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Mirrors Work Best from the Front

If my counselees use the mirror of God’s Word to show someone else’s faults, they’re missing out.

Dec 3, 2020

I don’t know when it changed, but it definitely changed. I’m talking about that first look in the mirror in the morning. For years, it was just something I looked at because…I don’t know. I mean, it’s right above the sink, and I was brushing my teeth, so hey—why not have a look while I’m there? Seems reasonable.

But it’s different now. Time and gravity are no longer innocent to me. I don’t know what I ever did to them, but they’ve turned against me. So, I need to assess the damage they’ve inflicted on me while I slept.

The Apostle James likens the Word of God to a mirror (James 1:23). A look into it reveals the imperfections of our sinful nature and choices, but also the hope that can only be found in Christ the Word. Our counselees can experience this hope if they’re looking at the right side of the mirror.

Counselees sometimes show up with the mirror of God’s Word in hand, but they’re looking at the wrong side. This happens when they’re holding up the mirror so someone else can look at it. They have that, “Here am I, Lord; change him!” look in their eyes. The mirror in their hands is doing them no good at all. Instead of seeing themselves in the reflective truth of God’s Word, they’re looking at a sheet of metal on the backside.

It’s the husband who holds up the mirror of Ephesians 5:22-24, 33b to his wife, but refuses to consider himself in light of Ephesians 5:25-31,33a. It’s the teen holding up the mirror of Ephesians 6:4 to his father, while missing the truth reflected in the preceding verses that are instructive to him.

If my counselees use the mirror of God’s Word to show someone else’s faults, they’re looking at it from the wrong side, and they’re missing out.

As biblical counselors, we know that the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Our sinful nature renders us predisposed to see a speck in someone else’s eye without seeing the telephone pole in our own (Matthew 7:3-5). Seeing our sins before the sins of others won’t ever happen naturally or easily, but it’s something all Christians must strive towards, both counselors and counselees alike.

The amount of time I spend talking in my first 3 or 4 sessions is miniscule. I need to listen, and I need to listen actively (Proverbs 18:15). I ask questions to provoke conversation, and I’m almost never fully satisfied with the first answer I’m given. I can’t tell you how many times I say “Hmm…help me understand…” as I ask for clarification, or another example, or something to draw them out even more. If I find my counselees are talking about others more than themselves, here’s what I do.

I show them the mirror…from the front. Counselees meet with us because, in some way, they are hurting. Whether it’s the result of their own sin or someone having sinned against them, they’re experiencing the pain of sin. But, unless they are primarily concerned with the changes they themselves need to make, they won’t benefit from the hope in the mirror of God’s Word they hold in their hands. It’s so much better than the “knock-on-wood-and-hope-for-the-best” the world offers. It’s a sure and certain hope of better things to come, if they strive to do things differently in light of what we see. After all, why bother looking in a mirror if you don’t have any intention to make a change?

I show them the goal. James 1:22 says we’re to be doers. We look into the mirror because we want to do something. Feeling good about what we see and hear is nice, but it never lasts. Before long, false comfort and false peace set in. People who hear and don’t do are deceived (James 1:23-24). If counselees stand behind the mirror and hold it for others to see, they run the risk of not looking into it for themselves. Only when counselees look at themselves in the right side of the mirror are they in a position to make a necessary change.

I show them the blessing. James 1:25 speaks of blessing, but it’s conditional. It’s not the hearer who is blessed, and it’s not the one holding the mirror from behind who is blessed. The blessing comes only when we look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word and do something based on what we’ve seen. Hearing is nice. Finger pointing is easy and natural. Yet, once counselees experience the blessing that comes with doing, they’ll rarely turn back.

While there’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter counseling case, there is some cookie-cutter, foundational homework that I’ve found to be helpful in every case, regardless of what brought the person to counseling to begin with. Have your counselees memorize 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 in the first few sessions. Additionally, ask them to be ready to explain what it means, and how it applies to their lives. Look for a realization that, in all we do, our goal is to be well-pleasing to our Savior by doing something with what we see in the mirror of God’s Word. The more our counselees look to the Word in order to make the changes necessary to be well pleasing to Him, the more they’ll be encouraged with what they see as the Lord conforms them to His image, in His good time (Romans 8:29).