Evoking not Directing

This is for those of you thinking of becoming spiritual directors but who dislike the title “spiritual director” because the verb “to direct” can imply that you have answers and are directing another person toward certain answers.  Don’t get too hung up about that one word–direct. At best, spiritual directors are directing another person’s attention to an event, emotion or situation that may hold clues about where God is speaking or leading that person.

So if you are holding back from becoming a spiritual director because you don’t think you have what it takes to direct, I invite you think about the role more as one who helps evoke spiritual wisdom than one of dispensing wisdom. Once you learn the basics, you will be evoking, not directing.

Being an evocator means you help summon or call forth in another what they need to examine or learn. This stance takes a great deal of pressure off the spiritual director. We are not gurus with answers. We are companions along the spiritual path, asking important questions and directing another person’s attention to holy places.

In some ways, evocative spiritual direction can be more difficult than playing the role of guru or teacher. Refusing to tell another what to do in a difficult situation takes a lot of self-control, especially if we think we know what the best action would be. Refusing to give advice when a person wants you to tell them what the next step in their journey should be takes guts. Sometimes people want to give their personal power over to another. It is our job as spiritual directors to never allow that to happen in direction. Each person must walk their own path and be responsible for their own decisions.

Being evocative rather than directive is ultimately freeing for all involved. But you have to believe that and hold to your principles when challenged or you will dangerously slip into the role of teacher-advisor-guru.

Even though the term “spiritual director” is sometimes misunderstood, I still prefer to use it over some made up new term.  Can you imagine calling yourself a Spiritual Evocator? (I’ve heard worse!) Spiritual direction may not be all that well-known of a practice, but at least some people have heard of it. I use the tension around the term as a reminder that I need to explain—right up front—about my style of direction.

For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.

About Teresa Blythe

Teresa Blythe is a full-time spiritual director and ordained UCC minister living and working in Phoenix, AZ. She serves as the Director of the Hesychia School of Spiritual Direction in Tucson. Contact her at teresa@teresablythe.net.

  • Jerilyn Harris

    This is a wonderful explanation. Thank you for sharing! I have always struggled with what to call my profession and always fall back into calling it “spiritual direction.” The words carry so much history so I trust that those who most need it, will get it.


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