manual, all guidance should align with the Word of God. Instruction and guidance should always align with God’s word. Proverbs 23:12
- Speak the truth in love. Tell them what the truth is. If there is a sin problem, address it and ground it in the Truth. The Truth shall set you free. John 8:32
- Give them something to do, make sure that there is a practical action plan. Counseling requires a course of action.
- Actions include: Bible reading, prayer, or keeping a journal.
- Reflect on difficult situations:
- Write down what happened…
- What should have happened, and…
- What they will do next time
I hope that this has been helpful. If you have other tips for us who find ourselves in the counseling seat, please share them with me and respond to my blog.
Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. Proverbs 19:20 (KJV)