No doubt you will say, “Physician, heal thyself.” (Luke 4:23)
I have been thinking over the potential barriers I live with, due to being disabled and yet still practising as an ‘able’ clinician. Is it right to offer advice, support, counselling and so on, when many of the same issues my clients have, I live with too? For me this includes being autistic, ADHD, dyslexic, dyspraxic, living with dyscalculia and auditory processing disorder. How can I be practising as a psychologist when I am governed by so many disorders?
This chain of thought led me to remember the words, ‘Physician, heal thyself’. Where the moral of the proverb implies that physicians should care for themselves to better care for the illnesses of others (Luke 4:23). Some might quote words such as ‘charity begins at home’ or ‘a prophet isn’t listened to in their own town’ (Luke 4: 24).
If we take a different look at this though we could argue that ‘it takes one to know one’ or it’s only those who have ‘been there’ that understand what ‘there’ feels like.
What does this have to do with Fruits of the Spirit? Everything! Because fruits of the spirit often come from the tree of vulnerability.
‘…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22-23) are not just for other people to receive from us but are the fruits that we need to offer to ourselves to.
It’s 2022, the year of the Tiger, I am encouraged to look at my life and ask myself a single question; ‘will you follow me’? ‘The Tiger embodies courage and bravery, so could symbolise resilience and strength- even in times of struggle’ (Jonathan H.X. Lee, 2022).
Sharing in our humanity, being vulnerable and owning who we are takes courage. Being brave, in the face of adversity, stigma and social and/or professional threat, can feel like we are shooting ourselves in the foot!
But, when we do this, we bridge the gap between ‘us and them’. Every time a person comes ‘out’ and they talk about being gay, living with mental illness, being neurodivergent (ADHD, autistic, dyspraxic and so on) they lay one more stone towards bridging the gap across the divide from stigma towards awareness, acceptance and action.
When we consider the greatest clinician of all time (God) who not only designed, detailed and delivered our human destiny, they (3 in 1) didn’t put with their creation a set of ‘professional conduct codes’ that enabled them to stay objective, keep their distance and follow a chain of command (not that these are inherently bad things), but they nominated the youngest (son of God) to become one with us, their creation. Jesus took on our flawed humanity. He lived our fears, our physical and mental anguish, our poverty and our temptations.
As a clinician I acknowledge I am flawed, I am neurodivergent, I need the support of my family, I cannot ‘do’ numbers or read a map (unless I turn it the wrong way up to make it the right way round for me), my executive functioning skills are, well, not my strong point, yet I operate my own business. Can the broken heal the broken? Jesus did.
Fruits of the spirit? These grow often from our owning of our lesser strengths, not from our strengths. Whether it’s ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and/or self-control’, these are often the products of suffering, of failure, disappointment and difficulty.
It’s easy to show love and patience to those we love, those we admire and those we look up to. It’s another story to be kind, gentle and caring to those who may have nothing to offer us in return.
There seems to be a fear that if we blur the lines between client and practitioner, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, if we admit we might be tired, or unwell, then we are letting our clients down. Yes, there is a time for being strong and for being ‘there’ for someone else. There is a time for everything under Heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), including a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecc. 3: 7).
By allowing myself to be vulnerable, I’m ‘joining another’ in their journey to wholeness. Brene Brown’s talk about human vulnerability, shame & connection says it all. ‘In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen’. Courage, from the Latin Cor, means to tell the story of who you are, with your whole heart, ‘the compassion to be kind to themselves, then to others …’, ‘a connection due to being authentic … our authentic selves’… This is the key to being ‘wholehearted’.
So, I encourage myself and those reading this to allow for vulnerability.
To produce fruits of the spirit, to allow love, kindness, gentleness, joy, patience, peace, self-control and generosity to govern who we are, we need to take hold of vulnerability, rather than run from it. Ω
Reflect: When has your weakness or vulnerability been a gift to another? What spiritual gifts flowed?
Quoting Jonathan H.X. Lee: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/driving-evil-year-tiger-symbolize-rcna14411; Brene Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o.
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent. This year’s theme is Fruit of the Spirit. Why? Read this. #Lent2022. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent © Sanctuary, 2022.
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