Pope Francis offers a helpful reality check to the self-help culture.
We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.
Papa Pancho makes a good point. There is a difference between seeking help for a problem and chasing after the savior-of-the-week. The Holy Father is really speaking to the latter more tha the former.
Change requires work and grace. There is no person or program alone that can save you. If you need help, it is good to find a competent, trained professional to work with. If you find a therapist you basically get along with, who supports your faith journey, who is sensitive and responsive to the concerns you bring up about either your life or your therapy, and who is giving you practical advice, techniques, or guidance (as opposed to just saying, “Hmm… tell me more.”) then–barring some major offense or obstacle that presents itself in session– you should probably stick with that person until you’ve made the changes you want to make, even if it takes longer than you expected. Fostering your spiritual life, looking for ways to serve others, and committing to the hard work and accountability serious change requires are really the best ways to make significant, long lasting improvements in your life.
But as Pope Francis points out, help-seeking can become problematic when it becomes a quest for the person or program that is going to save me. If I go from person to person, retreat to retreat, therapist to therapist, training weekend to training weekend looking for that one person with the right words to make it all click for me, or, if I think that I need to stay locked up inside myself or my house until I can get “fixed” and THEN I’ll make a gift of myself to others, I’m not really seeking help. I’m looking for salvation through human works.
—If you are ready to make a change in your personal, marriage, or family life, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn how you can work with a faithful, professional, Catholic counselor through our tele-counseling practice.