Self. Reliant.

I grew up with a therapist. My father was an Army chaplain, and a family-systems therapist. For years I have been skeptical of both vocations: ministry and therapy. I live with a therapist now, and it’s odd. She does so much good in the world. Empirical good. I admire the work she does, and it’s worth the occasions when she uses therapy voice on me.

I have to remember to speak for myself. You, over there, I can see much more clearly than I see myself. Which is another way of explaining my issue with ministry and therapy. They are just people like we are just people. And they have their messy things exactly as we do.

Despite my skepticism, I see the use of therapy. Therapy should be short term and it should target an issue (or behavior). Your therapist should not give you a solution to this issue; your therapist, if he or she is any good, should help you identify the resources to deal with this particular issue on your own. In other words, therapy is a skill set. You are learning to be you more effectively. To drop patterns, to forgo drama, to accept, to grieve, to assert, to build and maintain boundaries. You learn, in therapy, to communicate your needs more effectively.

Sometimes you learn to be angry. You learn to live with your anger; you learn to direct it at the people who injured you. You learn to stop nursing it. But you don’t do that in therapy. You do that in life. In therapy, you learn to acknowledge your feelings and feel them.

The thing about therapy and ministry is that they are methods to honor grace. Your own grace. You can’t live in this world with grace if you don’t have it for yourself. Be kind. That’s all. Be kind. Start in the quiet by thinking. Think of your center. Think how large it is at the core of you. Think how marvelous your fingers are. How much of the world you take in when you yawn. Think of your brain flexing. The length of your outstretched arms. Think of the morning light. The wind in the shrubbery. Think of your heart thudding against you as you run.

You in the quiet. Pensive. Deliberate. Still and powerful. Your toes. Your veins. Your striving body. The choices you have before you. They might be anything. You might be anything. Unfinished as you are. The most radical action we can take is love. Isn’t that funny? I’m surprised by it every time. The most radical action we can take is love. In the dark, you are also beautiful.

2 thoughts on “Self. Reliant.”

  1. My hubs is pretty skeptical of therapy, because of some childhood trauma (with therapy). He doesn’t see the value of it for him – “it’s nice for you, but it wouldn’t work for me.”

    Yet the anger and rage and incandescent sorrow he carries around – I think he thinks these make up who he is. He doesn’t know that if he lets the rage go, it can be so that he will experience joy again… He doesn’t believe it.

    Yet – he married me! I am not a therapist, but I have years of therapy, and I value therapy immensely. I value healing immensely. I value the restoration and balance which healing can bring. So, eventually, I figure he will “see the light.” I just hope I will be able to refrain from beign a smug asshole when he does.


    1. Or maybe he’ll just benefit from the skills you’ve learned in therapy and the way you live in the world. So much of this is about developing better resources, right? I think we develop resources through experience but also through example. The way when I met Mary I knew her boundaries would keep both of us safe until I’d developed better boundaries of my own.

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