Many of us have likely had this experience. Someone approaches you for counsel or advice and begins the conversation with, “I have this friend who is going through this or that problem, and I’d like to help them with this issue.”
After the problem is shared, the person asking then says, “What should I tell my friend?”
Oft times the “friend” reference is a way to conceal the fact that the person seeking your counsel and the so called “friend” are one and the same. I've been through enough pastoral-care sessions to conclude that creating a substitute focus is a defense mechanism to get answers while keeping the focus off the person and their issues. I understand this approach because I've employed the technique at times in my life.
When I decided to write a book about moving from failure to forgiveness to freedom, I had to decide what genre I would use to help people confront the personal hurdles they face. I decided to use fiction even though I could have taken a non-fiction pastoral approach with Scripture references and results from life experiences. But some people are not open to full discussion in a group study format where the focus could be so direct on the group participant.
I chose to approach the issue through fiction. That’s why I wrote the fiction book Patch Town-A Letter from Miss Wingate. People are more comfortable when they comment on a fictional character’s successes and failure. There is a built-in separation between the reader and the character in the book. We learn through the character’s responses how to approach life-controlling issues. We may even conclude the character’s responses make sense. And we might even consider applying those steps to our own lives.
The approach is less threatening, and we don’t need an imaginary friend tagging along with us.