Babysitting, or two steps more

 

Some spiritual teachers seem to babysit their students. They give partial information. Hold back. Gloss over. Present an overly simplified, and sometimes polished, image of the path and the process.

It is understandable. They want to not scare new students off, or protect their students against mistakes, so they filter information and advice carefully.

But it may not always be the best strategy.

They may inadvertently withhold information that could be very useful for some – or even most – of the students. And it can also create an atmosphere of pretense, or suspicion and distrust. The students will by necessity sense that something is withheld and that will have consequences, sometimes simply through a change in group culture and how people interact with each other. Withholding information can be especially unfortunate or inappropriate in our culture, where transparency and full disclosure is highly valued.

Instead, it is possible to go two, or three, steps further.

The teacher gives the information, openly and fully. And also pointers for how to relate to and use this information in a healthy and mature way. What to look out for. What to do if you happen to misuse it, for instance by making it into a belief and acting on it as a belief. And guidelines for how to relate to that situation, how to set it right, and how to learn from it.

The teacher has most likely gone through the whole cycle himself or herself, as most of us will, so why not lay it all out there?

Any information is a tool, and as any tool, it is possible to use it in an appropriate way or to misuse it. The simplest and best approach is usually to show the tool, explain when and for what it is useful, how to use it responsibly, and what to do if you don’t.

Teachers may sometimes withhold information to not scare students off. Here too, it seems better to present it all in full so people know the (possible) landscape ahead of time. Better to make informed decisions and go into it with eyes open.

Trigger: Two groups I am in where I sense and have seen specific examples of this babysitting mentality.

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– babysitting mentality
— types
— (a) don’t want to scare students off
— (b) want to protect them against themselves
— (c) don’t want them to rock the boat, question etc. (want to create a culture where questioning certain things – f. ex. the teachings, the structure etc. – is discouraged)
— many reasons why is usually not a good strategy:
— (a) unethical to trick people into a process they may regret later
— (b) we need to make, and learn from, our own mistakes (better to show us how to deal with, learn from)
— (c) may protect less helpful or unhealthy aspects of the group
— instead, transparency and full disclosure
— (a) better to make informed choices, and to not go into it if the cost may be too high
— (b) better to give full information, including how to use it – teachings, practices – in a responsible way, what to not do, and how to work with it if do it anyway (how to learn from)
— (c) better with transparency, open for any questions, honest answers

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– babysitting
— want to protect, so filter information/advice carefully (some will be hidden)
— understandable, good intention, but may not always be the best strategy
— withhold information that could be very useful for some, and can also create an atmosphere of facades and suspicion/distrust (students sense something is not said, withheld)
— instead, go to steps further
— give the information, and also pointers for how to relate to it and use it in a healthy/mature way, and what to do if don’t (how to relate to that situation, how to learn from it)

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They want to protect their students against mistakes, or not scare them off, so they filter information and advice carefully.

……………..

draft…..

Some spiritual teachers seem to babysit their students. They give partial information, hold back, gloss over, give a polished image of the path and the process instead of the messy and varied reality.

They have good intentions. They may wish to avoid confusing their students, or give information that could be misinterpreted or misused.

But I wonder how appropriate this strategy is, especially today when transparency is valued so highly.

I personally prefer a teacher who gives the most honest and full information, and then pointers for how to relate to and receive it.

And what if students misinterpret or misuse honest information? It is inevitable. Before we are familiar with the terrain, we will inevitably misunderstand the teachings. And it is rich material for learning.

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– some teachers, babysit (hold back, gloss over, give an image instead of the messy reality)
– good intentions, but wonder how good it is as a strategy – especially today when transparency is valued so high
– better to give the most honest info + pointers for how to relate to it, receive it – go two steps further (all info + pointers)
– or three steps: honest info + pointers for how to relate to it + how to relate to mistakes – also useful in life in general

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