Monday, 16 December 2013

Giving and Receiving

'Tis the season to be jolly and all that; a  time to give and give in abundance; a time to fling millions at the retailers so that we can gather unto our fecund breast the trappings of the baybee Jeezuss. 

I find myself a little!

I have, in recent weeks, become familiar with the therapeutic encounter and in that setting there are rules that establish the basis for trust and openness - themselves pathways to healing. One of those rules, in the group encounter, is that there is to be "no care-taking"!

Care-taking in this setting refers to that instinctive response (in many) to reach out and offer care to one in distress. If one who is expressing him/herself does so through the visceral haze of tears, or else a rictus grin or the black depths of fury, there is to be "no care-taking". Leave them to cry; let them express their ire. The reason for this is clear, in therapeutic circles:

"The hand that gives is above the hand that receives".

I have pondered this for a few weeks now, in light of the phrase found in Acts that we all know: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20: 35). I have pondered this hard as I have tried (and yes, often failed) to model my meagre existence on this tenet of faith. That there is an inherent power imbalance had never occurred to me, and I am left wondering.  

The church (that august body of good men and women) is equipped with many gifts that it would bestow upon you if you so allowed it. We do charity a good'n. We'll cure your homosexuality with the Holy Spirit if you want us to*. We'll lob you a hand-out if the need arises. We'll fling water and oil around to solve your spiritual dis-ease. Yes, we can do all of that. But where is power in this?

Let us forget that it was Napoleon Bonaparte who expressed, so eloquently, the power imbalance so often present through the acts of giving and receiving. It does sometimes worry me that we the church will claim to have them the answers for you the sinner. We will look at your life and tell you where you have gone wrong and bring with us a remedy. Actually, I would go even further. We focus heavily on giving as a virtue because we cannot happily receive. So few of us feel worthy of a God-gift so we shy away from receiving such a grace as that, and defer to giving as the thing that we should be doing. 

Again, I write this only for myself - as one with an all-too-quick comment to help you fix that which is broken. I am often too quick to give worthy advice, the answer, a solution. I am learning that just sitting and resisting the urge to "give" means that I remain an equal to the other person, and in real danger of receiving a moment of grace in being party to the story of another. It is certainly a male thing to do the quick fix, but I wonder if it is also an innately (and well intentioned [on the whole]) Christian thing? 

* The author of this blog does not regard homosexuality to be a disease like some do. I do not believe that you can be cured of it or should be cured of it. I cannot be cured of my brown eyes or my boyish grin - and why not? Because I was born that way. I condemn homophobia in all its forms - including that which regards it as a curable disease. Enough said. 

1 comment:

  1. Hari OM
    Ah the counselor's art... as one, I could reach out and bolster you in this realisation and the challenge it presents you now as "rescuer" (instinctive over-carers).

    Instead, allow me to relate this.

    Majority of times, all that is required is to be heard. No answers given or actions taken. Very recently, my two+ years in India ended. The intensive spiritual course left me with decisions to make and return to "the world" to deal with. A very dear friend came over for three weeks to share some touring time. My biggest challenge turned out to be her. She is a chronic organiser and 'carer'. Nobody could survive without her it seems.

    My physical condition had certainly deteriorated, the arthritis causing significant problems. I am also not one to rock the boat - too often. The mistake she made, in my trying to work through a couple of plans, was the assumption that I needed 'things doing'. Long story short, she read the physical impairment plus the natural confusion and disorientation at the end of such an experience as a time for her to do everything for me and treat me like a child. Even when we got back to OZ, when we were in the shops she spoke on my behalf.

    I had to rock the boat. I needed a friend. Not a mother. Not a planner. Not a fixer-upper. Just a friend. The kind of 'help' that was being given felt almost insulting and certainly dis-empowering.

    There are, without doubt, 'lost sheep'. Most remain near the flock or know how to find their way back simply by bleating and having the flock bleat back.

    One of the best natural counselors I ever had was my grandfather. So I point out to you also that this is not necessarily a gender-based thing. Don't give yourself a hard time on that one!! Reaching out with a neutral ear and, where appropriate, a comforting hug to send them back into the furore is all that most folk want or need.

    The counselor's art comes in knowing when action is truly necessary. That is a whole different challenge again...

    YAM xx



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