kept telling us that any helping relationship has three
qualities: Reality, Empathy, and Support. He called it a
Trinity as well.
Reality means giving up fantasies and pretense, replacing
them with rigorous honesty. For Keith this was the first
person of the Trinity, where God does not play “let’s
pretend” with us, but rather says, “This is the way it is!”
Empathy means an act of imagination of understanding
what the other person is going through. You never will
know exactly, because each person is different, but you
care enough to try. Keith said that it was like the 2nd person
of the Trinity who emptied himself out and entered fully
into human life but did not sin.
Support meant that you would be an outward and visible
sign of the presence of the 3rd person of the Trinity, being
with them to help them find hope, peace and joy in their
life. You can become real, rather than play roles; have
empathy with each other, rather than sympathy or pity; and
support, meaning it is their work to do, but you are there to
This is the first of a Trinity of reflections for the coming of the new rector and having days of feeding the fires of the heart. This one is on Reality.
36 years ago, I was newly ordained and had my first meeting with Pat, the woman who, more than five years later, would become my wife. I was a new boy at a Diocesan gathering. This woman came up to me out of a group of similarly dressed women, all with large scarves, all with scowls on their faces suggesting they agreed that “all men are scum,” and all smoking little black cigarettes. Holding the lit cigarette in her hand like a road-show Bette Davis, she complained about my predecessor and how her college-age son had left the Episcopal Church. I, silently congratulating myself on giving up smoking and also longing for a smoke, smiled politely and promised I would look him up on campus. I projected a false confidence; but behind the smile, I was thinking to myself; “Lady, I am willing to bet your son's decision has less to do with the Episcopal Church than with you.”