I’ve written about this topic here and here before. In those posts I argue that there is a better question for counselors to consider than the one of culpability. Last night, we started the 2012 edition of Counseling & Physiology with the question of culpability and whether or bodies/brains can cause us to sin outside of our will. We also looked at our tendency to focus on judging whether a person is culpable for their sins (e.g., someone with Tourette’s who swears, someone with a TBI who is easily enraged, someone who is chronically anxious or still another who falls prey to addictive behavior). One of my main goals was to get students thinking about whether they under or overestimate the body’s role in counseling problems.
In the second post listed above I indicate the possibility of a better question than culpability. However, one of my students last night raised a question that went something like this,
Doesn’t the fact that you will choose how to respond to a client indicate that you have to judge the cause of the problem? If you encourage a client to consider psychoactive medications, aren’t you suggesting it is a body problem? If you focus on habits or heart issues, aren’t you assuming the problem is primarily a spiritual, will or behavioral control problem?
This was a great question and my answer was something like the following.
No and yes. Functionally, you will choose an area to work first. This does not mean you think that the type of intervention you choose indicates the main problem. It may only indicate that you think one intervention is an easier entry gate to counseling than another.
Here’s an example. Even if my client is severely depressed and I believe that the primary cause of this depression is their longstanding bitterness and anger towards God, I may encourage a psychiatric evaluation and the consideration of an antidepressant. It may be that once their mood improves, we can make better progress in investigating some spiritual matters in their life.
Human sins and weaknesses have multi-factored sources
Have you ever thought of the various sources of human sin? Here’s a visual of all of the things I think of that are a part of nearly every human sinful behavior. The sizes of the factors surely change depending on the situation. For some, will, high-handed rebellion, may be most of the pie. In other cases, bodily weakness may be the prime source. Also, some of these surely overlap and are not distinct. I may have started out in a rebellious state when I started doing drugs. Now, my body and psychological habits are equal players in why I maintain a drug habit.
What else would you add to this chart? Note that I place “will” in the smallest concentric circle. I imagine that we have far less conscious control over sin than we sometimes ascribe. Habits, unconscious motivations, and foolish (unthinking) choices probably dictate more of our behavior than our direct, willful, planned rebellion. Of course, none of this has ANY influence over culpability or morality as Scripture clearly indicates our guilt even when we are unaware of the Law’s commands. When Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” it tells us that consciousness of sin has little to do with our need for forgiveness.