I journaled the following in 2022 when I was staying at a retirement home while my husband was away on a holiday. Writing it helped me see the flaw in my thinking. It was a good exercise to stand back and examine my motivations. God helped me see the truth about myself.

I believe I came to see this as well as I did because God had made me both—a person with mental health challenges who needed care, as well as a person who felt called to give care.

The other day, when I thought of how I’d like to help people cope with life difficulties—how I’d like to be there for them in the way I was when I led the Living Room support group . . . I stopped short.

I thought to myself: “Who do I think I am anyway, to think I can minister to people in this home for retired people I now find myself in? Maybe I’d do better to allow them to minister to me.”

I had thought I was so humble! Such a “good” giving person. I thought of myself as kind and caring.

But am I really? To consider oneself able to do good for others, one has to be somewhat proud—thinking themselves to have a gift of sorts. Perhaps I even thought myself above those I wanted to serve. Those “poor” people. Those “needy” people. Isn’t that the way many of us tend to think?

But who do I think I am anyway? Unintentionally I was setting myself above others.

“This is so wrong, Lord!”

Maybe it would be better if I allowed people to give to me and to be thankful for what they do for me.

To be a true giver, we have to know how to receive too. We should let others give to us—to help us—so that they too will have the opportunity to feel good about themselves. It would be rather selfish to take that away from friends and acquaintances.

Henri Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership has some wonderful lessons for those wanting to lead others—or for those who want to be there for others. It would be good for all Christians to read.

According to Nouwen, leaders need to show their own woundedness instead of feigning more wholeness than is theirs to show. Says Nouwen: “We are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.”

Nouwen goes on to say:

The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited an unconditional love of God.

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual. When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits.

The world in which we live—a world of efficiency and control—has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd. Even the so-called “helping professions” have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion. The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world. It is a servant leadership.

(from In the Name of Jesus – Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen – Pp 42-44)

As followers of Christ, we are called to live as servants, especially when supporting troubled individuals. We can only help people who feel like they’re looked down on by showing that we consider them to be our brothers and sisters—members of the same family, equally loved and valued by God our Father.