I know someone who is doubting. What can I do?
It’s not uncommon to encounter someone who is doubting. If you haven’t yet, you will. Although knowing and providing supporting evidence can be helpful, your manner of being may be more important than what you do. I approach this topic from both a professional and personal perspective.
Some of the central skills that help us to help others are the same skills that give others the freedom to grow. These are the same foundational skills that Carl Rogers touted many decades ago: empathy, genuineness, and unconditional acceptance.
To empathize is more than just feeling for a person. It is truly being able to say you can imagine walking in their shoes (or sandals or bare feet). As the listener, can I tell this person’s story back to them with all the emotion and questions and have them honestly respond, “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel!” If so, then I empathize. And having someone empathize with you can relieve that deep sense of loneliness doubters may experience.
To be genuine is more than just being honest. Am I responding from the depths of who I am as a person or am I holding back a piece of me? This does not mean that we recklessly blurt out whatever comes to mind. It does mean that we dig deep into ourselves to figure out what is going on when we feel irritated, frustrated, or angry that this person can’t seem to believe what we believe. Being genuine is the opposite of hiding behind a mask (whether you know you are doing it or not). It is taking time to know who you are, what you think, what you feel, and then being that person when you are with another.
Unconditional acceptance is harder than we usually think. Can I look at someone with whom I disagree profoundly and still see in them a person of worth who has questions and doubts that are worthy of consideration? Can I agree to disagree? Can I value the person even if they never come to believe what I believe? Can I feel warmly toward the other person no matter what his or her stance or presentation? Can I engage in a caring relationship with no strings or requirements attached? These are the hard questions we must ask ourselves. And if the answer is “no,” then we must take time to search our own hearts.
Beyond these professional guidelines, I have personally experienced the value of having people in my life who have lived these qualities with me. At one point, I reached a moment when I questioned everything I had grown to believe – an earth-shaking moment for me. And a shameful moment that I sought to hide from those who I was unsure would accept my profound questions. Except for two people in my life. I risked talking to them, and they responded with complete acceptance and support. They did not try to answer my questions. Often they sat in silence as I rambled through my thoughts. They responded with trust that I would find my way. And I did, eventually. The road was long, but it was made easier knowing that I was not completely alone in my wanderings. I knew they understood where I was, I knew their interactions with me were sincere, and I knew I was accepted regardless.
–Dr. Kim Baldwin, Assistant Professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Lincoln Christian University.