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Monday, September 28, 2015

A Short Word on Bullying, Harassment and Social Safety

SOME people are more prone to being bullied than others are, but that makes them no lesser people.
Indeed, if we’re prone to being bullied we may also need to watch for the fact we’re prone to being the bully. It’s not something of true cause-and-effect, though, because many people who are prone to being bullied wouldn’t harm a fly. There are those, too, who would never stand to be bullied, yet have such narcissistic sociopathic tendencies as to be routinely involved in bullying. And there are those fortunate, blessed ones who don’t stand for bullying, either against themselves or others. And finally there are those who don’t see it as an issue. But it is an issue.
What a curse of fallenness bullying is! The modern day was made for the troll — the slinking evil presence doing the evil one’s bidding. And who will defend the defenceless target of such stunts, covertly performed?
Those of the “harden up, princess!” school ought to be cautioned — just because bullying may not affect them, there’s nothing to say it’s not a legitimate and serious issue for others. Indeed, our society is screaming for better responses to those who would attack people without even a thought, let alone a care; those who perpetrate and perpetuate violence with a promise: if-you-resist-my-attack-I-will-get-you-back; or worse: if-you-resist-my-attack-and-I-will-raise-the-stakes.
My Personal Experience
In nearly two decades of being a health and safety ‘chaplain’ in four major corporations in the secular workplace, I saw many varieties of bullying outplayed in all organisational dimensions — up, down and sideways. As a contact officer under my State’s equal opportunity laws I was occasionally called upon to support and advocate for a person who felt socially unsafe in their work environment. And, besides, it was bread-and-butter work for a safety and health professional; bullying and harassment were implicit and explicit in my State’s safety and health laws; the legislature I was paid to oversee, educate people on, and enforce.
But my professional experience in the occupational environment didn’t whet my appetite to be an advocate for the bullied. That occurred when I was bullied for the first time as a sixteen-year-old apprentice. That lasted three years. In the 1980s — prior to good safety and health legislation coming out — it was common for apprentices to be abused with pranks. I suffered dozens of them. I was fortunate, though, that God provided me an advocate in my final year; a tradesman who’d only shortly finished his own apprenticeship. He took my supervisors and the tradespeople I was under to task. He told them that I’d never amount to anything if they constantly abused me and put me down. They backed off and that was the last time I suffered bullying — until five years ago. In between times — from 1987 until 2010 — I worked for good people, I worked with good people, and, from 1993, I was able to advocate for others as either an employee representative, a supervisor, or a safety professional.
More and more covert bullying occurs these days as protagonists engage pathologically. In my experience, some managers used it as a form of control where other methods hadn’t worked. Employees would often quit because of the stress. Some employees used it on managers as a passive-aggressive technique for resisting things they didn’t like. Many managers I know have suffered significantly because of the stress of this up-line bullying. And many co-workers were ensconced in workplace relationships that didn’t work — stress, anger anxiety, and depression were prevalent just because working relationships didn’t work. Mediation was occasionally used, but not nearly often enough. Many, many people suffer in silence.
A classic irony in bullying is it’s driven by fear. The bully is operating not out of love, but out of fear. Their fear seeks to propagate fear in the one/s they bully.
Confronting and Resolving the Issues
It’s not the typical industrial safety risks that are of most concern to society. Truly it’s discrimination, bullying and harassment; these silent risks that coalesce with the shame for not wanting to be seen as a weakling. Being bullied doesn’t make us weak.
Quite simply there’s no excuse for bullying, and allegations of bullying should always be taken very seriously. It’s not for the purpose of punitive action against the alleged bully — it’s about getting dialogue occurring between the warring parties. We can do nothing sustainable about bullying unless we can get the parties talking in safety.
If someone feels unsafe in a relational dynamic, and their efforts to bring peace have resulted in no change, there’s a very high likelihood that it’s bullying — especially if their efforts have resulted in the other person upping the ante. Pure and simple.
Many people in workplaces — indeed, also within families and other groups — need help in order to get on with one another. It should be everyone’s aim to get on with one another. When we’re able to get along with one another everyone suffers less stress.
I’ve seen previously ‘normal’ people reduced to pathology cases simply because bullying went on and on in their workplaces without it being checked. I’ve seen people’s lives wrecked — again, previously very well adjusted people. Bullying doesn’t discriminate.
It’s not just so-called weak people who are bullied; everyone is susceptible.
When the truths of people’s perceptions can be raised in safety, there’s a very real opportunity of moving forward. Nobody should have to work, live or exist in situations where they feel unsafe.
A process I’ve seen used that works well is to get three parties in a room for as long as it reasonably takes — perhaps over two or three meetings — to get parties to agree on what the issues are and what can be done. Again, it’s not just about defending the person who feels bullied. It’s about understanding the perceptions of each person in order to develop work-arounds that work for both. It’s not sustainable otherwise.
Obviously the ultimate goal is to get people on the same page so far as mutual trust and respect is concerned. It that’s not possible a difficult choice might be apparent. For both persons’ safety, separation may be the only choice, or a level of safe supervision. Whatever, a solution is needed. Sticking our heads in the sand only makes the problems worse. People should not suffer in silence and aggressors should not get away with it.
What Can We All Do?
We live in a bipolar society. One day we’re advocating for suicide prevention (in Australia we have “RUOK day” in September each year) and the next we’re deploring people whinging about bullying. It’s such a shame to think that many cases of bullying end up in suicide. And certainly self-harming is a very common response to bullying. We cannot advocate for mental health and tell people to ‘toughen up!’ We cannot have it both ways. The issues are interconnected.
My challenge to the so-called strong people who want people to ‘harden up’ is to lend some of that surplus strength they have and make real strength out of it: advocate for the weaker person. The only real strength is love; a strength that gives itself away.
1.     Encourage them to overcome their fears.
2.     Empower them to get the issues on the table so the truth can engaged with.
3.     Equip them with the belief that reconciliation is possible.
4.     Enable them with support if they need to get out of the toxic situation.
Advocating for the bullied isn’t about being fearful. It’s about being fair.
There’s no reason why anyone should be in fear of a relationship, because of the threat of violence, or even because it feels awkward. Everyone deserves the opportunity of working and living in safe spaces and situations.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Peace in Anxiety, Hope in Depression, Joy in Affliction

BY FAITH, peace may be experienced in anxiety, hope in depression, and joy in affliction — all as biblical principles of promise.
Peace in Anxiety
During the few seasons of anxiety that I’ve had, there was always a search going on to identify the cause in order to fix it. Some anxiety appears difficult to pinpoint, but there are always possible causes that can be identified. Peace comes as a result of a productive search. Anxiety otherwise is the antithesis of peace. But peace also comes in acceptance — to know that the heart can be slowed manually when we do relaxation techniques.
Peace in anxiety is possible when we have discovered some of the causes of our concerns.
Hope in Depression
If there’s one thing that’s of scant provision in depression it’s hope. Hope is a blessing in the present and critical for the future. Hope rests easy knowing things, as they are, are good. Rarely can a depressed person, or someone in a depression, say they are hopeful or hope-filled. Hope in depression is contingent on replacing our fearful thoughts with something motivational and positive. As soon as we’re able to wrest the fearful thoughts from our thinking we’re able to see and experience God’s wisdom, goodness and grace.
Hope in depression is about our thinking processes. Thinking in truth, guarding against fear, we have the capacity for hope.
Joy in Affliction
Many times in my life I’ve struggled not so much with mental health concerns, but with the courage or insight to remain joyful in hardship. Such times I have had no issue with energy or motivation, and I was able to knuckle down in the hardship confronting me. But I didn’t often have joy. Until that is I faced the truth that I was bearing up really well under the pressure, considering, and I knew that that pressure would not last. Affliction never lasts indefinitely, especially when we begin to look for the silver lining in the dark cloud overhead. Add to this the quiet satisfaction, that, if this present struggle hasn’t defeated us yet, it’s unlikely to happen.
Joy in affliction is simply about mindset. The hardest things you’ve ever felt or suffered are happening to you right now: consider it pure joy that you have capacity for it.
Peace in anxiety, hope in depression, joy in affliction: all are possible through a cogent faith in God.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
Image Credit: Shehan Peruma.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Joy of Hope Out of the Temptation to Despair

CRISES of purpose and relationships on the rocks: two key aspects of life when life turns against us. And then there is the inexplicable disharmony of many threads of life that just seem a confused mishmash.
Whether by grief or depression or anxiety — or a perfect storm of all three — or it’s the reality of despair over a life situation that can’t be changed, we all need hope. God knows and so do we.
We search for hope because we cannot handle despair. And hope is found on loan when we find something that works; even for the day. Such a short hope inspires hope of a longer hope.
The helplessness of despair is an unconscionable blight on the human condition. So many I’ve talked to say words to the effect, “I could not believe life could be this bad… no matter what I tried, it felt I couldn’t loosen the grip of this.”
Despair is real as it is lived through the passage of time and the space of existence in the body, mind and soul.
But, because God is always near, a solution, too, is always near. Nearer than we’re inclined — especially in despair — to think.
As the psalmist says, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you — I whom you have delivered.” (Ps. 71:23)
When we pray for the help of delivery, and we keep searching through God’s Word, and we wonder with endeavour into what we can do, God is faithful and he leads us by his Spirit.
But we also need to be wise and know when to push forward. Some days are meant to floor us. Some days we’ll not have the energy or inclination to challenge the nemesis. And if we don’t give up, trying each day to do the best we can, we will overcome through the delivery that our Lord brings us through.
The joy of hope brings an expanse of awareness for the goodness of God. From this we see that life truly is a wonderful thing, even if the evil one would want to wreck the experience.
The joy of hope out of the temptation to despair is hope enough not to settle for giving up.
Such joy is taken on loan — a real possession of the soul — even in helplessness. We simply need to ask God and be prepared to grasp it. It costs nothing but a willingness to accept it.
The joy of hope is a free gift we may possess even at the time of asking.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

4 Ways to Pastorally Care for the Vulnerable and Exposed

“Treat one another justly. Love your neighbors. Be compassionate with each other. Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor. Don’t plot and scheme against one another – that’s evil.”
— Zechariah 7:9-10 (Msg)
OCCUPATIONAL safety and health was my professional field for nearly twenty years before I launched into fulltime ministry. It was a role that involved me as an advocate for the vulnerable as I sought to support workers, managers and teams make for a safer and healthier workplace. One thing I found was a constant. There’s a power differential in many relational situations, and many people feel they don’t have a voice.
The vulnerable need a voice. I know God has called me to be that voice.
I’m assuming if you’re reading this article you, too, may be called to be a voice; an actor for the voiceless in some sort of pastoral care capacity.
Those potentially exposed and vulnerable are those subject to domestic or family violence, immigrants, women and children, marginalised groups, new workers, the mentally ill, young people, older people, and people in a life transition. This list goes on, unfortunately.
Here are four ways to advocate for those who need support:
1.     Truly understand their needs. We often think we know what people’s needs are, but we might go off on our own tangent, based out of our own material of unmet needs. The first step is to truly listen. We have truly listened, and more fully understand, when we can paraphrase back to them what they said and they fully agree with our understanding.
2.     Truly understand what action they need you to do. Although people won’t often know what they want us to do, they often know what they don’t want us to do. Don’t do anything you know or feel might make things worse for them. We are there to add value and to reduce their burden. Adding to their burden is never justified, no matter how right it might seem to you.
3.     ‘Travel with’ them. This is a term I first learned in bringing up my daughters. God told me during their teen years that my role was to be like the Holy Spirit to them; to walk beside and not impede them unnecessarily; to support, encourage, and build-them-up. Those we advocate for need us to simply ‘travel with’ them. This is a delicate dance of discerning when and how to step in and when and how to let them be. The idea is we are helping them to run independent of our help. So encouragement helps. And encouragement can become quite a passive yet effective activity.
4.     Accept the time to wish them well. Not having taken their side so much as just having been there to listen and bear their burden, we are well positioned to back out of their lives at the appropriate point.
Being an advocate for the vulnerable and exposed person is a privilege replete with honour.
C.A.R.E. is about Cultivating, with Advocacy, Respect and Empathy.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Just What Brings Us To Gratitude?

DEPRESSED beyond measure, at a time when there is clearly no sight for hope, the enemy climbs aboard the back of the disciple trying their best. But, for a lack of perspective, there is a gaping vulnerability. What is to be done?
Spiritual attack makes the nemesis look gnarly. Soon there are direct suggestions. These suggestions for action begin to be pondered; dangerous ground is encroached.
There is a reaching out. There has to be. It cannot remain this way. With sharks circling and wolves bearing their teeth, respite from danger often makes us run the other way directly into another form of danger. Sensing this, with no option, we just get fretful. What is to be done?
Then there is the pain component. Honesty within integrity suggests we cannot deny the element that pains us — we cannot push it to the background in the hope it will go away. So we wrestle. It never feels good, but we wrestle in the hope one day we’ll be handsomely compensated by what we’ve learned or rewarded by God somehow.
There, where we search, coming up empty-handed time and again, is found gratitude.
What brings us to gratitude is the search. It may be a serendipitous find, but it’s a rich find all the same. We are grateful we have found the means by which our motivation and inspiration can be nurtured and established. Our application of gratitude is not perfect by any means, but we’re learning as God is equipping us.
We’re learning, perhaps most of all, that gratitude is perspective, or latitude:
Gratitude makes for latitude,
The very hope for life,
With latitude for gratitude,
We have a hopeful way through strife.
What brings us to gratitude is the search for something better. Having dealt with seasons of anxiety, depression, grief, and other mental ills, we’ve become sick and tired of being sick and tired.
We sensed there was something more, and with courage to blaze a new trail, on a sunlit day within our soul, we set out on that intrepid journey.
That something more is gratitude — to list those things we can be incredibly thankful for, even if, for the time being, we aren’t.
Gratitude is the seed of hope compelling forward the nurturance of joy and peace.
Gratitude coalesces with thankfulness, expanding our worldview, embodied with hope.
Gratitude is the will to break past fear in order to break forward into praise.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

10 Ways to Forgive, and Forgive Again and Again

GRACE rocks our world when we finally realise that what God has extended to us we cannot extend to another person quite so easily. Grace is costly. If it’s cheap it’s not grace. Grace suggests that we can and will forgive again and again.
Grace is ongoing forgiveness notwithstanding the fault of transgression against us.
These are ten ways to ensure forgiveness sticks:
1.     Understand that forgiveness will be a daily challenge to be overcome for some time yet — maybe months or even years. I’m sure this is why Jesus said “Not seven times, but seventy-seven/seventy times seven times.” Forgiveness will need to become a habit if it’s to become an outcome we reach.
2.     Do it. Yes, just do it. Go and engage with the person you’ve forgiven. Don’t tell them they’re forgiven unless that would help them. Simply engage with them as normally as you can.
3.     Don’t avoid them. Avoidance speaks of the power of fear and bitterness to control us. We can’t continue to forgive people we’re avoiding.
4.     Do focus on what you have as opposed to what you don’t have. Gratefulness and contentment are weapons of virtue against bitterness and resentment.
5.     Don’t overanalyse situations that make for resentment. Exercise self-restraint over thinking, and feelings can be controlled and will not be exacerbated.
6.     Learn about how to expand life rather than allow it to contract. When life contracts we focus on one or two issues to the exclusion of all others. Learning to habitually expand our lives is continually perspectivising it — adding pleasant parts of our past and hopeful parts of our future to the present moment.
7.     Read the Bible, and especially areas that deal with forgiveness, patience, grace, anger, and what God has done in Christ.
8.     Visualise times and situations where you will have the poise and strength to interact with those who’ve hurt you. Visualise feeling not only in control, but gracious, content with what you have, and able to love them as God does.
9.     Research the area of forgiveness and grace and make a collection of quotes and writings with which to reflect over. Make it a daily practice to research and read.
10. Pray. Just simply pray. Seek God for the love needed to forgive — a love that transcends our selfish flesh.
Forgiveness is the freedom we each deserve when we allow others to be pardoned and be free.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Do Not Weary of Doing Good, For At the Proper Time…

A meditation to Galatians 6:9.
LIFESAVING was this particular Word at the worst time of my life; when shards of rejection had filled being, I really did need the encouragement: do not weary of doing good, for at the proper time you’ll reap a harvest if you don’t give up.
Let’s put it another way:
We may be fatigued, but let’s not give up, for the blessing is just about to be realised.
Despairing of the famine is crippling but when famine lasts into despair the heart runs sick of hope. So don’t give up, and, even if you have, don’t give up completely. Get back into it before it’s too late.
Each day has a hundred events: trials, joys, frustrations, bores. Resilience in the face of the aridity is key. Nothing fancy is needed, just the patience that says, “Don’t give in!”
You have been pushed too far, and you may be about to blow a fuse, but think of the collateral damage. It’s not just about you… but at the end of the day it is. We take matters into our own hands at our own peril.
If you don’t give up and don’t give in, provided others are not steamrolled in the process, you get to live and fight another day. At the right time you’ll be blessed.
Joy follows the trials of sorrow as surely as relief begets peace. Believe for a better time to come and it will surely arrive at its appointed time.
If you haven’t caught on by now, the key of life is to hold on when we want to let go, but at times it’s about letting go when we want to hold on. The former is about courageous grit; the latter, forgiveness.
When we most want to give up we’re closer than ever to blessing, but we cannot see it. We need vision just over the horizon, but that’s not how vision works. We cannot see what we cannot see. We must dearly trust that the Lord has our lives and interests at heart — and he has.
Have I said it plainly enough yet? Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.
At the proper time you’ll reap a harvest of goodness if you don’t give up doing good.
If, at the proper time,
You’ve not given in to being weary,
God will give you a way to climb,
Out of the situation that made you teary.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Loving With Grace and Truth

A meditation to Ephesians 4:15.
CARING compassion cares enough to straddle two divergent poles: grace and truth.
Such is love that it insists on spending itself so the other person might experience grace within the context of a most essential truth. There is no other way to express or experience love than through that ingenious meld of grace and truth.
Grace without truth is not love. Truth without grace is not love. Love can only be completed in our relational settings when we do such a caring approach: to combine grace with truth. Love combines grace with truth.
It will take longer to communicate gracefully. It will take more skill to broach truth.
But it will be the only way we can enter into conflict respectfully, knowing the relationship is not contingent on who ‘wins’ or ‘loses’.
Conflict must be about more than winning and losing. Conflict needs to be about the truth, yet the truth falters and fails and dissolves into untruth without the fission of grace. Conflict needs to be about the common goal and the common good. Otherwise, conflict makes a mockery of both sides. Is there anyone more ‘right’ than the person polarised into their own corner?
But in the unison of grace with the truth we have our way of sowing love into the impasse.
When people sense we’ve put our agenda on the backburner the hope is they might reciprocate. Conflict resolution where there’s no reciprocation is doomed. But most conflicts are negotiable, and grace and truth are the ways there.
How are we to really wrestle with the conflicts of our life if we can’t be honest?
First, we must be honest with ourselves — we don’t have the market cornered on truth; never have had and never will. Chances are we have extended the grace God apportioned for us to give to them, to ourselves. This is not good. Nothing can be resolved if we don’t first engage with our side of the impasse; our sin.
Second, we must be able to be honest with the other party; that’s where grace and truth is crucial. We begin with our truth; where we have fallen short. If they’re decent technicians of reciprocation we can anticipate them forgiving us our wrong and possibly owning some of their sin. But to expect reciprocation sets us up for possible disappointment. We go into the resolving of conflict with high hopes but low expectations.
If two can embrace conflict, through reciprocation of the ownership of their personal sin, interpersonally, the relationship stands a chance of survival and growth.
Conflicts have hope for resolution where space is made for grace and room is made for truth. Let love combine them.
Let love be complete in the marriage of grace with truth.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Negotiating Out of the Labyrinth of Conflict

CONFLICT often makes fools of the wise and nonsensical of the logical; but that’s people and perceptions for us. So commonly we can look at the same animal and one will see a horse, another a donkey. I’m embarrassed about the sorts of animals I’ve seen in many conflicts I’ve been involved in. And yet, I know there are other times when I think I’ve been seeing the animal correctly. But many times conflict cannot be helped at the impasse because there is no neutrality.
The trouble is we’re not talking truth; the only truth in view is we see differently.
It’s so hard negotiating conflict.
Differing views and competing interests confound both parties. But differing views and competing interests are simply barriers for caring hearts to overcome. How wonderful it is when care superintends over difference; when care becomes the mutual interest. But it has to start from the party in the strongest position. (What faith it would involve for the weaker party to take the mature stance!) And if neither party is strongest, one must start in faith that the other will follow. We will find that the party that starts the armistice is the more mature or peacemaking party (which is simply another form of strength).
The following problems emerge:
1.     If the latter party doesn’t reciprocate, the care of the earlier party to commence the truce may stall.
2.     If the more powerfully positioned party either doesn’t appear to care or they simply polarise into the ‘right’ the negotiation may stall.
But if the party that starts a truce can persist in faith there remains hope for reconciliation. Persistence often pays. And if the more powerfully positioned party (by role and/or by numbers, or by another form of power differential) doesn’t act humbly, and care for their adversary, they may easily inflame the situation. Righteous anger is indignation; a form of indignity is done to the weaker party and all they may have left is an outburst. I have experienced this through a bullying isolation that leads to such a response. And I’ve seen it in others, too. We all hate perceived injustice.
Care Goes a Long Way
If we are concerned for the best results — win/win for everyone — we will care for the other person, which means we will care for their truth. This is not about assuming their truth in favour of ours, but it’s about bringing both truths together.
It’s about letting two truths exist in tension without judging either. With two minds open we have the perspective to see another’s truth in a way that will add to our own.
Love is the allowance of truth. It permits space for the truth to emerge and rest.
If what is true for one cannot be true for another then it cannot be the truth. It still needs refining. But where people are fair and reasonable they’ll see with an openness of heart that entertains another person’s image of events — for what they see, they see.
A little care goes a long way.
With just a little care, and with willingness not to clasp onto our truth, we might give another’s truth space enough for a just hearing — to listen to them. And if we can’t do that, perhaps we might have the humility to admit we can’t, and allow and cooperate with a mediation process if it’s available.
Love makes a way for negotiating out of the labyrinth of conflict.
Love believes, protects, trusts, and hopes; it endures. It’s prepared to do everything necessary that reconciliation might be achieved.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Friday, September 4, 2015

3 Reasons Why Forgiveness Can Seem Impossible

WE may wonder why forgiveness is so hard, and there are many reasons why.
But there are some reasonable reasons why forgiveness becomes improbable.
Firstly, if we don’t feel safe, we have little ground of strength for investing in the forgiving of a perpetrator. If the perpetrator comes from strength, a position of power, and they wield that power, we have little hope of achieving the safety we need in order to settle into the grace we ought to extend. Those in the power position who lord it over people may make it impossible for a person to find a dignified and settled safety. And even an incorrect perception makes for a harsh reality. Even if there’s no abuse of power, if we believe there is, there’s no safety whatsoever to found the grace of our forgiveness on.
We cannot proceed into forgiveness when we feel unsafe.
Secondly, if the perpetrator of a hurt has no understanding of what they’ve done to hurt us — or worse, they have no interest in understanding — then there is understandably going to be an added difficulty in forgiving them. If there is no motive in them to understand, and they continue claiming their innocence, especially whilst highlighting our ‘guilt’, there is little that can be done.
Acceptance may be the best we can achieve. Acceptance enough to let go and move on.
Thirdly, if we don’t feel safe and we don’t feel understood, there must be no chance we can affect forgiveness, no matter how hard we wish to honour God. The best we may hope for is a resigned acceptance that what is, is. We will still come around to the fact that we need to forgive — seventy times seven. We will continue to try if we’re obedient. Out of the situation we find ourselves in, therefore, we deduce that acceptance is forgiveness. It’s the best reconciliation possible.
If, however, we are in a position of safety — our safety has been provided for — and we have the other side’s understanding — we have easy grounds to forgive and get on with life. Otherwise, forgiveness is not so easy.
Notwithstanding the above, we have no excuse. We face a biblical imperative:
Let go. The grace God has forgiven you with is sufficient for you to forgive.
Harsh call, perhaps, but all spiritual power will come to us when we have let go.
All this is made easier when we understand the barriers of safety and understanding.
The burden of bitterness is banished on letting go: God gives us access in that moment to healing of soul.
Above all, we can know that God knows our efforts; to attempt to forgive is enough.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

9 Considerations For Conducting a Pastoral Visit

VISITING with people in their home or work environment, pastorally, is something I’ve been doing regularly for nearly twenty years. Every time we step into someone else’s environment we do so as guests with certain privileges, but also with certain responsibilities.
These following considerations are worthy of reflection for any of us who conduct visitation:
1.     Pray before you arrive: it’s good to ensure our hearts are prepared and our minds are attuned. On the way to a home or workplace I’ll try and envisage what the environment might look like, prepare myself for the greeting I’ll receive, and just generally psych myself into being myself. It’s important to be relaxed.
2.     Call ahead if there’s any change to plan: it’s no good arriving early or late or with extra visitors. Catching people unawares is not a good way to start or maintain a friendship. It’s never good to surprise people.
3.     Ensure you stick to the house rules: at many workplaces there are safety considerations to abide by. In many homes there are customs and traditions we may not be aware of. Take every instruction seriously and keep it front of mind. It’s all about respect.
4.     Gauge the mood: I’ve often felt that, whilst the visit was planned in advance, that the mood wasn’t quite right. Something unanticipated had come up. Being sensitive to such changes, and being understanding, we should offer to reschedule if it’s inconvenient. They might be expected to say it’s okay, and come on in anyway. It shouldn’t bother us if we can’t make the visit and have to reschedule.
5.     Take care to relax: it’s important when we’re on someone else’s turf to be as relaxed as possible so we can be as mindful as possible. The more relaxed we are the more relaxed our host can be in hosting us.
6.     Take care to make them the focus: using our listening skills, with plenty of eye contact and positive body language, we ask questions that show our interest. The pastoral visit is about them after all. We certainly want to ask questions to check their health and wellbeing.
7.     Ask them if there’s anything we can do: many times there is something extra we might do for someone. Get them something we know would be edifying for them to read. Run an errand for them after the visit. If it would help.
8.     Don’t outstay your welcome: it’s always good to get a sense for how long to visit for. It would be okay to spend 30-45 minutes for many visits, but a good visit is one hour. Only under unusual circumstances would a visit be appropriate for 90 minutes or more — i.e. tragedy. Some people are offended if we don’t stay long enough. If we can only visit for a short time, this is best explained earlier in the visit to set their expectations.
9.     Be sure to pray with them: there may be little opportunity to talk about God directly given the environment and the situation, so to be able to pray with the person(s) we are visiting is vital.
What a privilege it is to visit people in their home environment.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.