April 4, 2024

Four ways to handle discrepancies in words and deeds  

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The role of mentor/supervisor is a reflective practice. Our job is to help our clients learn to see what they are not seeing about themselves and their behaviour and encourage them to become more self-reflective on their path forward. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as holding up a mirror.  Every person has a complicated sense of themselves; they are full of blindspots, conflicting philosophies, hypocrisy and inaccurate ideas of how they are seen by others. 

A common issue mentors and supervisors run into is a difference in the values your mentee/supervisee says they have and the values they act on, that is, their words and deeds do not match. For example, a mentee tells you over and over the value he places on family. He says that they are his priority. However, you know that he often works late nights and weekends and that the amount of time he spends at work is impacting his relationships negatively. You can see that even when he is home with his family, his mind is still frequently focused on work. There is a discrepancy between how your client acts and what he claims to believe. 

Things to Remember:

There are a few things to remember when you come face to face with value discrepancies in a session. First of all, is this a short-term crisis? Is your client required to work extra for an important upcoming project or to get off extra time for vacation? Is there a plan to compensate for this extra time devoted to work? Maybe this a one-time situation? If so, then this may not be a true discrepancy but just extraneous circumstances. However, if you recognise a pattern in this behaviour, it is time to point it out to your client. 

Pointing out a discrepancy can be difficult and painful. No one likes to hear that they are acting hypocritically. Here are a few helpful tips for making this conversation positive and effective. 

Remind them that the first step to transformation is recognising where you are and where you want to be:

It is not unhealthy to recognise your faults; in fact, it is the opposite. Recognising how you can be better is the first step to being better. Romans 7:19 (NIV) shows how common this feeling is: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Focus on the foundation:

Ask them to look again at their values and consider why they believe in what they say they believe. What brought them to this belief in the first place? What would Jesus say about their values and their actions?

Look to the future

Who does your client want to be, and what needs to change to become this person? This means considering sacrifices. The client in our example needs to contend with the consequences if he takes a step back from work to focus on his family; he may be passed up for a promotion or his income might suffer. Is this a sacrifice he is willing to make? What positives will come from this decision? How will he feel after taking action? 

Look to God: ‭‭

Romans‬ ‭7‬:‭25‬ ‭(‬‬ reminds us that failure is in our nature, but Jesus offers us endless chances to grow and change.

“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ, our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind, I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature, I am a slave to sin.”

Returning to our spiritual foundation reminds us of what we truly believe and offers us words and stories to inspire and encourage us, even when we see ourselves slipping. 

Reflection Questions: 

  • Where do you see discrepancies in your client? 
  • How will they react to you calling out their value slip? 
  • Where does your client want to go, and how can you help him to get there?

What’s next?

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