In solitude our heart of stone can be turned into a heart of flesh, a rebellious heart into a contrite heart, and a closed heart into a heart that can open itself to all suffering people in a gesture of solidarity.
But when we give it a closer look we can see that in order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgement because judgement creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.
Henri Nouwen —The Way of the Heart (pp. 25-26)
In my counseling classes, I have learned quite a bit about Carl Rogers’ concept of Unconditional Positive Regard which he used in his client-centered therapy. Unconditional positive regard is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. By taking this unconditional approach, Rogers believed his clients would change to their better selves naturally and easily given the supportive conditions of his therapy. And, according to the research, his approach was very successful.
The quote above reminds me a lot of Rogers’ approach to counseling. First, we have to have our heart of stone turned into a heart of flesh in solitude. I can relate to that since I have carved out solitude as a consistent practice for myself. The second part of the quote is something I continue to work on almost daily. My ego feels so justified at judging my neighbor for all the ways they fall short. Thankfully, I’m still learning and my ability to provide unconditional positive regard continues to grow.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,