The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. -Proverbs 18:17
I’m not an expert counselor. But I hope I am growing. Early on in my ministry I dealt almost exclusively with counseling teenagers. As one in my early twenties and still with plenty of youthful vigor (or perhaps rebellion) in my heart I listened intently as teenagers would tell me about how much they were victimized by their teenagers.
It is much to my chagrin that I confess that for the first year or two I really thought that these kids had horrible parents that simply did not understand their teenagers. I spent a good amount of my counseling trying to help these teens cope with crappy parents.
Things really came to a head when a particularly difficult and troubled teen came in tears and fearfully did not want to go home. An elaborate story was told and charges were brought up. I informed this person before hand that I would have to report this to the police as a mandatory reporter if she was going to continue on. She remained undeterred. So we went over to the police station and filed a report.
Her parents grievous offense?
They were making her do laundry. Of course that is not what she told me. It was a much different story. But it was believable and I didn’t want to take the chance of it actually being true. Something happened, though, after that encounter. I began taking Proverbs 18:17 more seriously.
There is always two sides to every story.
What I have noticed over the years is that a good number of people coming for counseling actually want you to do proxy counseling. They don’t actually want counsel for themselves but frequently they want ammunition for another person that they want to counsel. And it can be tempting in the beginning stages to dog on that other person to try to build report with the person in your office.
The wise counselor realizes that he/she is not called by God to do proxy counseling. God has placed the person sitting in your office, or across from you at the coffee house, into your life. Knowing that there are always two sides to every story the person that you are talking with is never only a victim. God has placed this person in your life to help him/her expose heart idols and find redemption in Christ.
Yes, you may on occasion have to defuse or speak truth into a statement that a wounding spouse lobbed at the person in your office. “Sally, it is not true that you are worthless. Let me tell you what God says about you”. But even while you do that you need to remember that you aren’t to engage in proxy counseling and give her advice about what to say to her potential loser of a husband.
Our goal must be for the person we are counseling to be helped by the gospel and motivated by the gospel to make his/her soul aim to please the Lord regardless of the response of the offending husband, wife, parent, child, or friend.