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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Henri Nouwen, Carl Rogers, and the Love of Personal Concern

PERSONAL concern is something we all need; to receive, but also to give.  But what is meant on the subject of personal concern?
These two quotes by pastor Nouwen (1932 – 1996) and counsellor Rogers (1902 – 1987) help frame the discussion:
If there is any posture that disturbs a suffering man or woman, it is aloofness…  (Nouwen)
… what is most personal and unique in each of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. (Rogers)
Nobody who hasn’t traversed the grating journey of grief can lead a suffering person through their abyss, through touchstones of comfort, to their eventual adjustment and acceptance of a new normal.  There will be those who will disagree with that statement, but it’s the wounded healer who’s best positioned to heal the wounded in Jesus’ name.  That’s in essence what the Nouwen quote refers to; personal concern is something that enables the mourner to mourn in a way that approaches truth, accepts reality, and heals in time.
Be Vested Into the Other Person
Whoever the other person is.  It doesn’t matter who we’re with.  Being vested in the other person means that we’re free from the bonds that restrain us in our selfish selves.
Aloofness’s problem is it’s too vested in itself to endeavour vesting itself in another.  And the person who has never suffered much in life is possibly given most to aloofness.  Such a person in ministry is probably a danger to people in real need, though there are some who have the capacity of personal concern who haven’t suffered, yet have learned through their observations of others’ suffering.
So, as Henri Nouwen would say, a needy person ought most to avoid the person who would avoid needy people.  A person who has needs would be better to take their needs to an unqualified person who has suffered some of the injustices of life than take their complaints to someone life hasn’t yet wrestled with or who hasn’t yet wrestled with life.  And there are those in helping positions who, drawn by possibly by power, image or comfort, are not character-qualified for the ministry.
It’s a great test of a minister; their real interest and capacity for others’ issues and problems.
Don’t Be Afraid to Share What You Most Fear About Yourself
We’re set apart by what is uniquely ours and us.
We have to get over our embarrassment and self-consciousness, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  God knows he needs us — each one of us.  Not that God relies on us, but in his love he’s designed a Kingdom, and that Kingdom is built by people — mere human beings like you and I.
When we have the courage to share ourselves, as Carl Rogers observes, then we find we’ve got a unique contribution to make.
The love of personal concern says that people gravitate toward those who are courageous enough to share their concerns personally.
The love of personal concern is the desire to go at depth with another person.
When we share our suffering with another, we want the other person to see through the lens of their own experience of suffering.
When we share what experience of life that’s uniquely ours, we want to be heard, valued, and respected for what we’ve endured.
What we’ve found profound in life is likely to speak profoundly to others.
When we encourage others to share their concerns personally, we’re able to show our love of personal concern.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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