So… looking for someone to tell you you’re a sinner?
While going through the course my classmates and I were given surveys to fill out. One of the questions asked was: “Where or to whom would you turn if you were in crisis?” Popular answers listed were “the emergency room,” “a loved one,” “a mentor,” “a crisis hotline,” and very last on the popularity list was “clergy.” When asked why, most people responded that they were afraid they would be told they were a sinner.
That fear of being labeled a sinner was exactly what my father, Douglas, experienced several months before he died by suicide in 2009. Douglas was a deeply religious man, and the convictions of his faith often guided his life. I didn’t always agree with his beliefs, but I understood that his faith helped complement certain areas of his life for the better.
I could tell he was extremely depressed after he and my mother separated in late 2008. I asked him if he was getting help. He mentioned that he had sought counsel with several clergy and spiritual advisors but he had to stop. They were telling him he was a sinner because of how his marriage ended and that his depression was a weakness and a result of him not being right with God. His spiritual advisors (also licensed counselors) were making him feel worse and even abandoned. So he turned away from the biggest support system he had ever known. Several months later he took his own life.
I wish I could claim to never have heard that story — but it’s far too true and way too common.
To date, I only know of one minister where that was not true — and we worked for him for 5yrs when we first started our practice. The route people followed was first into his office where he would care and pray for them — then he handed them off to his wife (Also a therapist) Ros or myself.
They went straight in there because he simply was not about sin. He was all about the love of Christ — and people knew it so they brought all of their crisises to him — and all of their friends. Nearly every heart he touched was transformed and, yes, infinitely more behaviours changed too — by love, not judgment.
But, the world looks so different now. So many times I’ve been asked, “So, you are a Christian counselor — does that mean you are gonna be down on __________?”
Now, people show up in our offices first, and then, SOMETIMES, we can talk them into trusting SOME of the resources of their local Church.
And, it’s getting SO much harder to sell…
And, that is so NOT a cool trend…