To become a hospital chaplain most people engage in what is called Clinical Pastoral Education. The program is aimed at helping interns discover who they are and what they believe so they can see how it impacts the work they do. And although we are not encouraged to become personality-less, we examine our reactions and the avenues we choose to take (or flee from!) in any given situation. Its self awareness at its best-not just for one’s own gratification, but to put to use for others as well.
This can also be terribly annoying too, always analyzing things to death (or others), looking for the deeper meaning in things, or the subconscious motivations when sometimes there might not be anything to see. But because I’ve experienced the overflowing grace self awareness can be, I jump back into the deep end to take a look.
Even when I am engaged in some issue that seems totally unrelated to my circumstances, the passion I feel for someone or something can be undeniable. For instance, a white ally in anti racism, a man concerned about women receiving lower pay for equal work, and so on. I think this is because we have an inner drive to connect and relate with each other; and we know in doing so we often learn more about ourselves. Those who fight for people on the margins are fighting for themselves sometimes-fighting for themselves to be accepted just like those they advocate for, fighting for people to be treated like we wish we had been (or how we wish we would be treated if we are ever in their shoes). Consequently, when we treat people poorly, are we treating them like we think we deserve to be treated? Do we want them to feel as we do?
Even so I celebrate the magical nature of and capacity for healing that relationships embody. Through someone’s triumph we hope to tap into our own skills for doing the same. We are drawn to them because we seek healing too-the loss of idealism, our own unique experiences of suffering, or the loss we feel not having a spirit of survival. This quote, normally attributed to Lilla Watson, has never made more sense to me: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us walk together”.
To truly be the best advocate I can be and be as objective as possible (so I can help in the ways they would like, not how I would like to help), I’ve got to tap into my inner self. I’ve got to guard against over-identifying too though. We’ve all probably heard from time to time, “I know exactly how you feel” and bristled because 1) we can’t really know exactly how it felt and 2) we begin to make the conversation about us.
To unlock the magic of relationships, BE in relationship with those you are concerned about. Share your own story when appropriate and discover what touches you so about the person or situation. It will make it even more meaningful for all involved but it will also complete the circle of relationship Jesus modeled for us. I remain ever grateful for the opportunity and the trust extended to us; after all, we’re dealing God’s most precious creations.