Thursday, May 10, 2007

Since It Worked For Me . . .

Have you ever noticed that if something has "worked" for someone that they will naturally hype it as "the solution" for everyone? I'll give you an example. Doing sit-ups helped someone I know cure their backpains. They are absolutely sure of this, so that when they hear of someone else experiencing back pain, they assume that it will work for them as well. "Have you tried sit-ups?"

In my counseling training I am learning that what works well for one counselor may not work well for the next one. Different theories, approaches, and techniques "work" for different people. Sometimes if I am watching a counseling video I think "Ah, you should try this because I did and it worked for me." Then I am shocked when they instead use something completely different and the person is really helped.

I call this principle "universalizing our experience." Whatever our experience is, we tend to project it onto others as being the best choice for them. Jobina and I planned our wedding and honeymoon a certain way. Since we thought that it was great, we highly recommend our way to everyone. Actually, to be honest I have caught us silently disproving of alternate ways of planning these events when engaged couples tell us about them. We kind of look at each other like "hopefully they'll come around." Or we get concerned and try to get them to consider some of the things that we considered. Getting people to emulate our experiences and approaches to things feels good to us. I will honestly admit that I am a sucker for that feeling.

The problem is that there are often more then one way to do something and sometimes our way which worked for us isn't going to work for someone else. Also, when we expect others to emulate us, we are subtly taking away their freedom to have even better experiences then us and in ways that suit them better. No where is this better illustrated then how we approach God. However it was that we felt that we have successfully connected with God, that is how everyone should approach God. If a quiet time in the morning is the best way for you to experience God, you will assume that it is the best for others. Or if going on solo retreats has been the best way for you to connect with God, you will try to "help" others do the same kind of thing. I think this universalizing our experience is natural, but it can often be destructive. I connect to God by being outdoors and by having long baths with just me, God, and my Bible. If I tell others that this is the way to connect with God (giving a universal prescription) but that approach doesn't fit the way God made them, they will be unsuccessful. This can lead to apathy, grief, despair, and disconnect from Christ. A great book which talks about this is Sacred Pathways.

So what ways do you push your experiences on others? Are they reacting negatively to it? I'm not saying that for everything anything goes (especially when it comes to medicine, theology, etc) but it is true that there is more then one way to skin a cat. Somehow we need to maintain our convictions and yet be open to other experiences then just our own. Good luck!

May Light increase!

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