Published on June 10th, 2013 | by Kristen Kansiewicz
Why I Became A Counselor
Kids are experts at real and pretend. They spend countless hours in imaginary worlds and take years sorting through which fairy tales are “real” and which are simply fictional. (How does that Tooth Fairy get under my pillow, anyway?) Because of these highly attuned senses, kids can take a look at the adult world and sniff out those that are “putting on airs” and those who are honest and open.
Enter American church culture. A culture that places a high value on those who seem “put together” and questions the faith of those who struggle with emotional problems. Depressed? Not enough faith. Anxious? Cast your cares on God already. And just like “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” no one wants to be the first to speak up about what’s really going on.
I grew up in this culture. Don’t get me wrong, I do not at all diminish the important biblical and moral teaching I received. I would not be the person I am today without the foundation of the church. I do not aim to insult or tear down, but I cannot speak about all that has shaped me without sharing about the flaws that drove me into my calling.
As a child, I was always very emotionally sensitive to the needs of others. I instinctively hugged people who were having a bad day. I befriended the friendless and felt intense anger towards kids who were cruel. Combine that with a culture that encourages everyone to seem fine and you get me, shouting on the inside, “Can’t we just talk about what is REALLY going on???” Marriages on the brink, people suffering from clinical depression (secretly taking meds, by the way), people who don’t like other people, and on and on it goes.
I cannot claim to have complete knowledge of the pastors’ behind-the-scenes responses, but from the bits and pieces I was hearing it was not great. “Counseling” was being done, but there was psychology-bashing even from the pulpit. Church discipline was a major focus for those who did not follow church counseling directives. Of all the responses I saw, none encouraged true honesty or an admission of brokenness. And I didn’t see a whole lot of people finding freedom from their problems.
At the age of 15, I committed my life to full-time ministry. In the one and only altar call I can remember from my childhood, I walked up to the front of the church and gave God my entire life. I had no idea what that would mean, but I knew I wanted to follow the trail where it would lead. Within the next year, I began dating my now-husband (similarly called to be a pastor) and wondered what role God might have me play in the church. Whatever that role was, I knew it would have something to do with tearing down pretenses and breaking through to some type of real emotional healing.
During my senior year of high school, the defining moment came. I was standing in a line with my mom at a clothing store, and in front of me stood an arguing mother and son. Their conversation spoke volumes – this was not an isolated interaction. I wondered how their relationship had already come to a place of breakdown. I imagined the stressors that must be in their lives. The urge inside of me to intervene between them was so strong I had to wrestle my inner-self to the ground and say, “Kristen, it’s none of your business!”
In that moment, I knew I was called to be a counselor. I knew that no matter where I was, what I was doing, who I was with, I would not be able to squelch my passion to find out what is REALLY going on and do something to help.
Sometimes I imagine myself doing something else, like being a shoe salesman or a travel agent. And the mental scene plays out the same every time: I end up sensing the emotional hurts of others and listening to their struggles. They might have come in for a pair of shoes, but I know I’d end up opening the door into their emotional life. I just want to know. I want to hear. I want to love people back to life.
And so I am a freedom fighter, bound to the mission of tearing apart the chains that bind the heart.
Photo by Ashley Speights for Wyn Magazine.