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Spiritual Direction Is NOT a Boss-Employee Relationship

The director/directee relationship is not analogous to a boss/employee relationship. This is an area where the language of spiritual direction can be a bit confusing in our culture. In normal for post on spiritual direction is notusage of terms, the “Director” tells the one who is directed what to do. Implied is an authority that has punitive power – the power to punish or withhold rewards in the case of disobedience. This is not at all the case with healthy spiritual direction. The directee in this case would be better compared to an athlete and the director a personal coach; specifically, a spiritual fitness coach. Just as with a coach in any sport, the athlete is the one that is ultimately in control. He or she hires a personal coach to help them achieve otherwise elusive goals and perspective. In the end, the level of influence the director has over directee is based on the directee's free choice rather than any position of power. Another helpful comparison common in the East is one of a spiritual healer or physician. Either way, the directee always has the free choice to seek out and follow, or not to follow, the healing and growth available to them through the spiritual physician or coach.

This is an excerpt from Dan Burke's 2012 book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. To learn more, click here.


Art for this post on what spiritual direction is not: spiritual direction is not a boss-employee relationship: Christ and Saint Mina [or Menas], iconographer unknown, 6th-century icon from Bawit, Egypt, PD-US author's life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Feature image art: from the cover of Dan Burke's book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, used with permission of Dan Burke, all rights reserved.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Sandy

    Dan, I am looking forward to your book. I am certain from your posts that there will be much helpful information in it regarding what is and is not good Spiritual Direction. It is a good idea to pray and offer sacrifices for all Spiritual Directors/Guides so that they are able to take the directee deeper into their faith and vice versa. Spiritual Direction works both ways.

  • God bless you, Dan. May I continue to learn from your Books and Posts as I strive to grow Spiritually each day. And may God bless me with a new Spiritual Director

  • Jackie

    Thanks for this. I sought out and found a spiritual director through our parish after I returned to the church after 45 years. Unfortunately, although most of what she gave me was good, she also told me about using my conscience in making decisions such as attending Mass each Sunday or taking communion with my husband in the Protestant church. I had just been told by my parish priest I could not do this. Talk about confusion. Had never heard of “primacy of conscience” before. I am very relieved to find a website such as this one with the “right” answers and help in this area. What a blessing!

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