One morning I awoke at 5:00 am from two upsetting dreams. First a pastor on a retreat I was leading interrupted our time of solitude and silence to criticize what I was doing and then in the second dream a woman interrupted my prayer, saying it was unhelpful.
I couldn't get back to sleep. I remembered the story I heard the day before and started talking to God about it.
In the concentration camps the Nazis tried using soldiers to exterminate the Jews, but it ruined them for battle. They couldn't kill anymore. Then the Nazi’s used medical doctors to do the deed. They found that the psychiatrists were the best at it -- they were true "professionals."
If a woman dropped her glasses the psychiatrist was quick to bend over, smile warmly, and say nicely, "Mam, here are your glasses." Then he'd walk her right into the gas chamber where she’d be “exterminated.” Then he’d go back to his doctor’s office to help people.
The evil of the Nazi Doctor is repulsive. We can’t imagine acting kind in order to kill someone. We can’t imagine justifying such evil. How could anyone do this, especially a doctor?
Evil is Impersonal
But evil starts with the most subtle of sins: being personally detached. We go through the motions of caring for people without having genuine concern for them. We deny the reality of our own pride, anger, and contempt that is present when we interact with others.
I had to ask myself, “Is God warning me in my dream?” Of course, my immediate answer was, “No. The only similarity is that I am a Psychologist.”
But I didn’t let myself off the hook. (Integrity won’t let me be a counselor for others without first opening myself to Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, and also to the counselors he has provided for me.) Is there anything like this Nazi Doctor in me? Do I ever "do" caring behaviors to people while remaining emotionally detached, lacking in genuine love for them?
Yes. I must admit that sometimes I listen to people with impatience. Sometimes I give them advice or teaching when what’s needed is compassion and prayerfulness. Sometimes I drift into a role that looks nice but is unloving. These are signs of pride. They may even be signs of contempt.
Consider the psychology training I received more than twenty-five years ago:
Remain objective and unemotional... If you don’t detach you’ll burnout... Empathy is a technique for you to master... Avoid self-disclosure... Be a blank screen for clients to project onto so you can interpret for them what needs to change in their internal world... Remain neutral, don't let your personal values or trust in the Bible influence your clients... Don't pray for people in therapy -- that's rescuing behavior.
I tried this approach. There were some truths being expressed (much of it was “Christian” training), but the heart of love was missing. Some clients described their experience with me as "sterile" or like being in a hospital room. For me, my white smock felt like a straight jacket -- I wasn't free to be myself. I felt like a "professional" doing caring behaviors to help people.
I was becoming a Nazi Doctor!
Love is a Person-in-Relationship
I thank the Lord that many years ago by his grace he helped me to take off that white smock. But occasionally, I catch myself putting it back on and need Jesus to help me to take it off and once again to “put on the new self... put on love” (Colossians 3:10, 14).
Maybe you’ve put on a white smock that you need to get rid of. It isn’t just professionally trained caregivers who may act Christian while being emotionally distant, even contemptuous inside. We all need to remember that love is not something we do to people.
Love is a Person-in-Relationship. Love is Father-Son-Spirit reaching out to us in gracious sincerity. Love is Jesus Christ in human flesh. Love is meant to live in us and through us to others.
Dear God, you are Love. You are Interpersonal Relationship. You are our Father of Compassion, the Risen Christ in our midst, the Holy Spirit who seeks to live within us and to unite us to yourself and to one another. Forgive us for disconnecting from you and others. We cry out for you, O Lord, help us to rely on your love and share it with the people within our reach -- to will good for them and to act with genuine compassion for them -- to bless them in whatever way they need. Amen.
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