If you are wondering whether you are called to the work of Christian counseling, here some points to consider. These are not all-inclusive, but may confirm what you already know.
1. You are a people person
This does not mean that you have to be overly-outgoing or extroverted. Being a people person means that you have a heart for others and like to understand what makes people tick. You have a desire to see others grow and enjoy walking with them through their struggles over the long term. You don't shy away from emotions or awkward situations. You are gracious, accepting, and have what Carl Rogers called "unconditional positive regard" for those you work with.
2. You've worked on yourself.
When I was in seminary, my counseling professor told our class that all pastors, counselors, and caregivers should go to counseling. That left an impression on me and for the next four years, I went to therapy to work on my personal issues. That one resolution made me a better counselor—more than any textbook could. Dealing with your own trauma and grief breeds the compassion needed to authentically connect with others. Compassion is key to making any therapeutic relationship work. It's important that you regularly take care of yourself before you seek to help others. You cannot give out of an empty cup.
3. People already come to you.
Many people can sense whether you are a safe person to confide in. When this happens, feel free to ask them, "what made you relaxed enough to share this with me?" You might be surprised at the answers you receive. If you have people who are comfortable enough to open up to you, this might be a good sign that counseling could be a calling for you.
4. You know in your heart.
Ultimately, many people just feel God speaking to their heart about pursuing a call to ministry in counseling. If this is your case, you will also feel a passion for the field and a desire to learn more about helping others grow. If you are unsure, consider talking it over with a few close friends or a mentor you respect. If God has called you into this work, He will make a way, and He will give you the peace to overcome your insecurity about the adventure ahead.
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You don't have to have an eating disorder to struggle with body image. Many people avoid looking in the mirror and avoid taking pictures of themselves. We live in a culture that is bombarded with images of perfectly sculpted bodies and airbrushed faces. Even though these images are unrealistic, they can still take a toll on one's self esteem.
Compare and despair.
I once saw a sketch on Saturday Night Live with Stuart Smalley, played by Al Franken, where he tried to counsel a guest on his show who was struggling with low self-esteem. Using his usual over-the-top sentimental tone, he gently recited to his guest: "Compare and despair." I laughed at his use of this cliche, not only because of its comedic delivery, but because of the truth of the statement itself.
When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we will always come up short. There will always be someone who is smarter, taller, and better-looking in one area or another. It's easy to do, but doing so will only lead to disappointment.
Comparing is Coveting.
I think we often forget that God's commands in the Bible are meant to help us. The final instruction of the Ten Commandments is:
"You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet...anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17, NLT)
This command connects with every single one of the commandments that come before it. Coveting leads to idolatry, which eventually leads to a lack of love for God and neighbor. Coveting ultimately destroys everything of value in our lives.
What I find fascinating is that so many people compare themselves to others, so they can feel accepted by others. We want to better ourselves so we can feel loved and accepted. In reality, only when we embrace and reveal our flaws to people we trust, will we find true acceptance, grace, and love. It's just like the Devil to convince us otherwise.
Things to Keep in Perspective
We live in a very conflicted culture. On one hand, we have food corporations that constantly tempt us with delicious but unhealthy food choices. On the other hand, we have entire fashion, cosmetic, and fitness industries all aimed at preying on our insecurities. It's difficult to chase after an impossible physical ideal while also living in a society tempting you to make unhealthy lifestyle choices. Here's some tips to keep in perspective.
1. Be the best version of you.
Don't try to achieve a celebrity's body. Pursue balanced goals that keep your body type in perspective.
2. Embrace your differences.
Everyone has positive physical qualities—maybe you get complimented on your eyes or your smile. Focus on the positive attributes that make you stand out. Also, compliment others on what makes them different.
3. Keep your thought life positive.
If you are constantly putting yourself down, you are going to feel bad about yourself. Keep negative thoughts in check. Learn to accept yourself the way God does. This takes time and practice through journaling, prayer, counseling, and opening up to others you can trust.
4. Confidence is attractive.
Ultimately it is not physical attributes that people find the most attractive, it's confidence. If you are healthy emotionally, it will come out in the way you carry yourself.
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Tres Adames, MDiv, BCPC provides Christian counseling in Peoria, Arizona for adults, teens, couples, and families. He specializes in helping those struggling with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, anger, addiction, codependency, and relationship issues. If you would like to contact Tres or set up an appointment, visit his contact page.