Coaches are questioners who come alongside clients to open their eyes to God’s vistas for the Kingdom, to assist them to discover God’s dreams for them as his adopted children, and to awaken in them the passion to use their God-given abilities for building the Kingdom.
What often gets in the way is the internal dialogue that the client carries on inside his head. More often than not, this internal dialogue is in the form of negative self-talk. Imagine Gollum talking himself out of the good and into the evil!
Many have talked themselves into giving up their dreams, abandoning their family, forsaking God’s call, or ceasing to persevere in face of adversity – all for the sake of negative self-talk. This internal dialogue can be so persuasive and yet can catch us unaware. By the time we recognize its consequences, we have already gone off the path of righteousness.
While negative self-talk is a foe to the coach and the client, internal dialogue can be a friend if the coach realizes its spiritual potential.
There is a kind of internal dialogue the ancients called “soliloquy” which can benefit our souls. The term “soliloquy” dates back to Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, who coined the term in A.D.386 as he transitioned from paganism to Christianity. Soliloquy is an internal dialogue, an internal searching, a recognition that the self is a mystery to itself, a mystery whose depths can be plumbed by “questioning”.
As a young man still living his free and licentious lifestyle, Augustine was a pagan through and through. His mother Monica, a devout woman, prayed consistently and earnestly for her son’s conversion. When he finally came to Christ in 386, he expounded on “soliloquy” as a means to plumb the depths of the mystery of the self, as a way for internal searching.
This is not to say that one should dedicate oneself to “navel gazing” as we call it in modern America, but rather that one should use “soliloquy” as a way to unfold the mystery in the human soul, and ultimately to understand the relationship between the human soul and God.
Most recently, my husband and I have toyed with the idea of investing in a piece of rental property in the city. We looked for almost a year and still did not find anything we felt compelled to purchase. I began to do some soul-searching: How do I feel about not having a piece of property to buy? What is my real motive for acquiring real estate assets? How will owning this piece of property change our lives, our availability, and particularly our relationship with God? These were the soul-searching questions – the soliloquy – that I ask to uncover the deepest desires and the darkest motives so I can be that “pure in heart” person that Jesus wants me to become.
To practice the discipline of soliloquy is to look at ourselves closely in the mirror. Here I suggest a few principles for the coach to draw out the client in the use of soliloquy.
1. Encourage the client to be honest with her feelings. One of my clients, pushed out of her parents’ nest at age 18 and divorced by her husband at age 53, recently discovered that anger and bitterness have been such an integral part of her identity that she did not know who she would be without these negative emotions. Her discovering and uncovering those feelings opened the door for God to bring healing. As a coach, you can encourage this kind of honesty by creating the emotionally safe environment for your client to be transparent with you. If the client senses any judgment from you, she will hide.
2. Be sensitive to what your client is ready for. Do not take your client to places where she is not ready to go. This will destroy your client’s trust in you.
3. Reassure your client that we all are work-in-progress in God’s hands. This is where your tone is just as important as your words. Your client needs to feel safe with you to bare his soul before you and before God. When your client is ready to be transparent before God, there is an opening for the Holy Spirit to begin a work of transformation.
4. Be open to using Scriptures but allow your client to interpret the meaning. Do not use the Bible as a club or an answer book. If the Holy Spirit impresses upon your mind a Scripture passage, ask yourself how this passage will help the client move forward.
5. Spiritual formation is about personal transformation as well as community transformation. Ultimately spiritual growth is for the purpose of repairing or renewing relationships, including your client’s relationship with God, and transforming communities. Your coaching will invariably touch on not only the client’s individual development but also the relationships that are impacted by this personal development.
6. Pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. When you, as a coach, enter your client’s territory of soliloquy, you are standing on holy ground. You are also standing in the operating room where the Holy Spirit is the surgeon and you are the assistant. Pray on the spot as you coach your client.
7. Trust the Holy Spirit to work. Refrain from making judgmental statements or jump to any kind of conclusions. Always stay in your coaching position and remain the Alongsider. The Holy Spirit is the one who will reveal the truth to your client and convict your client of sin or misconceptions.
The coach is in a very privileged position as she works with the client in the journey of soliloquy. This is fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to birth a transformed follower of Christ. As a coach, you get to enjoy the privilege of being the mid-wife in the birthing suite.
Author: Theresa Froehlich, Transitions Coach, www.transitionslifecoaching.org