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It is easy for counselors to fall into the trap of categorizing our counselees. Here’s what I mean: instead of addressing people where they are and seeking to understand their unique problems, we tend to place them into a few different categories and offer counsel based on the category rather than the person. For example, if a counselee is struggling with anxiety, we take them to the same places in Scripture we took our last counselee who struggled with anxiety. Or, if a person is regularly viewing pornography, we give the same counsel we give to all of our counselees who struggle with sexual sin, and nothing more.
While it is certainly true that there are various categories of problems and similarities of temptations that people face which are common to man (1 Cor. 10:13) and we will inevitably give similar counsel to counselees who are dealing with similar things, it is still important to guard against the tendency (I know it’s my tendency!) to give the same pat answers to every problem rather than addressing people where they are. This approach can become reductionistic and leave counselees feeling unheard and unloved. Even worse, we as counselors may provide inaccurate and unhelpful counsel if we fail to meet people where they are.
Frameworks - People - Thessalonians - Brothers - Surface
One of the most helpful frameworks for knowing how to meet people where they are comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:14: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” On the surface, it sounds like Paul is doing what I’m warning against! Is he commanding us to place every person into one of these three categories and counsel them accordingly? Yes and no.
Here’s his point: We are called to address people where they are. Put differently: Use patient, relational discernment...
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