I was visiting yesterday with another biblical Christian counselor about the tendency of some people to seek out “counselors” (professional, friends, acquaintances, or otherwise) who will listen to them, affirm them, and tell them what they want to hear. But they are not equipped with the internal or external resources or personal commitment to make the necessary changes to improve their circumstances. How long and to what extent does one go to help, recognizing that the work has to be done by the counselee, not the counselor. At what point must a counselor determine that she is ineffective in meeting the needs or demands of a particular counselee and end the relationship? (And as another thing to consider, how many counselors will one likely seek out, refusing to heed the counsel of one after another, before all of them have to withdraw and leave the person alone with herself, trusting that only in finding herself alone with no one but God will she look at her own role in the circumstances against which she complains and turn to God for the help she needs?
When one has sat with someone for a period of time and listened to her complaints and grievances, watched the counselee brush aside suggestions for viewing her circumstances differently or reject consideration of changes to things over which one has control, and shows an unwillingness to do anything other than continue stuck in her misery, when is it appropriate to withdraw from such un-therapeutic relationships? Jesus told his disciples if one will not hear the truth, walk away. But, from a counselor’s view, one seeks to assure that she has done what she can to listen for the real issues, not just what they are willing to acknowledge….and offer all that you can of wisdom from the Word. There will be others looking for help who are eager to listen and learn and grow. One can’t continue to expend limited time and energy in pushing uphill against a resistant spirit indefinitely. That can simply be satan’s ploy to make you less effective or take you out of the “game” altogether……give you a “project” that you insist on remaining involved with that Is intractably resistant.
I was journeying with someone once upon a time, for several years. as a friend and sister in Christ. I and others had included her in many of our activities, in our lives. She had experienced some losses that she just could not process and move beyond. She was seeing a spiritual counselor in another fellowship who eventually dismissed her, calling her “unteachable”. I could see the hurt in this woman from that “judgement” by one she trusted. As I and others, however, continued with her longer (more than 3-4 years) I observed some very disturbing patterns. She used people….not just for little things like a ride here or there or for things she needed. She guilted them into giving her money…and in a couple of cases, significant amounts of money for “needs” that were not real from people who could hardly afford such losses themselves, but who lacked sufficient boundaries in the face of this woman’s wiles and ways to say “no” to her. I was alarmed by her blatant using people into whose lives I had brought her. I pulled away and determined that she was not safe with others in my life who were gentle-spirited givers but had difficulty saying “no”. I talked to her about the problem. She would not listen. She was going to have what she was going to have. I had to walk away and conclude, like the other spiritual friend, that she was “unteachable”, not because she could not learn, but because she did not wish to. I see her from time to time. I have talked to her now and again and it seems that nothing has changed in her life. I can only conclude that she is content with it and has found someone else to listen to her and give her what she wants. One of the potent concepts in the Boundaries book that I teach at Titus 2 includes this question: “What does it cost others to be in relationship with you?” How much can or should one sacrifice for another? And is the sacrifice offered on behalf of God, in his name, and is it accomplishing God’s will in the life of the other person?