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Ep. 13 Counseling a Person Who Believes Her Story is Too Awful to Share

Shows Main Idea – Sometimes a person does not want counseling because they are afraid to share their story. To counsel well means you must know and do some specific things.

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I led a biblical counseling conference in Soldotna, Alaska. During the conference, there were many questions from the attendees. I interacted with a few of the questions during the training by interweaving them into the coursework. However, there were more questions than I could answer.

Therefore, I’m extending the conference by answering a stack of questions that were given to me during the training. I brought them home and will be answering them on my Life Over Coffee Podcast.

Show Notes

There are two parts to this podcast:

  • About you–things to know about you.
  • About her–things to know about her.

About you

A general theme about sharing vulnerable information

Typically, there are two things that all people have to know before they will open up…

  • Can I trust you?
  • Can you help me?

A specific theme about this lady sharing vulnerable information

This lady is unsure if you can be trusted and if you’re competent enough to help her, plus there is the added twist of not being sure if her problems are too much for you to hear.

  • Is her story too much for you to hear?
  • Not all people can handle all the truth.

Will you be tempted to sin?

You have to ask yourself if her story will tempt you to sin. Here are five examples of how a person can be tempted to sin:

  1. Self-righteous – You look down on her as though you’re better than she is. Let her know who the biggest sinner is: You killed Christ. Consequentially your sin may not be as bad as hers, but as far as sin is concerned, any sin will put Christ on the tree. Also, share with her some of your failures, and how God changed you. There are two ways to offer hope to a person: (1) God’s Word has an answer for what you’re going through and (2) I know this is true because this is what God has done for me.
  2. Worry – You become over-burdened by her story, or you over-care for her (1 Corinthians 3:6). God gives the increase, so rest in Him.
  3. Anger – You take up an offense for her, which derails your care of her, while you collaborate in anger toward the offender.
  4. Fear – You think you’re supposed to bring change, rather than resting in the “Counselor” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
  5. Condemnation – You condemn her, which is more active than a self-righteous attitude; it is an active, volitional, and practical rejection of her.

Are you able to steward her truth with compassion and competency?

How does sin happen?

Technically speaking her telling her story cannot contaminate you. That is not how sin contaminates us: We are drawn away by our own desires. See James 1:14-15

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death. – James 1:14-15 (ESV)

Pace yourself

Discipleship for a situation like this is better in a church environment rather than a counseling environment:

  • There are no artificial timelines for change. Counseling is six, eight, or ten sessions–something like that. Church care is unlimited discipleship until the person meets Jesus.
  • You can slow down each meeting, which will relieve her and you of feeling the pressure to speed things up, to get things done.
  • You can build relational bridges for the future, heavy truth that you may have to communicate to her.
  • You can care for her in many contexts, not just the counseling office, e.g., coffee shop, church meetings, small group.
  • She can get to know you in many “non-discipleship” contexts, which will put her at ease…as opposed to thinking of you as the sterile, perfect, therapeutic, distant, “above-the-fray” counselor type.

About her

WHERE did she get the idea that she can’t share with you?

Find out where she got the idea that her sin will contaminate you, and begin to re-envision her with compassion. (See James 1:14-15.)

WHAT is really going on with her?

Recognize what is really going on with her: specifically shame, guilt, and fear. She needs to change first at the heart (Luke 6:45), which is how we all change. She also struggles similar to all of us because she was born in Adam. Her story is not the primary thing, though it is the most traumatic thing in her life.

WHY the Bible speaks to all things

The Bible speaks to “all things” pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). She needs envisioning about the effectiveness of God’s Word–the truest form of psychology.

HOW to think about details

  • You don’t necessarily need all the gory details.
  • You can’t change the past. (Read this on the past.)
  • Find out if there are legal issues involved: Some people are victims of sin and crimes (sin-crimes). Example: If someone robbed a bank, they broke the law. Was the law broken as part of how this person was sinned against? She may be the victim of sin and a crime, which means the legal authorities need to be apprised.

WHEN to bring more community in to help her…another advantage of the local church

If her problems have been horrendous, you will need (1) more time and (2) more people to help her, which is the beauty of the local church. Bring in the community when it is appropriate. As you know, if there is intimidation about seeing you, there will be even more fear about integrating in the community.

  1. Do not press for this.
  2. Envision for this.
  3. She does not need to “tell all” to others.
  4. She does need the care of others…for the rest of her life.
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