As a pastor, I often feel the tension in the lives of those I care for. And one of the greatest temptations I face is the urge to quickly resolve that tension by suggesting remedies that make sense to me.
Like many people, I tend to think I know what others should do to resolve the tension in their lives. The temptations that I face are really common to all of us. Pastors face the same temptations everyone else face. But some of us, teachers, counselors, pastors and even parents and friends, are in a position of trust and authority; and sometimes based on that trust and authority we delude ourselves into thinking that our thoughts about the lives of others truly contain the bit of insight the other is lacking and that if they would just follow our advice the tension in their life would be resolved. Delusion indeed.
It is true that teachers and pastors and friends often provide a bit of insight or wisdom that helps us work through our issues and come to be at peace with the various awkward circumstances and realities of our lives and relationships. However, the danger comes when the advisor begins to think that he or she necessarily has the wisdom or insight that the other needs. When this happens, all sorts of hell break loose–and I mean that quite literally.
Self confidence is almost always merely culturally acceptable code for pride. And pride is the devil’s own calling card. When we are proud, we accept the deceiver’s invitation to both deceive and be deceived. And much of the time, since our culture encourages self exaltation (which the Fathers call self esteem), pride does not feel uncomfortable to us–even in prayer. We don’t even notice it. We call it confidence.
The Church, on the other hand, encourages us to give up pride masquerading as confidence. And nowhere is this more important than in our caring for one another. We don’t know what the other needs–even when we think we really do (maybe especially then!). Sure we may have a piece of the picture, a piece of the puzzle, a bit of wisdom; however, we don’t really know. People are way too complicated and the soul (psyche) can be both damaged or healed in a thousand ways we cannot imagine. Humility is called for. Silence is best. We heal others ten times better with our ears and heart than with our mouth.
However, love often constrains us, eventually, to speak. We speak because we love, but we speak very carefully. We speak not as ones confident that we have the answer. Rather, we speak with hope that we may have a piece. We speak knowing that we do not see the whole picture. We speak knowing that our own feelings and experiences may be blinding us to what is really going on. We speak with humility, humility mixed with hope and trust in God.
I cannot change anyone. You cannot change anyone. But God can change those who want to be changed. And because God loves us and treats us as sons and daughters, He often lets us participate in His work in the lives of others. Apprentices we all are. Children just beginning to learn. Yet God shares His work with us.