The director/directee relationship is not analogous to a boss/employee relationship. This is an area where the language of spiritual direction can be a bit confusing in our culture. In normal usage of terms, the “Director” tells the one who is directed what to do. Implied is an authority that has punitive power – the power to punish or withhold rewards in the case of disobedience. This is not at all the case with healthy spiritual direction. The directee in this case would be better compared to an athlete and the director a personal coach; specifically, a spiritual fitness coach. Just as with a coach in any sport, the athlete is the one that is ultimately in control. He or she hires a personal coach to help them achieve otherwise elusive goals and perspective. In the end, the level of influence the director has over directee is based on the directee’s free choice rather than any position of power. Another helpful comparison common in the East is one of a spiritual healer or physician. Either way, the directee always has the free choice to seek out and follow, or not to follow, the healing and growth available to them through the spiritual physician or coach.
This is an excerpt from Dan Burke’s 2012 book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. To learn more, click here.
Art for this post on what spiritual direction is not: spiritual direction is not a boss-employee relationship: Christ and Saint Mina [or Menas], iconographer unknown, 6th-century icon from Bawit, Egypt, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Feature image art: from the cover of Dan Burke’s book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, used with permission of Dan Burke, all rights reserved.