The main ethos behind ‘pastoral care’ is that those you care for, know that you do care. This knowledge can only come about through the personal relationship of taking the time to know where the other is at. This knowledge then requires action, for it is only through this knowledge being acted upon, that real care takes place.
Caring is an active word. It’s not passive. Nor is it an emotion, an intention or an acknowledgement. Though the act of care certainly requires emotions, intentions and acknowledgement; they are only the initial reactions to the need at hand. They of themselves do not equate to pastoral care, for care does not take place, until the cause of those emotions, intentions and acknowledgements are acted on.
Therefore pastoral care is a responsive care. Within the context of pastoring, the action is one of provision. The need for provision can be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. And its within the context of personal relationship, that we can only know that which is to be provided. The sheer nature of pastoral care is one of privileged responsibility. It has a burden of responsibility, that is not to be taken flippantly.
Note that pastoral care is a responsive care and not a reactive care. Reactive care can be dangerous care. The result causes little to no real care and its effects are short lasting. We might say that reactive care is a knee jerking response. There is little thought and reflection put into what is the best way to care. Another term for ‘reactive care’ is ‘Rescuing Care.’ The mentality behind rescuing changes the whole dynamics of the relationship. It shifts the relationship from being one of equality and coming along side the other, to that of a pecking order. I am top dog and you are an underling who needs my scraps of attention. It becomes a disempowering care. it’s a form of care that doesn’t involve or empowers the other to make decisions that are best for them.
Empowering care, is a care that simply empowers. It’s a care that is based on coming alongside another. It has the ethos of equality, one which is framed in treating all with dignity and respect. And within this framework of equality, manipulation and control by either party can and should be avoided.