Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

Dreaming ‘words’, as opposed to images, isn’t usual for me….at least as far as I have been aware. But this week has been different. I’ve been on holiday and strangely it has released some element of my subconscious self that quite simply has seen words tumbling into my ‘awareness’ as I slept .. and remaining with me as I awakened.

Faith, hope, love.

These three words …. familiar to me for very many years, returned last night, and punctuated my waking hours. Paul’s famous words are of course  loaded with meaning, layer upon layer. They have been expounded by preachers and theologians for centuries, and every day are repeated in weddings, funerals and baptisms across the christian world. They have been appropriated by many as a simple summary of their religious position.

So, what meaning do these three gifted words have for me today, I wonder ?  I know these are traditionally understood as personal ‘virtues’ or character traits – to be aspired to, striven for spiritually and morally. Encouraging oneself to be ‘better’ than one has been to date is laudable I’m sure, and holding to these virtues may be a way into that.

I remember that in my professional life as a counselling therapist, I often hear from clients of their desire for change that focuses on being ‘ more’ … More accepting, more forgiving, more active, more engaged, and so on.

So, what will being more faithful, more hopeful, more loving mean? What will it require of me at a personal level, what changes can I bring about in my life to better embody these virtues.. and (as I often ask of clients looking to change) .. How will I know when that happens ?

I’m pretty sure that these three things have something to also say to me about the ‘practice of therapy’ and my work with individuals and couples. I’m curious about the existential  challenges of embodying being ‘ faithful, hopeful and loving’ in the context of the therapeutic relationship. A subtle shift of language to ‘being believed (having faith in), being offered hope and being unconditionally accepted’ are, of course, more familiar in the therapeutic milieu.

Then I recall too that there is an inbuilt challenge in the hierarchy of these three virtues ..  not only that “these things last forever” but that “the greatest of these is love“.

I am going to take these as both an encouragement and a warning.

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