“Two are better than one, . . . If one falls down, his friend can help him up.”
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
It has been said that life is designed for companionship, not isolation; for intimacy, not loneliness. Several years ago I had the misfortune of having to spend a week in the hospital. It was a bummer, that is until I realized my hospital room had become a revolving door of friends and well-wishers dropping by. Yes, they all visited and laughed and prayed with me, but what I remember most was simply their presence.
Acclaimed author, speaker, and research professor Brené Brown, PhD, refers to this as a “ministry of presence.” “These moments,” she writes in her book Braving the Wilderness, “remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time.” So it was that by simply showing up my many dear friends were practicing the ministry of presence, therefore transforming what could have been a dark experience into a joyful memory.
In order to become a credentialed coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) one must demonstrate proficiency in certain core competencies. Among them is “coaching presence”, defined as the “ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.” But coaching presence is much more art than science, requiring a heart of empathy, and an abandonment of preconceived opinions, ideas or solutions – that is, to simply be present.
There is a reason we are called “human beings” rather than “human doings”. I for one, though, am too often guilty of trying to be the latter, thinking I need to fix something, or at least offer some meaningful suggestions. Except no one who visited me in the hospital that week could fix my illness, and few even knew the right things to say. Yet, their mere presence contributed as much to my recovery as the medical care I received. “Two are better than one, . . . If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” And more times than we can imagine, we help one another up not by what we do or say, but simply by our “ministry of presence”.