Tuesday, November 20, 2012

what my clients have taught me

Sometimes I have really difficult clients.  This probably isn't a surprise, given that I do mostly court-appointed criminal defense.  The most difficult ones are the ones who are ruled entirely by emotion.

I've developed some strategies over the years I've been practicing law.  I've noticed that in order to reason with someone rationally, I have to let them express their emotions.  Usually I have to validate their feelings and frustrations.  Only then, after both of those things, can I begin to advise them on what the courts and rules of law say that we can do and what I think we should do.  It takes a significant amount of  relational investment and patience to work through these emotional barriers to the situation.  Mostly what it takes is a willingness to listen and an empathy about the emotions expressed.

I've noticed the same thing about spiritual things over the years.  Our culture is becoming increasingly more based in the emotions.  In order to help someone to meet Jesus, we've got to help them move through their emotions about God and the church and everything in between.  It takes a significant amount of relational investment and patience to listen as someone expresses their emotions about these things.  It takes an empathy and compassion so that our friends feel listened to and validated.  And it takes sensitivity to the Spirit to know when to take the next step and share from our hearts what God has done in us and what he is inviting them to.

I know that I talk a lot about emotional barriers to faith, and that's because this conversation is not really happening anywhere else.  But there is a time when it's appropriate to share rationally about who God is. There is a time for testimony and for information.  We just need to be really careful not to miss the other stuff as well.  All the information in the world is not going to get my client from point A to point B, at least not until he feels like I care about him and have listened to him.  I have to earn the right to be heard--I have to earn his trust.  And I have to do the same thing in the lives of my friends when I am hoping to share Christ with them.

Can you identify in your own life or someone else's how emotions are primary and rationality is secondary?  Can you reason them out of their feelings?  How do these same emotions affect a person's spirituality and relationship with God?

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