Gerald May 8 Spiritual Friends
“At the deepest level of our hearts we are all aching, for each other and for the same eternally loving One who calls us. It would be well, I think, if we could acknowledge this more often to one another.”
Gerald May, Will and Spirit, p. 321.
Gerald May in Will and Spirit, writes that regardless of our tradition, the spiritual journey should not be undertaken alone. May quotes Kenneth Leech who opens his book about spiritual direction, Soul Friend, with the Celtic saying, “anyone without a soul friend is a body without a head.” A spiritual friend or guide is not one who gives directions, but points directions, a person who knows something of the terrain from having traveled some of it and who can say, “I think there may be trouble over there, perhaps try this way.”
Professional training or qualifications of a director, counselor or friend are not nearly as important as fundamental qualities of basic positive intent, humility (not to presume to know more than one knows), and willingness (a desire to travel a rough road and willing to allow the guidance to come from God rather than trying to engineer it), and responding simply and directly to the needs of others as they are presented.
May cautions us that if we expect to be spiritual friends by learning techniques of discernment and using them on other people, the outcome will be nothing but a blind sales pitch or slightly pastoralized psychotherapy. He describes psychology as a means to seek to help a person solve the problems of living while spiritual direction deepens the Question of life itself.