The Great Loss Spiritual Teachers Withholding Their Own Challenges

Psychotherapist Robert Strock discusses how beneficial it would be for spiritual teachers to share their own struggles and model how they helped guide themselves with their own teachings.

I don’t know how it’s been for you. But for me, spiritual teachings and teachers, religious teachings and teachers have been by far the most inspirational and fulfilling experiences of my life and at the same time have also been amongst the greatest disappointments. And the central reason why the disappointments have been there is because I so longed to have the teachers include what their challenges were and help guide me by showing me how they guided themselves with their own teachings. It would’ve been so invaluable for me to have a model of somebody that was not only caring and compassionate but was also personal and included what they were dealing with.

Now, I’ve been very fortunate through the years, and I’ve had a chance to have deep conversations with a number of teachers and ask them, “Why don’t you do this?” It seems that it would be so helpful to not have students have to idealize being free of challenges and see that you were someone that was in process yourself. One example with several teachers has to do with money. Where the teachers were struggling, that they could not be in the same neighborhood or live a lifestyle that was at all similar to their students. And they were quite frustrated and felt helpless, felt like they had to be in that role. So, if that was part of the sharing, as I shared with them, did they not think that would be something that would be well received and understood and help the students to be able to appreciate the sincerity?

Another issue that was dealt with was a particular teacher who wanted to support nuns and was very anxious about it. And yet we had no access to that anxiety and how they used their own meditation strategies and approaches to help deal with their own suffering. So, there were so many stories like this, where teachers have not been able to include what it was that was really difficult for them.

I’m wondering if you believe, if you have a teacher right now that it might benefit you and your community if you asked your teacher, “I would really appreciate it if you would share what you’re going through, what you’re struggling with because it would be so beneficial if you would model what it’s like to be both real in the struggles that you have and how we use the teachings to benefit all of us the most.” So, if this has been your experience or is currently your experience with a teacher, I’d love to have you leave a comment and give you the greatest encouragement possible to talk with your teacher.