Many who work regularly with separating and/or divorcing parties, and the related family dynamics, face the challenges of stress, frustration, disappointment, dealing with high emotions, and even burn-out. It can be easy to get jaded, even cynical, after repeatedly seeing what some have described as “the best elements of society behaving at their worst.” Fortunately, not all situations are that bad. Unfortunately, these challenges do exist and are real.
The New Year traditionally is a time of reflection and re-commitment to fundamental ideals and goals. Physicians have the Hippocratic oath, which in modern times takes a number of specific forms; attorney’s have their oath of admission to the bar, various rules of professional/ethical conduct, and a vast array of professional creeds. All contain words of dedication to the higher moral duties inherent in these professions, and to the role played by the professionals in the proper functioning of a civil society. Many can be found with a simple query to the all-knowing Google.
These sources carry particular relevance and inspiration for those working with (and within) families in distress. After all, families are the cornerstone of civilization. They are the primary crucible in which the mettle of future citizens is formed. So what we do and how we conduct ourselves, all of us, whether lawyers, accountants, therapists, other professionals – and even our clients – has a direct and profound impact on the society in which we live.
Some common threads running through the various oaths, rules, and creeds include:
Honesty – recognition that finding and telling the truth – for honesty IS the best policy – is essential to positive results in individual cases and to a functioning society in general.
Civility – because modeling is the best teacher, and because a civil discourse between individuals functions more effectively, as does a civil society, than any other option.
Respect – for one another, for the process, for our roles – and limitations, because we truly are all in this together at some level, and no single participant can, or should try to, do it all.
Diligence – because solving problems, obtaining just results, and improving difficult situations – and the system - while not always practically feasible in the precise moment, must remain the ultimate goal if civilization is to survive.
When put in the broader context, the stress, frustration, and disappointment we sometimes encounter seem much smaller and more bearable in comparison. Whether by design or not, these oaths, rules and creeds can serve as a source of renewed energy and commitment for each of us.