Consider the damage done when one human does harm against another! Where is Justice or Forgiveness?
We are a counselling agency and as such we follow the BACP professional code for counsellors. There are three core conditions in order for counselling to be effective apart from the usual professional standards of confidentiality, appropriate professional relationship and standards of excellence. These are non-judgemental attitude, congruence (or being real and honest), and empathy, and take it from me after a lifetime counselling that these are not easy conditions to keep and are often at odds with each other.
In the counselling room Clients often relate personal trauma involving past or present emotional abuse or sexual abuse, and I can assure you this is not a rare occurrence. Time and again we are told of aggression and even actual physical violence that initially remains relatively private between two people but that warps the relationship and has repercussions on other members of the family, friends and neighbours. Counsellors have to remain reasonably objective when listening to such horrendous tales, but at the same time there has to be an honesty in any response. And what is the aim of the Counsellor? Can the Counsellor put forward any suggestions as to what the Client should do? Can the Counsellor voice their own opinion or give a judgement call? The answer is a resounding NO. That is not the way of the Counsellor. The Counsellor has no right to put their own feelings and ideas before those of the Client but enable the Client to explore their own ideas, their own feelings and possible options for justice or ways forward.
That is sometimes very hard.
When you listen to a Client’s story between the sobs then of course your heart goes out to them and you tend to ‘side’ with them. But is the story you hear the whole truth? When you hear the other side to a couples counselling session you may begin to wonder if you are hearing about another situation entirely! The story teller inevitably makes out that they are the one hard done by, and from their egocentric perspective they are probably correct. And damage is done, no matter who the instigator is, that will have repercussions for years to come – on everyone concerned. ‘Victim’ or ‘Perpetrator’ will argue that they have had little or no choice in the evolving situation, and ‘Now look what you’ve made me do’ is a phrase that often comes to mind! With such mitigating circumstances held up to view then usually the one hard done by demands justice but the one who is the ‘doer’ asks forgiveness – and expects it. And the Counsellor has to just sit there, hold the tension in their own heart, and help whoever is talking to see a positive way forwards for everyone’s sake – even if it is at odds with their own sense of right, wrong, spiritual path or justice. I am so very, very grateful I am not the one who has to decide what constitutes the way forward.
If that is too complex for me in a counselling situation then I can certainly empathise with a Judge in a Court of Law. The Law of the Land may give corporate guidance as to a fitting punishment in a particular case but is that the same as Justice? And how does God manage when Jihad is invoked or different religions teach different ideas of Divine Justice????? Is there a case for Reincarnation and An Eye for an Eye after all in the overall scheme of things with a soul’s growth? Can that truly be put alongside the Cross, Redemption and Forgiveness? Many a sermon or spiritual lesson to be taught or learnt there but this is not the place to do so in a blog or newsletter – thank goodness!
Have a good month