“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke
- Understand the basic principles behind the Quaker practice of “Clearness and Care Committees”
- Understand the difference between clearness and care committees and when you would use one or the other
- Practice asking “Open-Ended” and “Honest” Questions
- Experience a Mini-Clearness Committee
- Discuss how to utilize the principles and practices of this these models in your work on campus
Why Would Anyone Want a Clearness Committee?
“The discernment process outlined below derives from three hundred years of Quaker faith and practice, although it is not used exclusively by Quakers in our day and age. In fact, no religious context is necessary to achieve amazing results in a clearness committee.” -Scott Pierce Coleman
Clearness and Care Committees are practices from the Quaker tradition that support a “focused person” in the process of discernment and journeying through difficult moments of one’s life. The tools from within these practices are useful for working with and supporting students and peers on campus.
The goal of a clearness committee is to help a focus person become “clear” around an issue or question of discernment.
Examples of when you might use a clearness committee:
- Discernment about what to do after college
- Working through an unresolved issue with a classmate or roommate
- Deciding a career
- Deciding a major
- Beginning or ending a long term relationship
The goal of a care committee is for a small group to journey with an individual to offer support and care for a focus person through a particular responsibility or phase in one’s life.
Examples of when you might use a care committee:
- Overcoming some person challenge that one has constantly wrestled with
- Supporting an individual who has just taken on an important leadership role
- Walking with someone through a great loss
- Helping someone remain accountable to a committee they have made
“An open-ended question is one that expands rather than restricts your arena of exploration, one that does not push or even nudge you to a particular way of framing a situation.” -Palmer
Sketchnotes from Parker Palmer’s Chapter in “A Hidden Wholeness” on Asking Open and Honest Questions
1 Min – Hold Focus Person in the Light – Silence
5 Min – Focus person speaks
1 Min – Hold Focus Person in the Light, consider what you heard
8 Min – Ask Open-Ended Questions of the Focus Person, keeping a slow, meditative, reflective space.
2 Min – Offer gratitudes/noticings for the Focus Person
*the purpose of the questions is to help the focus person go deeper in God/wisdom/deep knowing
*someone can take notes for focus person if they want
“Questions are powerful things. Questions elicit answers in their own likeness. It’s hard to respond to a simplistic question with anything but a simplistic answer. It’s hard to rise above a combative question. But it’s hard to resist a generous question. We can ask questions that inspire dignity and honesty, and revelation.” -Krista Tippett
Scott Pierce Coleman’s document on the process of clearness from the perspective of someone who worked at Guilford College and with the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program. A helpful start.
Simple guidelines for what you are looking for in asking open-ended questions.
This outlines the clearness process and asking open-ended questions from Parker Palmer’s perspective. This is a very nice intro into how to do this practice.
Interested in a training or have questions? Reach out to Friends Center Staff