Girlfriends – Help God, I’m Not a Counselor

I’m blessed to have my sweet friend Kelly J. Stigliano as a guest on my blog today as she shares something that will help every girlfriend who has ever been called upon to be a “counselor.” Kelly is a transplanted Ohioan living in Orange Park, FL with her husband Jerry. A blended family, they have five adult children, a son-in-law and one baby granddaughter – none of whom live in Florida!

Kelly is a reporter for a weekly newspaper, writes articles for magazines and spends time traveling as a speaker. She just wants to Keep it Real, openly and humorously sharing the truths of her life and the lessons she is learning.

To learn more about Kelly please visit www.kellystigliano.com.

Help God, I’m Not a Counselor!

I’m sure it’s happened to you. Your friend needs a listening ear and vents to you about her boss or boyfriend or family. Maybe someone you hardly know turns to you because you “just seem like such a good listener.” Before you know it, you’re her daily counselor. She calls you or buttonholes you in the employee lunchroom every day. Either way, you stand there wondering how you got into this position. “Help God!” you pray, “I’m not a counselor! Tell me what to say.”

At first it seems simple; you’re flattered that she’s chosen you. You may even dish out some pretty sound advice. Before you know it, however, you’ve gotten in way over your head. What’s a girlfriend to do?

Offering advice to someone who genuinely wants to change; who is actively looking for a solution, is easier than trying to help someone who just wants to complain. Breaking your advice down into steps and weekly assignments, and working toward a conclusion is probably the easiest, most satisfying counseling that we laymen can do.

However, what may seem like logical steps toward solving a problem to you may be an insurmountable mountain to climb for someone in the midst of the predicament.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Often people are just not ready for change. Sometimes misery is a comfortable place to be because it’s familiar. What you may think is a simple answer may not be interpreted as such.

Suggesting that your friend talk with a professional is often the only answer. If she talks about feeling suicidal, has uncontrollable fits of rage or an addiction of any kind, you’re probably not qualified to help her. (See sidebar.)
However, when your friend is having trouble dealing with her children, communicating with her spouse, or relating to difficult people, maybe just having a friend to listen is the only support she needs.

All good Sunday school-going children can tell you that the answer to any question in life is “read the Bible, witness and pray.” In counseling a friend, that’s not bad advice either. When asked, “What should I do?” pointing to God is always the answer. No one can guide a person to truth like the Great Counselor.

Unfortunately, the Bible has many gray areas. Modern life issues aren’t always black and white in God’s Word. For instance, the Bible does not say you shouldn’t let your daughter get her navel pierced. It does, however, say in I Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 that you should honor your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Some interpret that to mean no piercings.

Whatever the issue, be careful to not become judgmental! Remember it is the Holy Spirit Who chastens us.

What about those really tough issues like emotions and appropriate behavior? Now you’re treading on thin ice, Sister!

Pointing to God and His word is always right. If your friend really doesn’t want to hear that answer, pause and then point to God and His word again. There is no better advice than that which was given centuries ago.

Praying for God’s clear direction can dissolve any confusion. Thanking God for all He’s done can put things into proper prospective. Reading the Bible can help bring her to conclusions about what she should do next.

You must guard yourself in every way. Stay “prayed up,” stay in the Word, and keep your personal relationships healthy. If you find yourself becoming bogged down by the burdens of someone who is regularly using you as a sounding board, it’s time to step back. If you don’t take care of you; if you don’t guard your own spiritual, mental and physical health, you cannot even help your own family.

Know when to say, “Enough is enough. I’ve given you a clear path to the throne of God and His answers but you have chosen to wallow in martyrdom. I won’t allow you to drag me down with you.”

This takes courage. It takes strength. It takes the boldness of Christ. It hurts to walk away from a friend – especially one in need – but you have to count the cost of being her counselor.

God does not want you to suffer by doing what you were not called to do. When amateurs try to wire a house, they get electrocuted. When amateurs try to fix the plumbing, their houses get flooded. If you truly feel called to counsel in the name of Christ, go to college and obtain a degree in the field of Christian Counseling. You can only do so much as a layman.

So about those really tough issues . . . Lead your friend through scripture and formulate prayers from specific passages. Write them on cards for her to pray, and pray for her daily.

THEN, point her to a professional Christian counselor. That’s what you can do. That’s all God expects from you.

Sidebar: When should one seek counseling?

According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), professional counseling should be sought when we need help addressing problems and issues that cause us emotional distress or make us feel overwhelmed.

“Good indicators of when you should seek counseling are when you’re having difficulties at work, your ability to concentrate is diminished or when your level of pain becomes uncomfortable,” says Dr. Gail Robinson, past president of the ACA. “However, you don’t want to wait until the pain becomes unbearable or you’re at the end of your rope.”

Joyce Breasure, past president of the ACA and a professional counselor who has been in private practice for more than 20 years, recommends counseling when you:

 Spend 5 out of 7 days feeling unhappy
 Regularly cannot sleep at night
 Are taking care of a parent or a child and the idea crosses your mind that you may want to hit that person
 Place an elder in a nursing home or in alternative care
 Have lost someone or something (such as a job)
 Have a chronic or acute medical illness
 Can no longer prioritize what is most important in your life
 Feel that you can no longer manage your stress

Robinson points out you don’t have to be “sick” to benefit from counseling. “Counseling is more than a treatment of mental illness,” she says. “Some difficult issues we face in life are part of normal development. Sometimes it’s helpful to see what you’re going through is quite normal.”

Do you ever struggle will what to say when someone seeks your counsel?

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6 Comments

  1. I love what you said about what happens when amateurs do …. So true! I think one of the most loving things we can do is to know when to send a friend on to someone who is trained. It can also be the move that ultimately saves the friendship.

  2. Great post, Kelly! Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing Kelly with us!

  3. Hi Julie ~ Thanks for popping in. It's always good to know our limits, isn't it. Sometimes our best is not good enough and we need to be willing to call in someone more qualified. Great advice!

  4. Hi Lynn ~ You know I love seeing you over here in my little space in cyberspace. You bless me by the gift of who you are.

  5. Thank you! We've all been there. I started out giving wise advice I felt was from the throne of God Himself and slowly slipped to “course utterance”! I was in over my head and had to back out before I fell into the pit I was trying to pull her out of!

  6. Have you ever watched the movie called Warm Springs? It's about Franklin Roosevelt's battle with polio. Kathy Bates plays the physical therapist who came to Warm Springs to work with the patients. She’s reading the doctor’s report about Franklin–he won’t walk again and he’s very upset. FDR says,“I wanted to walk again!”
    He’s feeling terribly sorry for himself. She says,“Oh Franklin, I won’t play this game. I won’t feel sorry for you.” Then she says, “Franklin, I can’t help you out of a hole if I climb in with you. Then we’re both stuck.”

    Great lesson! 🙂

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