Don’t waste your time counseling people…unless…
Not everyone who wants counseling wants help. They might say they do, but they really don’t. At a core level, many people don’t want to change. They simply want relief from their felt pain.
I’ve been counseling people for nearly 50 years. I have studied counseling, my degree is in counseling, and I have written about counseling. Truthfully, and sadly, I’ve wasted a fair bit of time in counseling people whom I could not help- because they only wanted relief, not permanent change.
I’m a Christian. I’m a pastor. I’m a counsellor. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and I have no issues with professionals in these fields. I am thankful for them. But I am simply a counsellor.
My primary role is to bring people into relationship with God through Jesus Christ and point them to the Word of God as the standard for human behavior.
I always assign some homework in my counseling sessions. On the follow-up meeting, my first question is, “How did you do with the assignment I gave you?” So often i hear this response, “Well, I didn’t get around to it. I was just so busy this week.”
My reply will be this, “Alright, let’s stop here. You go home and finish what you were assigned, and let’s pick it up again next week.” This sounds harsh, but this is my modus operandi. Here’s why.
What has the counselee just told me? “I want you to fix this for me- but I don’t want to put any effort into it.” Their refusal to cooperate with me has told me, “You should pray over me and I’ll be changed without having to work at it.”
But here’s the catch. When I as the counselor assign you to look into God’s word and do some homework, I am reminding you that His standards are the standards of human behavior. If you don’t want to learn and embrace Biblical behavior, nothing that I can say and no prayer that I pray will help you.
Paul told Timothy about “terrible times,” describing people as lovers of themselves, proud, abusive, disobedient, and unforgiving. He finished the passage by saying, “Have nothing to do with them. Don’t waste your time coddling people who don’t want to change or who don’t want to embrace the Bible as their way of living.”
I have worked with some very sincere, struggling believers who really do want to become more like Christ, get over their present issues and see life become better. For them, I have lots of time! In fact, all the time that is necessary.
I am never rude or disrespectful with uncooperative counselees, but I am always truthful. If you really want to change, there are not enough devils in hell to keep the power of God from transforming your life.
But you have to want it. You have to be willing to take responsibility for where you are and be willing to do your part. Then powerful things can happen.
As a counselor, discern whether the one you are counseling wants help or relief. Make sure you are not wasting your time “coddling” someone who won’t conform to God’s word. Be patient, but be firm with your standards. Uncompliant counselees can waste your time and energy, and you are not helping them be enabling their problematic behavior. Invest your time in those who truly want to change!