The Teflon Directee

Surprisingly — or perhaps not so surprisingly — some people seek spiritual direction without ever intending to follow it.  Like some who seek therapy, they prefer to discuss the challenges they face, rather than transcend them.  They seem to be made of Teflon.  Nothing you tell them seems to stick.

Behavior of this kind can be willful — the refusal to respond to respond to God’s prompting — but more often than not there are deeper issues:

In some cases, the directee has yet to understand the deepest roots of the spiritual challenge he or she faces.  Unseen and unnamed struggles continue to disrupt the spiritual progress they might otherwise make.  More listening is still needed.

Other directees fear the changes that transformation might bring.  Spiritual growth is a good thing, but it is also inherently disruptive.  And it takes effort to live into the changes that it brings.  Some directees will evade the responsibility for living into those changes as long as possible.

When the prospect of change is daunting, it is also easy to identify what is familiar with what is good.   When that happens, the familiar can enslave us — we reinvent the patterns that are comfortable.

That’s important information for a spiritual director, but it is also important information for spiritual directees.  If you see Teflon behavior surfacing in your life, ask God for the spiritual imagination to identify the source of your resistance, and the strength to break free.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.