Relationships of Accountability

I believe that anyone who has a responsibility for the spiritual guidance of others should be in a relationship of accountability with another for the sake of the people he or she guides, teaches, or preaches to.  Otherwise we are going to grow, if we grow at all, in a deformed shape that will be passed down to others.  I see such distortions frequently.  It is a biblical concept to be accountable to someone else.  Timothy was mentored by Paul, Paul by the disciples in Antioch.  Friedrich von Hügel, author and spiritual director, once wrote: “Behind every saint stands another saint.  That is the great tradition.  I never learnt anything myself by my old nose.”

From John Ackerman’s Listening to God (pg. 67).

How You Talk Matters

While I had little to say about valentining Monday, I do have something to say about relationships.  In a relationship, how you talk and how you listen matters.  That’s a basic opening for a blog post, I know.  It’s basic, even almost boring.  It’s simple, though, in the words of a wise woman I met, it’s not always easy

If you speak with care, it alters the listener’s ears in a way that opens their hearts to you.  If you speak with irritation or impatience, that, too, alters the listener.  It doesn’t matter if you’re listening in a meeting or talking in an interview.  If you’re sipping coffee or tea with a friend.  If you’re hearing about your spouse’s day.  If you’re asking your children about school. 

When you communicate with care, people notice.  They may not mention it, but deep down their spirit is refreshed in your act of extending a kind word or enough love to listen.  I don’t do this naturally.  I’ve worked on this skill for years, putting myself in a situation requiring me to pay attention or listen or talk with care.  Sometimes I hate it.  Other times, it’s the most human thing I do.  Then, there are those moments, those conversations where “really good listening” is done to me or done for me.  I’m looking forward to one of those conversations next week, my monthly spiritual direction appointment. 

I don’t know that I’ve mentioned spiritual direction on this blog.  It’s kinda like counseling.  Kinda.  It’s a classical spiritual discipline, an old practice in religious traditions where a trained “director” guides, talks with, listens with, and directs another person.  In some sense, spiritual directors are like pastors and they are also like counselors.  Pastors provide spiritual direction to people in our churches, even when we don’t necessarily know it.  And counselors provide the same as the work of counseling and direction often converge.  In direction, though, the context is larger.  The relationship is not attempting to work on a problem or an illness or a life development, as much as it’s working on something about God.  There is both nothing to be done in spiritual direction and very much to be done.  You can’t fix God, but you can learn to live in response to God, learn to be aware of God, and learn to be aware of your feelings about God and other things.

You don’t have to have an appointment with a spiritual director or with a pastor to feel heard.  You can be heard by a good friend or a stranger.  You can listen and talk with care regardless of your relationship to a person. 

So in the general spirit of valenting–along with my post the other day, to which someone asked me “What did Dawn say about your post?” and I said, “Dawn could have written the post for me”–Talk well, friends.  Listen closely.  It’ll make your relationship blossom.  It matters.