As I have been receiving training for a year now in clinical skills in medical school, it is interesting to see how the nascent skills in empathy which that course has introduced me to have a place now to grow and bear more fruit in the context of field education in spiritual care.
When I heard of the particular phrases which might be employed in creating a more accepting environment for the patient, I felt at once great respect and minor trepidation. Respect because the words seemed so well thought-out, the product of much reflection, not to mention that they work most effectively when they are delivered, as they were, with gentleness. Trepidation because I am challenged by my own phrase set, stocked as it is with less inviting responses.
Some of the problem relates to my own experiences in the context of hyper-evangelical ministry. There, I was trained to share the Good News, placing emphasis on the cross, on Jesus Christ- essentially on preaching. Yet it does not seem so simple to get people to open up in most cases, when one is not considering the person’s emotional sphere but just the state of their soul, in relation to the elicitation of explicit confessions of faith.
I hope that the fear I felt at seeing how much room for improvement there exists in my ability to choose the right words when on a spiritual care visit does not deter me from diving in and trying to relate at this more sensitive level. Perhaps if I am able to access my heart rather than take refuge in my mind with its armour of knowledge and preformulated interaction scripts, I might be able to see more of Christ, not only in the patient, but in myself, as well, making room for the genuine interaction which is meant to characterize ministry.