Thursday, November 6, 2014

Multicultural Counseling and Shalom

Donna Brown is a graduate student in counseling psychology here at TCC.

Shalom is what God wished for us, His people; and, on our best days that is what we wish for ourselves. But by our very sinful nature life is not what it is supposed to be. Comparisons of this group to that group, this flaw to that flaw, this success to that success leave us as multicultural counselors open to a variety of cases that will test our ability and our will to promote shalom. “Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be” (Plantinga, 1995, p.10). Multicultural counseling is about seeing outside of your own worldview and through someone else’s to help them create shalom in their life. At the same time the client’s worldview and sin may disrupt the shalom in your own life as the counselor. Both shalom and sin create varied dynamics in the multicultural counseling setting.
Plantinga (1995) writes about spiritual hygiene and corruption and how corruption attacks the spiritually hygienic person. “A spiritually hygienic person is one who combines strengths and flexibilities, disciplines and freedoms, all working together from a renewable source of vitality” (p. 34). It is important that counselors, especially Christian counselors, strive to be this type of person. This person follows God’s purpose for their life. To help move things back in the direction in which it is supposed to be: shalom. One has to be called by God to do so by God. It is in poor taste for a counselor to be unhygienic spiritually because they would further disrupt shalom. A counselor promoting shalom in a multicultural counseling relationship and setting must shun the stereotypes and prejudices that might disrupt and negatively infiltrate their rationale and emotion. When counselors fail to do this they fail their culturally different clients because they have been corrupted. It takes discipline for a white counselor who has just learned about the residual effects of slavery and what it actually means to be White in America to withhold racially prejudiced comments that have been imbedded in them since birth. Spiritual hygiene does not come overnight but with time and discipline it is absolutely needed in the multicultural counseling setting for change to occur.
Those who promote multiculturalism and social justice are trying to create shalom in the world and they should be applauded for that. If Jesus Christ was walking the earth today it seems certain that He would be trying to break down systemic oppression and institutionalized racism.  It is a call for counselors to help create shalom not just in the personal lives of clients but to advocate for them outside of the therapy session. If that means speaking to a school counselor to coordinate service plans for a child in family therapy, or going down to Springfield to lobby for an increased budget for government-owned mental health care facilities, or implementing the social justice organizational development theory at the college level at the local college then it should be done to help create shalom. However, sin is never too far away. “God hates sin not just because it violates his law, but more substantively because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with way things are supposed to be” (Plantinga, 1995, p. 14). Even in the midst of these great things sin disrupts it. For example, it is easy for a counselor’s head to get inflated. Any great man or woman who has been a major contributor to change is at risk for being puffed up on one’s own accomplishments. With everyone lavishing attention on them for being so charismatic, taking a stand, and fighting for what is right it is important to know that they have a personal life. That personal life outside of fighting for multiculturalism, fighting for shalom can be filled with sin. Some, not all, cheat on their spouses, go without seeing their kids, accept bribes, and are highly narcissistic. When anyone tries to create the life that is supposed to be, shalom, the devil is always lurking around to tempt people with sin. It is by our own lusts that we are tempted. Counselors fighting for multiculturalism want shalom but sin is always lurking around so it is important to watch your motives and to discipline yourself to stay spiritually hygienic that way shalom is not being created in one area while simultaneously sin taking over in another.
Plantinga, Jr, C. (1995) Not the way it’s supposed to be: A breviary of sin. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.



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