Insight from Dr. Peck

One of the many things I admire about t he writings of Dr. Scott Peck is that they make me think. His words make me look at things in a way I’d never considered before. While I could go in any number of directions with this, I’m zeroing in on some insight he had when in conversation with a Christian couple.

In town for a speaking engagement, Dr. Peck was staying in the home of this couple, and upon his arrival, the two of them began giving him the low-down on many of their friends and acquaintances who would be in his audience. I guess their feeling was that if he knew a little something about these people, Dr. Peck would know how to best address them.

As the conversation progressed, however, he began to feel uncomfortable with all of the information he was being inundated with. He was told about who was had been having an affair with whom, who was divorced, and other such juicy tidbits.

“Wait a minute,” Dr. Peck thought. “Aren’t these people supposed to be Christians?”

He became upset, irked, irritated, and finally angry. One of the basic commandments is “Thou shalt not steal,” and yet these two people were breaking that very basic commandment. No, they weren’t stealing money or merchandise, but rather the reputation and good name of their “friends.”

How can someone who calls himself a Christian do this? How can a genuine follower of Christ not know that rumor mongering, gossiping (even if it’s true), and backbiting are unacceptable and inappropriate? Aren’t they just as guilty as someone who’s committing adultery or taking the Lord’s name in vain?

Speaking of the latter, Dr. Peck discerned that the couple was doing that too. When you say, “I’m a Christian,” and then behave and speak in uncharitable ways, then you’re taking His name in vain. Like Dr. Peck, I can easily see that the commandment means a lot more than avoiding vulgarisms and profanity.

Memories of Scott Peck’s insight surfaced last night as I recalled a conversation with my former mother-in-law. She told me about a couple who had been Mormons but were now members of another Christian religion. Apparently the duo was on a talk show laughing and talking about the Mormons and how misguided they are. They even went so far as to ridicule sacred temple ordinances and symbolism.

Huh? I don’t know who these people are, and I don’t know their motives. I do know, however, that they’re about as far away as people can get from being Christians. Have they asked WWJD? Are they trying to promote a book? Get on a lecture circuit? Garner publicity? Destroy the reputation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Or maybe they just wanted a day in the sun, a brief the moment of being in the spotlight.

Whatever their agenda, nothing they or any other mortal can do will stop the growth of the LDS church. Ultimately, the only people they’re really hurting are themselves and their reputations as Christians and trustworthy individuals. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

I’m wondering what their current congregation is feeling about now. I’m betting that they’re feeling a bit anxious wondering if they are going to be the next target.

What Does Your Unconscious Say?

When making decisions, I agree with Dr. Scott Peck’s advice to listen to your unconscious…and to your body.

Yesterday I was reminded of some of the reasons I went into teaching instead of counseling. The latter takes too long, and more importantly, there are no easy, sure-fire answers. In teaching, there is always a certain amount of planning, reading, preparing, and thinking, but when show time comes, you go in and share the information. In counseling, well, there’s always an element of loose ends and unfinished business.

As I listened to the young woman tell me of her quandary yesterday, I thought of all sorts of advice to give her. In counseling, however, you’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to listen in an empathic, nonjudgmental manner and ask the “client” what she thinks she should do. You can paraphrase once in a while, but giving advice is taboo. If you tell the person something that works, then she might come back again and again for more of the same. You don’t want that; you want her to gain confidence in making her own decisions. If, on the other hand, you suggest something that doesn’t work, then guess who’s to blame? YOU.

So yesterday I just listened and listened and listened until finally I blurted out, “Look, there are no easy answers to this. I mean, you have a lot to consider here.”

“I know, I know,” she said. “Maybe I’ll figure it out.”

“You will.  But in the meantime, don’t do anything rash.”

“I won’t,” she said. “I just wish I knew what to do.”

That’s when I remembered some sage advice from Dr. Scott Peck. I don’t have the book with me this morning, and truthfully, I can’t remember which one I read this in. Yet, this advice has stayed with me for a dozen years or more. Dr. Peck said that the number one thing his patients wanted was absolute assurance that they were doing the right thing. The dilemmas might vary, but the uncertainty was always the same.

Should I go back to school?
Should I quit school?
Should I get married?
Should I get a divorce?
Should I change jobs?
Should I have another baby?

Should I move to Savannah?
Should I retire?
Should I fly to California or drive?

Dr. Peck felt that regardless of the question, the answer was seldom certain.  He advised his patients to listen to their unconscious and ask themselves questions such as: How does your body feel? Are you tense when you consider this decision? Does your chest hurt? Do you feel a certain lightness of spirit? In other words, what is your body telling you? Together, your body and unconscious mind are smarter than you are when it comes to making decisions.

I hope my young friend is thinking about Dr. Peck’s words today.  As I struggle with a decision today, I sure am.