Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I, Hypocrite

I got this question via email from a reader of this blog. Here is an edited version:

Honestly, rabbi, you are very hypocritical. You say you don’t believe in the traditional creator God who judges us and sends us to heaven or hell, yet you counseled that woman who feared her nonChristian loved ones were going to hell as if you did believe. Why not just tell she’s trapped in a delusion and to get over it?

One of the few things I have learned so far in my life is never to use other people’s suffering as an opportunity to push my agenda. This woman didn’t want to hear how her damning god was not God, but how her god could love her relatives enough to welcome them into heaven with her. So I spoke with her from her own perspective rather than mine. I don’t think this is hypocritical; I think it is good pedagogy.

When someone is suffering there is no point in telling them to simply stop suffering. You have to enter into their world, find out what in this world is causing them to suffer, and then offer them a way to navigate their world to alleviate the suffering.   


Karen said...

I think that's a very compassionate way to handle the woman's fears. You're not going to change her mind about her god, but you can (we can all) find a way to comfort someone in pain.

Judy said...

Kudos to you Rabbi Rami. You have spoken often about people of faith trying to inflict their ideas and ideals on others and this is an example of how not to be like that. Thank you!!!

Rotten Arsenal said...

I completely agree with this idea. I'm an atheist, but I have many, many Christian friends and family and I will use their religion to help them with problems.
I wish I could say the same for the reverse though. When my mother died in 2008, I had friends come just short of trying to convert (or save) me. I lashed out several times at them because in my time of pain, the last thing I wanted was to hear a bunch of stuff I firmly did not believe in.

Steve G said...

We do the same thing in social work counseling. You work with the person's own belief system, not your own.

andrea perez said...

To tell someone, you don't know, in a blog that they are wrong about"god" and "death" is simply unkind and irresponsible.
It's one thing to bridge this face to face. It's entirely different over the internet. A little kindness goes a long way.
Compassion trumps opinion every time.

Paul Oakley said...

It is a cardinal rule of chaplaincy that the chaplain never supply a belief or a belief system but elicit the resources the suffering individual already has. The fundamentalist Baptist hospital chaplain is just a bound by this when serving the atheist patient as the humanist chaplain is when serving the fundamentalist Baptist patient.

When a person is suffering only their own belief system that is already in place may be legitimately used to help them. Everything else is either useless or manipulative and underhanded.