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Skillful means



The Whole Person Blog: Week Five, Day Three, Part 2/2 - Skillful means

Writings inspired by Fr. Richard Rohr: Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps

Video presentation based on the book

Daily Meditations written by Richard Rohr on 12-Step Spirituality

Breathing Under Water online course

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020


Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.


"What the Western religions sometimes called "wisdom," the Eastern religions often called "skillful means." Wisdom was not a mere aphorism in the head, but a practical, best, and effective way to get the job done! One was either trained in skillful means by a master or parent, or it would be the long, laborious school of trial and error, which seems to be the unfortunate pattern today. I am afraid that commonsense wisdom, or skillful means, is no longer common sense. We are a culture with many elderly people but not som any elders passing on wisdom."


This chapter was such an encouragement for me, and an affirmation that leading with love and operating in the best interests of others is true "success." About ten years ago, I was walking through my studio, full of trainers training clients, and I realized that none of us had had an exit strategy for any of our clients. This insight led to a conviction that I would help my clients access the resources and develop the skill-sets necessary to stand on their two feet, long beyond their encounter with me. In other words, I wanted to empower them with wisdom and develop skillful means.


"Step 9 is telling us how to use skillful means to both protect our own humanity and to liberate the humanity of others. It also says that our amends to others should be "direct," that is, specific, personal, and concrete. But the most skillful insight is the cleverly added "except when to do so would injure them or others." One often needs time, discernment, and good advice from others before one knows the when, how, who, and where to apologize or make amends. If not done skillfully, an apology can actually make the problem and the hurt worse."


Giving advice can be a real slippery slope, especially when the pain is deep, dark, and wide. However, I've been able to commission my clients with a thought process that helps them navigate sensitive, complicated, and meaningful conversations. A question I'll have them ask is: What does love look like in this situation? And by looking through a lens of love, it shifts the conversation away from egocentricity, criticism, and retaliation, and towards soulfulness, compassion, and understanding. This is especially helpful for people who have a fear of confrontation. When love leads the way, the heartspace tends to open, making it difficult to offend people, and easy to restore strained relationships.


"Full humanness leads to spirituality by the truckload." Richard Rohr

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