I witnessed an exchange this week that I thought was an interesting view into Christianity in America. I was examining a newborn baby in a mother’s hospital room when there was a knock at the door. An older woman stuck her head in and announced she was from Pastoral Therapy. She saw me and said she could see the mother was busy and she would come back. The mother responded that wasn’t necessary, she didn’t need to see the Pastoral Therapist, who then proceeded to tell her that she would pray for her. The mother appeared to me to look uncomfortable and said thank you and again reiterated she didn’t need the services.
It’s very helpful to look at this through a feeling and needs lens. I also have been a Christian minister’s wife for many years and so I have my own understanding of what was going on with this exchange. The underlying story in Christianity is that we are all sinners destined for separation from God unless we accept that Jesus died for our sins and is our savior. This story drives a very strong need to help save others. Who would want anyone to be eternally damned? With this story how could we possibly be open to letting others have the life experience they choose?
The empathic connection with others is when we want to hear what is going on for another person. What are they feeling and needing? It is a gift when they want to let us in that way. It is a request on our part that allows for that connection. Would you like me to hear what is alive for you right now? Would you like to hear what is alive for me?
When the Pastoral Therapist opened that door I heard a demand, not a request. I think the mother did also. I heard someone with a very strong need to contribute, after all that is her job. She is supposed to make sure everyone speaks with her and has some prayer.
I think most people want to have someone listen to them, care about them. But that is their gift to us; they are allowing us to contribute to them. That is our request. We have to be willing to hear a “no”. We have to be willing to honor the path they are on, not to want to change them. I am longing to see those working in the spiritual arena, in particular, have wonderful connections with people. In this situation neither one of these people were heard; nor was there any connection.