The power of healing is firmly influenced by interpersonal interactions. Four significant and research verified conditions that can help prepare the way for natural change are:
Empathy has been called the defining principle in any therapeutic relationship. It is a term loosely used in therapy circles, but what does it mean? One definition (Webster’s) is: the capacity for participation in another’s feelings or ideas.
Another definition of empathy is the ability to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person.
In a very real sense, the one true master of empathy would be the Savior Himself because it was He who took upon Himself our individual sins and weaknesses to provide healing.
He is the only one that is uniquely qualified to understand on a personal level where a person is and what would help them the most at that particular time. Leaders are thus called upon to seek wisdom beyond their own when meting out Justice and Mercy according to individual needs.
Also, prearranged and fixed blanket punishments without room for personalization may not only result in partial confession, but the confessor may shy away altogether fearful that punishment has already been allotted. Penitence, progression, and circumstances vary with each.
Closely tied to the concept of empathy is that of understanding. Research has indicated that for some the very experience of feeling understood opens the door to change. As one client reported saying,
“You have no idea how good it felt to be listened to that way.”Client
Take the time and be present with those who come in to talk to you. They look to you as spiritual advisors and want to feel that God has not given up on them. “Act like you’ve got only fifteen minutes, it’ll take all day; act like you’ve got all day, it might take fifteen minutes.
Listening for understanding is a lot easier said than done. When we try to jump in and fix things too quickly by giving advice, the doors of empathy and understanding can quickly close. What people mostly desire is to be listened to and understood. The change that they are seeking can only come from within themselves, but usually, the catalyst for that change is to feel understood.
When it comes to healing, the tendency of most of us is to try and fix the problem by telling people what they should do. People don’t want to be told what to do; they want to be listened to. In most cases, they already know what they should do. Paradoxically, when we try to push or pressure someone into changing something, it has the tendency to create the opposite effect. The founder of the 12 step movement Bill Wilson stated the following,
“We found that addicts would not take pressure in any form. They had to be led, not pushed.”Bill Wilson
Warmth and Genuineness mean that you can demonstrate the ability to listen without condemning. It also means that you can create a safe environment for the truth to be discussed and explored and that you’re not putting on an act.
When a person comes into your office to confess, it is important to gather some basic information as to the nature and duration of the problem behavior to best help them. In order to find the balance between Justice and Mercy, it is helpful to get a clear picture of the truth behind the behavior. The way you are with those who come to confess will play a big part in whether they will feel comfortable with a full confession or just a partial confession. If a leader responds without empathy and love, the confession will most likely be a partial confession.
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