Nobody likes a hypocrite. If we've dismissed the gurus, and there are no longer any "experts" telling us what to do with our lives, we can't then turn around and start telling others what to do with theirs. There must be some other role to play in the lives of the people we care about than being their Boss or their Manager or, worst of all, their Parent. That's just not our job.
What we can be is a friend, companion, seeker, and fellow pilgrim. We're walking with the people we care about, neither ahead of them nor behind, as we all find our way together. Sometimes our paths diverge, sometimes they come together. At every point where those paths cross there lies a wonderful opportunity for us to share our stories and encourage one another along the way.
This is not our training--men, in particular. I don't know where this comes from, but we have this compulsive tendency to turn someone else's story into a problem to be solved, a problem for us to solve. We hear someone's dilemma or challenge or opportunity and, whether or not we know what we're talking about, we come up with a fix. Especially when we don't know what we're talking about. Then we walk away, brushing our hands, saying, "My work here is done!"
If we are to honour the Spirit working in the life of another, our own answer could never be theirs, however wise we may be. Our experience is not theirs; and theirs is not ours. The whole point of the spiritual journey are the discoveries we make along the way. This is something we must all do--for ourselves. Other people telling us what to do is precisely why young people leave the nest in the first place. And it's why the timid and the meek never leave at all. Life is for adventurers.
If we wish to support someone on their spiritual journey, we are best to speak less, listen more, and advise never. Well, almost never. An exception would be someone whose mental state is so anxious, so confused or so stuck that concrete direction is the only way to create movement--"Go for a walk," "You need to see your doctor," "Are you suicidal"?"
But most often, life gives us the enormous privilege of ... listening. We are witnesses to deep inner movements in the lives of others that we ourselves can barely fathom, let alone understand. So we attend to our companion, we encourage them on their journey, we pay attention to their problems and concerns, we check in on their progress. But rarely is it our job to tell them what to do. Even if they ask.
Holy listening like this requires faith--that the God who meets us on our journey meets others on theirs as well. It also requires trust--that others will find their own way without us presuming to show it to them.
Next Week: Justice on the Journey