Ask any beginning counselor and they will tell you that the one thing they most want to know is, “What do I say? What do I do?”
No one gets into the world of Christian counseling just to see messes. No, we take up the work because we want to see people recover life and health. But with the desire to see others get well, we also face the large temptation to push people into places of health. We want to tell people what to do
- For those we find disagreeable or resistant: We want to tell them the full extent of their problems (rip the bandages off and make them see!)
- For those we have compassion: We want to tell them it will be all right
- For those we see are stuck: We want to tell them specific steps to wellness
- For those we find to be much like us: We want to tell them they are doing just fine
Telling, exhorting, (or less nice words: cajoling, forcing, pushing) is a great temptation for every counselor. We want to impart our wisdom. We want to feel good by solving other people’s problems. We want others to experience our successes or our love for the Bible.
What does Jesus know and do?§
Do you find it odd that Jesus asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Do you think Jesus didn’t know what he wanted? Or what about Jesus’ question, “Who touched me?” after the woman touched the hem of his garment. Did he not already know? We see that Jesus frequently uses the form of question in order to draw out the heart and mind of the person seeking help.
Do you want to be well? Where are your accusers? Where is your husband? Whose image is on this coin? When you went into the desert, what did you go to see? Where is your faith?
While we I don’t intend to argue that Jesus’ question asking somehow makes a rule for us, I do intend to argue that questions are more likely to lead to the client’s active engagement of a topic than telling them the conclusion. When we listen to others tell us values, facts, ideas, it is easy to slip into a passive acceptance or passive neutral stance. But when asked a question, we who answer more frequently engage the question.
§These biblical passages were discussed by Rev. Rick Tyson in our annual worship service at our counseling practice.