Dr. David Nikles
Create in me a pure heart, O God

King David
Psalm 51

Man, he looks at the outside. God, He looks at the heart. Man, he judges by success and failure. God, He sees our hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, pain and victories. He sees us. He knows us. Amazingly He welcomes us to Himself. He knows we are like a shellfish without a shell. We need Him to be our shell. He is true to His nature and loves and values us in our brokenness, longing to restore our souls and create in us pure hearts. What an amazing God we have.

Living Wholeness understands that we all have a personal and professional TASK that is important to grow. Knowledge is learnt. Skills are practiced. Transformation occurs as we and He cooperate in the transformational dance. But growing in attitudes takes commitment and cooperation, in our relationship with God. Our attitudes could in some ways be seen to be an outcome, even a measure, of our transformation.

Arguably the most important part of TASK for counselors is our ongoing transformational journey. It is impossible to underestimate how much this impacts our life, choices, and relationships with others. If attitudes are formed as we are transformed, then they are the reflection of the unseen inner work we have chosen to submit ourselves to.

A diamond deep underground develops ever so slowly but perfectly, and beautifully. So it is with God at work on and in us, shaping our hearts and particularly our attitudes. The counsellor with a healthy God centered flourishing heart is such a blessing to his or her clients, let alone family, church and community. As our one of our Living Wholeness friends says – life is about mature love. The courage to stand up, to respect and accept self and others, in a mature stable lifestyle takes much time and honing by life. May God open your mind and heart as you read this chapter, may He grow you in your inner being, that your character and attitudes are deepened and strengthened. For His glory.

John 15 is a favorite Living Wholeness passage. While it contains much, we will focus on the two aspects of abiding and fruit. Abiding in the vine, being in, with, in surrender to, living with, Jesus is the beginning. Lately I have been reflecting on the slow demise of some parts of the body of Christ, particularly in the western world. What happened? Multiple reasons for sure. I believe the one thing that would keep a civilization Christian and God centered is surrender. Complete surrender to Jesus. For a real Christian, nothing else makes sense. Either we are in or we are out. Jesus spat out the lukewarm in the Church of Laodicea. We can only truly abide in surrender. Abiding in fact is increasingly surrendering.

The key to life in Christ is simple. Surrender to Him. Abiding is living a surrendered life every day, from the day we
became a Christian until the day we die. It’s that simple and that hard. Because we have an ego who has wants and desires. And we have an enemy who fuels the ego’s desires and whispers half-truths our itching ears like to hear. Somehow, we who were sold out, surrendered to Jesus, take back a little and a little and a little more – all for seemingly good reason, and before you know it, we are no longer surrendered. We begin to live on the left of the square again. What a tragic process, ALWAYS remediable by our Lord Jesus’ open arms welcoming us to home base with Him again.

Like the tree planted by the stream in Psalm 1, in abiding we live, we love, we send down deep roots to the Christ we dwell in. We ask the Lord to fill our central circle with His spirit, we pray that this same Spirit permeates and saturates each of our sectors, marinating them in the Holy Spirit, developing a beautiful being made in the image of God. When the desert winds blow, the tree stands firm under duress. We need to decide to abide.

Such trees bear flowers, form fruit, fruit of the spirit, of the sap within their core. Such fruit is beautiful to eat and points to the Maker, glorifying Him. The fruit lasts the days of judgement. The fruit sustains and nourishes those in our shade and there is enough for everyone. As we decide to be abide, we bear fruit that will last.

Such fruit is the hands feet eyes and ears of Jesus. It is the heart attitudes we will explore during this chapter. It is the healing balm the world needs. It is good to the taste and sweet to the tongue, nourishing soul and body. And the leaves of this tree are the healing for the nations. (Revelations 22:2b).

Attitudes then arise from our predominantly our heart sectors, thus what is within these sectors determines to a large extent our attitudes. And it is our attitudes people rub up against, as they get to know us.

Meet Alan, the new boss. James, 49, an engineer, with a healthy love and truth sector, naturally has an accepting and respectful attitude towards a new person in his social circle. In his cope sector he faces the new situation and invites relationship. James seems to embody the pursuer attitude in relationships – he is quietly confident in who he is and seeks new relationship from the vantage point of how can I bless, help, befriend, support this new boss, Alan, so it’s best for him and all of us. What is being said is essentially, “I welcome you here to do your best amongst us.” It happens that James has been an active growing Christian for a decade now.

Jeremy, 29, also engineer, on the other hand, with a dodgy love and truth sector, knows he feels inadequate when new people arrive. Somehow, they threaten him, and make him feel insecure. To cope, he has contrived an affable exterior, and a mix of flight and if necessary, fight for when people get too close. His extreme tattoos, and long wild hair, seem to help keep most people distant. When Alan arrives at the workplace, Jeremy, if he is honest, has a somewhat arrogant, critical, disrespectful attitude towards him. He does feel threatened and tends to avoid Alan. Given opportunity he may tend towards spreading gossip, and some subtle anti-Alan slander. A very human tendency. As we can see this comes from his less robust heart sectors. His approach to the boss is more “how can I avoid him.” What is being said in effect is “If you come too close I am afraid you may find out how broken I really am. Please go away.”

When we face God, we can also find a similar theme. Some of us are very healthy in heart sectors and welcome God’s help to do and be better. Others of us feel guilty and ashamed in His presence. Ashamed of our brokenness and guilty we aren’t anything much to speak of, our attitude becomes either one of wanting to remain unseen, or a contrarily elevated self-esteem and identity to cover the gap. Still others of us know we are weak and lost, but somehow by His grace have the capacity to admit our need and ask Him for help. These people have a more humble and honest attitude.

As Richard Rohr says, our heart and life experiences will significantly impact our attitudes, usually fairly easily detectable by anyone who comes close.

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Richard Rohr

And he is right. Unless we face our pain, it will not cease to dominate our lives.

The key elements regarding attitudes seems to be

  • we have choice over our attitudes – we can choose for example to be thankful or take things for granted.
  • our attitudes may be a somewhat automatic expression of our inner life which
  • we may be able to modify, or
  • we may struggle to modify, but
  • as we submit ourselves to God, He and we together can work on refining our attitudes toward Godliness.

Returning to Alan, James, and Jeremy’s workplace a year later, let’s see how things are unfolding. James is a year older and wiser. He had a great 50th birthday party, inviting the whole work team and their families. Jeremy increasingly struggled with Alan, with so much frustration as he reminded him of his dad. One day Jeremy left early and got exceedingly drunk.  Somehow, he ended up in a place where some Christians reached out to him, and a few months, and lots of love and care later, he believed. Slowly he realized his distancing and rejecting attitude to Alan. 

One evening he shared this with his new friends and together they asked God for healing within his heart so he could relate in a healthier way to Alan. He recognized his unhealthy attitude, faced it, had another conversation at his new and welcoming home group, and found immense relief as God heard their collective prayers.  Jeremy begins the at times painful journey of restoration of his injured sectors. About 18 months after he arrived, Alan, sharing lunch with James one day, commented, “You know, when I first came here I found it hard to get to know that young guy – what’s his name – Jeremy. I felt like he didn’t like me and avoided me. But lately he has been more and more kind towards me.  I feel he is kind of growing up or something.  He has even stopped swearing. It’s weird hey! “….. James smiled quietly. Even engineers can grow!

Attitudes flow from our heart condition. People around us notice. 

Attitudes in Counsellors

We will take some time now to look at each of the five steps, and what attitudes are important for us as counsellors to develop. As you go through this exercise, keep a note pad beside you, and give yourself a snap score for each attitude, mentioned in the boxes: say a 1-10/10. When you finish, look through your scores. What do they tell you?  Are there any that stand out as exceptional or struggling? You may choose to lift the weaker areas to Father and decide to embark on some attitude reconstruction surgery. You may also choose to do that with another person, within your transformational or SAP group, or through journaling. This book, Cycles of Transformation, has a chapter for each of these approaches.

Connect: to Love

The essence of the connect step is to love. This is first base for relationship.

The attitudes undergirding this love include the following three C’s we list under the Attitudes of SAFETY.


Connection is based on an attitude of a desire to really care for the person. We accept the person as they are, made by God Himself. We value and honour them. Why? Because we love people, because God first loved us, and called us to a life of loving people. Such care and love generate a relationship of trust. It is only when we have trust that we can expect people to open their hearts to us as counsellors. This is absolutely foundational. As we shall see later these are Love sector concepts.

Connect Attitudes

  • Care
  • Confidentiality
  • Choice

The Four A’s

  • Attach
  • Attend
  • Accompany
  • Attune


Foundational too are these truth sector concepts. Confidentiality is vital. A person who feels there is acceptance and a ring of confidentiality and respect will naturally be more open in sharing deeper parts of themselves. How betrayed Shandra feels if she is shopping at the market, and meets Diya, her good friend, who mentions she just heard some of Shandra’s marriage secrets at the churches prayer meeting that morning. Terrible right! We who practice a lifestyle of SAFETY must personify the one who hears much but tells nothing.


Exemplified by the Invitational Posture, we practice a lifestyle of offering choice for people. This is the diametric opposite of control, power above, and the like. God Himself offers man all these things and again as SAFE people we stand beside those whom we are walking with allowing them freedom and choice, we simply accompany. Of course there are limits to this including when the one we walk with being suicidal or homicidal, mentioning thoughts of causing harm to self or other. Children and teens of course need a more narrow set of boundaries within which we offer choice compared to healthy adults. Choice empowers and gives hope, increasing connection. Control disempowers, reduces the sense of resect and acceptance, thus reducing connection.

As we will see, the connection step involves the triangle – God at work through us; the invitational posture (choice based on client respect)  and the four attitudes of a decision to Attach, Attend, Accompany, and Attune, and thus form a place of  SAFETY for our clients. As such, we also represent God to the client, as He works through us, represented by the triangle shape.

These are summed up in the A of SAFETY for the three C’s  and the 4 A’s of the connection step.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. 
To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.
But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.
It is what we need more than anything.

Timothy Keller

Understand: to Know

Tim Keller makes the astute observation above. Being loved in itself is not enough. We humans search too for being known. In being with another this is what we seek to offer – a safe place for them to be known in completeness: the good, the bad, and even and especially, the ugly. Being accepted even in brokenness is a powerful force for healing and restoration.


Understand Attitudes

  • Curious
  • Reflect
  • Aware
  • Notice
  • Explore

The understanding we offer is based on our desire to know. Our curiosity, awareness of both our self and the other, and noticing what is happening within them and also ourselves. Emphasis is on self as well, because we are a barometer of how this person will be also perceived and experienced by others.

This curiosity is because of our foundational desire for growth of the other. If the curiosity is for our own use, maybe to compare ourselves with them and find ourselves superior; or we are curious because we are thinking their son might be a good catch for our coming of age daughter, then we are definitely left sided, and should immediately stop this self centered curiosity. (And take time later to examine the course of this within self).

This healthy other- centered curiosity though is that we are curious to know the truth of who this person is. We want to know them as a whole person whom God made, in order to better understand them and be able to offer appropriate counsel. Again we also need be reliable and trustworthy, men and women of our words, respecting and confidential with the life stories people share.  


The experience of being known needs some reflection. Simply hearing the story of another with no interaction whatsoever is weird. Interaction is human, with flesh. Reflect what we see and hear and experience: thoughts and perceived emotions and bodily experiences. So, we need to be interactive and reflect the picture we are building up in our minds, clarifying where needed, correcting misunderstandings we may have, so we have the clearest picture. 


We must be present with the person, aware of major and minor themes, the interplay of thoughts emotions facts and fantasies, links between present and past dialogues, indeed the present and past of the person.  


We need to notice verbal and nonverbal cues, behaviour, appearance, demeanor, congruence and incongruence, speech and communication patterns. A lot of noticing goes onto the picture we are slowly developing of this person. At times we might access that, and bring that to put on the table, for example when we are summarizing what we have heard. 


We should be curious as mentioned above, meaning we wonder about links, what might have been the person’s experience, (empathy), how it really was for them. We explore WITH permission. Never without. (Except for situations where we become aware of the potential for harm of self or others). The Invitational Posture is vital– never assuming, but opening doors for opportunity to, together with the person, explore previously unspoken areas of their precious lives. We generally would offer such invitations gently for example “I hear/have noticed you have mentioned you are often afraid of men. I am curious as to whether you would like to explore this together?” Very much invitational, lots of choice, respect, care, attunement and attending.  This is so much better than “Why are you afraid of men?”, which is confrontive, more closed questioning, little room to move and thus decreasing safety and connection for the client. 

Speaking of ‘why,’ this is a word we try to never use with clients as it can easily put us in their eyes as a critical parent, thus potentially complicating and reducing safety in their relationship with us as adult to adult. (To access and refer to  Transactional Analysis). 

We need courage to face, to be real about our own strengths and weaknesses; to work on our weaknesses and committed to personal growth as an individual. The experienced guide has travelled these roads before. 

Finally, we also need be motivated to follow through, to persevere, to be faithful in our accompanying, to do what we said we would. This includes our responsibilities as people and professionals – this to our God, our family, our client, our colleagues, and our own selves. Quite a lot to balance!

If you are a self-ratings type of person, how does your personal evaluation look so far? You may be using numbers (1-10/10) or possibly more: ‘that’s me that’s not me,’ or your own system. No matter – just reflect and see where you seem to be doing well, and celebrate; and seek where God would have you grow and ask His help!

Respond: to Grow

For good responding, as in most things, it begins with our attitude towards the client. If we believe they are hopeless and our interaction pointless they will for sure sense this. We need to really believe in them, made in the image of God, whether or not they acknowledge Him at present. Since God doesn’t make failures He must have made this person for His glory and for a life of good works He has already purposed them for. Thus – how can we as the counselor position ourselves to respond in the most helpful way? We believe it is in our attitude to them, upon which the work of facilitating transformation will flourish.

Respond Attitudes

  • Challenge
  • Heighten
  • Affirm
  • New ways
  • Growth
  • Empower

As we shall see later (Responding Chapter) the therapeutic work by the counselor required here often involves more response questions than just making suggestions for change. This approach respects the work the client will have/has already done and is invitational more than directive. While many cultures initially expect that counselling gives advice – a very directive approach, the truth is that in general people tend to take away ideas they had during the session more than your ideas, ones they can own and carry out and will work for them.

Lets look then at an easy way to remember the attitudes that assist the counselor build a strong foundation for their work in helping clients change. At the outset we need to mention prayer, indeed the central plank of any response step; indeed as it is central to the whole of the CURE process. As we pray we engage the help of God, (maybe more Engage help step) and His mighty assistance in helping the client undergo broad and deep transformation.


When our attitude to the client is to assist and strengthen them as people, and is perceived as such, given we have connected and understood well, and they are open and less defensive, we do have the opportunity to speak into some difficult areas of their life. Meaning they will be more open to our curiosity about things that appear to be holding them back from healthy growth. The Living Wholeness Approach doesn’t generally do confrontation so much as in other therapeutic approaches but more would ask gentle response questions for example: ‘Talking about smoking, I am wondering what would you see as benefits of stopping?’ We don’t loose connection so easily and the client is encourage to think about their behaviour and own their own decision to change. ‘You really need to stop smoking’ is a much more directive statement which can lead quickly to defensiveness and lack of ownership and thus no change happens.

The art of championing (also a C for Challenge word) someone is masterfully demonstrated by John Warlow. Spend more than 30 minutes with him and he is championing you! He believes in you, your life, he can find something to champion in, it would seem, anyone. Optimistic, hopeful, caring, wise, relevant and real, seeing you as God made you, seeing the better you. Downplaying failings (not ignoring them) and just being someone who believes in the good of you. A great foundation for all who offer counsel!


This means to help people grow higher up in the square – be less below the waterline more above and higher, and of course ideally more to the right as well.  The goal is so they can live their loves to the full, in all abundance. The point here is not just being a better person but one more available and open to being God centered, and functional in all circles and areas of life. These people are then more able to reach down more effectively to help others up as well. Just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. We offer others the comfort that we ourselves have received from God. 


We as counselors always need to have an attitude of affirmation of our clients. They have taken the courage to meet with us, in vulnerability and honesty, often sharing things they have told no one else. Surely, they need our affirmation that they have done a courageous thing, to desire growth and transformation. While we affirm their courage and strengths, we would not affirm self-defeating, harmful, and non- God centered behaviors or thoughts. In this instance we might be most helpful to them to be curious about where they might see taking such a ‘negative path’ might lead  them. Affirmation is more than just ‘I understand you,’ it is really ‘I admire your courage to face these massive challenges!’ 

New Ways

As we journey with our clients on their healing pathways, we will find they want to explore new roads and new ways. Their old ways just aren’t working. So often, that is why there are really here with us. We do well to thus assist them consider, explore, try, succeed, and even sometimes initially fail, at new initiatives. New strategies, new ways to cope, new opportunities that come into view. The broader field, or eagle eye big picture approach, can often assist them find these new paths. New paths take time to be established. Dr. Pieter Russouw, an eminent Neuroscientist, used to say it takes effort to cut a new path through the jungle, taking around 6 weeks of walking that path for it to become established, then its ideally set for life. If unused it will of course become overgrown soon again.  (Discussing neural pathway development for new thinking and behavior patterns). 


The acronym GROWTH is used by coaches around the world for those seeking to assist growth in clients:

Goals….SMART Goals (below) can be helpful in the coaching area of counseling – more applicable when being with those seeking to mature and find new ways when above the waterline. 

  • Specific – clear succinct definable goals 
  • Measurable – which are able to be measured in some way 
  • Achievable – are achievable and 
  • Realistic – realist for the person in their current state and situation 
  • Time bound – and can be reviewed after a certain period/s of time.


The process of walking with the client needs to hold water, needs to apply to their reality. Thus it must be practical and relevant for life after the client leaves the counseling room. We can brainstorm with a client, we can suggest our own solutions that we think are awesome, but in the end the way forward must match the current reality of the person and capacity of the client.


This raises the important question of our needing to have the attitude that our client is a mature adult (when they ARE an adult!) and as such need to make and take responsibility for their choices. We can help them develop options, as above maybe by brainstorming with them, but they need to decide and proceed with trying these. However, it is not unreasonable, if they decide to go a way we have no experience with (for example take a major decision we do not condone) we may at times sense we should review our capacity to walk with them given our lack of experience on this path. Attitudes and ethics overlap at times. We need so much to be prayerful and seeking Gods leading in such cases.


What level of commitment, and determination does the client have for their own growth? If low, then how can we as the counselor facilitate their owning the need to take responsibility for growth. There are various ways to encourage higher ownership, which will be discussed in the response chapter but suffice to say for now consider:

  • Look forward – how will your life be in 3 or 5 years if you do take a certain path and/or if you don’t?
  • How will this decision (to take a different way or not) affect those around you – not just yourself?
  • What might you wish you had decided and done, at this fork in the road, when you are eighty?
  • How do you think God sees this decision at this time (assuming a believer)?
  • What might He be inviting you towards?
  • What, if you feel unable to proceed with a wise choice, what if there are people, and God, who believe in you and would champion and help empower you as you take this new path?


Tactics refers to examining habits, thinking, responses, coping mechanisms, and ways of life that would maybe be better left behind. Secondly, what are new tactics and strategies that the client can live out which will empower them for a life of greater fullness. Not only behaviors, but ways of developing their own new strategies, new patterns of life.


To empower is almost to transfer power to the client. To believe in them, their God given capacity, and to desire the best for them. We empower people when they really understand that we, and the God who made the universe, are on their side. No problem then is too great. As we do this, we will see amazing things, more than we can ask or imagine. Encouragement, the spiritual gift of walking beside a person and speaking words of hope and ‘you can do it’ are incredibly powerful, especially as we pray for them. Just remember when someone did (or didn’t) do that for you! It changes a persons paradigm. Just one such person in someone’s life can make all the difference. Ask any seemingly successful person.

Finally again, prayer can be an extremely powerful response step as we pray for and with our clients, to be God empowered. Remember to give Him the glory for the outcomes.

Transformed people transform people.

Richard Rohr

Engage help: to Show: Servant Leadership

Accessing or engaging help requires a certain degree of humility. It is a vulnerable thing to ask help. We cannot be all things to all people, despite our best ambitions. Sometimes we serve people far better by asking them to see our colleague, even the one we are most competitive with, if they are a better fit than we for this client.

Engage Help Attitudes

  • Supported
  • Serve
  • Link

Another issue is of complete and wholistic help. One person has limitations that a team can much better fulfill.

Also simply more relationships can be very helpful towards a fuller repair.


The attitude of being able to receive help from others. Some people simply refuse help. They might think this shows they are still strong or independent. Often older people refuse help for these reasons as well as maybe they really don’t want to bother others. We actually all function best in life when there is give and take, when at times we accept help and support, and at times we offer that to others. These second two are mentioned below.

Serve and lead 

Leading involves followers. If you look over your shoulder and see people following you then you are leading. This may be a crowd but often it may be a crowd just one by one. You might meet 20 people a month and speak into each of their lives one by one as a counselor. You might say ‘Me…a Leader?’  Yes, you are because people follow you. 

Again, you might say ‘No, I am really not a leader …I am just serving the poor.’  Serving is also leading, it is influencing the lives of others. In fact, following Jesus’ example the best form of leading is servant hearted leading, where you put the needs and situation of those you seek to serve before your own gain.


When a team who have linked together around a common cause, person, or group of people, is functioning well there is such immense power. Similarly, there is not much else so rewarding in life than serving in a team setting to overcome issues which one person alone could not. Mission is a great example – linking hands with others from around the globe to serve those in need, backed by prayer and our awesome God.

A real desire to cooperate is an essential aspect to be able to say I need a team to link together with to effectively serve the people we are called to help. It might again be with serving the poor – best done as team for many reasons. The team concept is great – many hands make light work; we are the body of Christ serving together. Great plan. But so often someone turns up to serve and before you know it is having an argument with the others on the team because they aren’t doing the job how they would do it. Teamwork requires relational maturity or at least the again that attitude for unity to complete the work we are collectively called to: I don’t have all the answers; there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Evaluate: How did it Go?

Evaluation is a vital step in the counselling process, as indeed it is for life itself. Required are attitudes of honesty, facing our weaknesses and growth points, or also facing the fact that we are good at such and such but not becoming proud and independent. 

Evaluate Attitudes

  • Face
  • Vulnerability
  • Humility

Evaluation requires integrity, facing the truth, a capacity for vulnerability especially when receiving feedback from others, and a degree again of humility.

Essential is the desire to do something with the feedback – to grow, to develop, to mature. As they say its not how often you are knocked down, what matters is how often you get up again. 

As we seek to grow in these attitudes, we will become more caring, integrated, gracious, God and other centered, real, human beings, respected by our clients for our kindness wisdom and maturity.

Embarking on the journey of Christian spiritual transformation is enrolling in the divine school of love. Our primary assignment in this school is not so much study and practice as letting ourselves be deeply loved by our Lord.

David Benner   Sacred Companions

Attitudinal Transformation

While the above is a goal, placing perhaps a point on the horizon to walk towards, we may wonder how do we get there. For me at least, just because I desire to grow in all these attitudes doesn’t guarantee they will sprout within my soul and take root, and one day I wake up really caring gracious integrated and wise!

In my view it is when we are challenged – when we are tired after a long day; when we interact with someone who faces their own personal challenges and maybe isn’t quite on the same values page as ourselves, that we find within ourselves things which we didn’t put there. Or which we wished wasn’t there. Unfortunately, I still have too many fresh examples to mention.

In these situations, it behooves us to sit quietly, honestly face what happened, be real about how  we were that was good, and how we were that was not up to expectation. Ponder the roots of this and come before the Lord either just our self, or with another, and commit the old ways that keep rising up within us to His care and forgiveness. Bring them to the worn and rugged cross, to Jesus of Christ, no less. 

As we saw in the Chapter on Transformation – John affirms that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and forgives us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). 

The Kind Wise Strong Ones

Susanne, my (very kind wise) wife, encourages clients to locate within themselves their kind wise strong self.   Many find this very helpful as they seek to grow more into this person. This kind wise strong self can also shepherd the heart of the less kind and less wise and weaker self within. The broken fragments find a place of safety, being known and respected by their kinder wiser stronger self. Thus known and affirmed, the less mature parts of the person can be let go, and slowly the person grows into their kind wise strong self for more of the time. God loves to accompany people on this process. 

It is interesting to note that this approach is congruent with the love truth and control sectors: kind being love sector, 

wise, truth sector, and strong, control sector. It also commensurate with the Circle of Security concepts. 

Another dimension to this approach can be with the truth sector questions:

  • Who am I ?
  • Who am I leaving behind ?
  • Who am I becoming ?

Still another approach consists of the concept of standing on my feet, spread slightly apart, facing fully forwards. Standing in wisdom and love for the other. Standing in Jesus. Standing on the rock. Standing with the full knowledge that He is alive within me. And as challenges are faced, as trials head my way, I trust Him and stand firm even, as encouraged by Paul in Ephesians (sit walk stand) being my full and true self in Christ.

The list below illustrates in the top right of the square a number of qualities of the kind wise strong one. It really helps me to ponder these attributes and day by day to be intentional about them. This often involves not reacting with my first or even second thought on an issue but waiting, considering, pondering, what is the wisest thing that could be said here. What is the most useful thing for this person to hear right now. What would help then draw near to God. And refrain from jests, half formed comments, and especially anything hurtful.  I am not perfect ….but I have developed a prayer for the times when I am less than what I hope. These prayers are powerful, as they crystallize those moments in our lives when our soul touches Heaven, and Heaven touches our soul.


Lord, I am back again. Again, I give you my failings and weaknesses.
I don’t know how I end up here so often.

Right now, I give you my latest version of clumsiness and lack of good attitudes, character and judgement.
I am not as mature as I like to think.
Forgive my imperfections and please tend to those who have borne and been hurt by me.

O Lord please fill me with your love, help me live in it, imbibe it, know it.
Knowing You is knowing Love. I need you.
Your dwelling within me is Love dwelling within me.
May I increasingly be a conduit of your love to others,
And so grow as one who offers true love and healing in this world.

The Examen

It may seem an afterthought to place such a profound Christian practice at the end of this chapter on attitudes. Purists would shudder and St Ignatius tremble at the thought of such a simple version of this finely-honed practice of drawing near to God, living top right. Yet in some ways this is often how God does things. You stumble across a life changing practice in a book on counselling.  The Examen is ever so helpful to assist us to put into practice the goal of the Christian life – to draw near to God Himself. In so doing we are refined in our heart, and especially our attitudes. As James promised, and we discuss further in the Chapter on Retreats, if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. (James 4:8a). The Examen gently and graciously unearths our attitudes and how they are affecting our daily life. So, with bated breath, we present a simplified version of the Examen. 

Ideally one spends time with Father at day’s end, prayerfully reflecting moments during that day. This version of the Exam consists of two primary groups of questions as below.

Consolation Questions: When was I near God?

  • When today was I was aware of God’s presence?
  • When today was I able to give and receive love?
  • When today did I feel joyful, and alive?

Notice these times, reflect on them. 

What do they show you about yourself? 

About God?  

Be Grateful!

Desolation Questions: When was I away from God?

  • When today was I not aware of God?
  • When today did I feel separate from Him?
  • When today was I not able to give and receive love?

Notice these times, reflect on them. 

What do they show you about yourself? 

About God?  

Be Grateful!

There are many versions of this age old practice. 

My own experience is when I repeatedly do this each night, it builds into my day, and I find myself more turning towards God than either neutral or even turning away from Him in the moments of that day. It certainly offers a way to process the multitude of occasions where my attitude was less than acceptable.

The Examen is a lot about inner noticing, never a lost skill for a counsellor. Ask the Spirit to show you – what was going on inside of you? What might have been triggers for this?  Ask for His forgiveness if you need to. Maybe not for ‘a sin’ as such but where is the line, really, between self-centeredness, sin, and turning away from Father? Admit your incapacity to change yourself and ask the Spirit to work on this aspect of your heart and mind. We all have challenges in our lives that will continue with us until we arrive in heaven. Indeed, one of the major things I look forward to about heaven is being free of my selfishness and significant imperfections. But take heart – His promise is that He will not desert us, and when we are weak and need His hand, He will be there. Where we can’t, He can!

In Closing

The growth of our attitudes to self, others, and God is paramount. This is established upon the foundation of our desire for an integrated transformational journey through the whole of life. We explored attitudes counsellors do well to grow in, inviting you to assess your personal level of growth at this moment. You may find it interesting to reassess yourself at some stage in the future, and so continue to be intentional about this process. We presented the picture of the wise kind self, both in regard to assisting clients, but especially in regard to oneself. Last but not least, we presented a very brief part of the whole concept of the Examen, and a suggested way to begin to attend to ourselves in this way.

If we were all living in renewed attitudes to God, others, and self, we would start to look like the beautiful picture of community Paul envisaged the Colossians to live. May it be so.

Therefore, as Gods chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. 
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, 
which binds them all together in perfect unity. 
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
 And be thankful. 

Colossians 3:12-15

Suggested Further Reading 

Circle of Security International:
Nikles, Dr. D and Mrs S. (2024). Cycles of Transformation Edition 3.
Warlow, Dr. J. (2018)  The CURE for Life   Part 1   God Centered Transformation. Ocean Reeves Publishing.
Warlow, Dr. J. (2018)  The CURE for Life   Part 2  God Centered Relationships. Ocean Reeves Publishing. 
Warlow, Dr. J. (2018)  The CURE for Life   Part 3  Biblical Foundations: An Illustrated Commentary on the Bible . Ocean Reeves Publishing.
Warlow, Dr. J. (2010)  Living Wholeness. 
Ignatian Books are helpful on the Examen. It is A Jesuit practice. A simple introduction can be found at