In Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears, Margaret Feinberg describes how she assembled the army she needed to fight breast cancer – the oncologist, the doctor, the friends and acquaintances – all of the people who joined with her, not just to fight breast cancer, but to fight back with joy.
Some were medical specialists; some were friends. Some did extraordinary things; some did normal things – and there were times when what she needed most were normal things. And this army became a source of paraklesis, the New Testament Greek for encouragement or comfort. It’s the word St. Paul uses to describe Philemon; it’s also the word Jesus uses to tell the apostles of the helper – the Holy Spirit – he is sending after he leaves them.
A paraklete doesn’t have to be someone who brings tongues of fire and the sound of a great, rushing wind; not does he (or she) have to be someone caught up in a friend’s serious illness. A paraklete can simply be a friend, someone to confide in, someone who refreshes your spirit as you refresh theirs, someone who is there to understand and commiserate, and sometimes celebrate.
Work, for example, can often be difficult. What helps make it bearable is having someone you can talk with. Like a paraklete. Someone to roll your eyes with at the next crazy announcement or organizational change. Someone who helps you understand what is happening. Someone you can listen to as they go through a hard time. It helps when it’s a colleague because they know the cast of characters, the culture, the environment, and the history of your particular workplace.
Let me be clear: I am not taking about mentors, although a mentor can also be a paraklete. I’m talking about colleagues who are friends.
When you go through regime change at work, everything becomes problematic.
I was once in a situation where regime change resulted in one, then a second, and then a third of my parakletes leave. One looked to be inevitable; another took the initiative and left for another job. The third was something of a surprise; it had been expected but not for some time to come. In this case, too, the individual left before being asked to leave.
My workplace became something of a desolate place. A place where I still had colleagues and people I liked, but not anyone in whom I felt comfortable in confiding. You discover you can be lonely in a large crowd of people you work with every day.
Those are the times you understand what a paraklete can mean. And not mean.
Margaret Feinberg found her parakeletes, and they made an enormous difference.
They always do.
Do you have a paraklete?
Led by Jason Stasysyzen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing Fight Back with Joy. To see other posts on this chapter, “The Living Breathing Gift of Joy,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.
Photograph by Alok Rohit via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.