Are you part of the “Big Resignation”, considering retirement, starting a new business, or in some other life transition? Sometimes we just need a sounding board to help navigate. A Clearness committee can often be just the answer.
Clearness Committees are part of a long Quaker tradition, started in 1600s. The idea of a clearness committee is the conviction that “each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems.” As Parker Palmer writes, “that inner voice is often garbled by various kinds of inward and outward interference. The function of the Clearness Committee is not to give advice or “fix” people from the outside in but rather to help people remove the interference so that they can discover their own wisdom from the inside out.”
Clearness committees are used in discernment processes. They are powerful listening sessions that unlock our thinking to discover the answer within. There are multiple documents on how to participate in a clearness committee, some are very focused on religious inquiries and others more focused on transitions. I have used mini clearness committees with graduate students, people in transitions and during my own transitions. Clearness committees are often used in retreats however they can be powerful conversations right in your living room or backyard.
The process is quite straight forward.
- Select a group to serve on your clearness committee. These should be people who will be thoughtful in their listening and be skilled at asking open ended questions. They must also be people who can steer away from giving advice or sharing their story or stories of others. Their role will be to listen and help you discover the answer within. The key is to not give advice or share how the problem was solved by someone else.
- Write a summary of the topic you’d like to discuss. For example, if you are exploring retirement, prepare a statement on what you are most concerned about. Or, if you are part of the “Big Resign”, you may want to discern why you are considering leaving your job. Once you have summarized the focus area of your discussion you share your written work with your committee.
- Schedule a time for your to present your challenge and for the committee to listen and ask questions to support you in your exploration and finding the answer within. You will need at least 30-45 minutes but an hour to 90 minutes is better.
- The committee should monitor themselves to ask open ended questions, not give advice, and focus on helping you find a path forward.
- After you begin to gain clarity, the committee will gently guide you towards action steps. These action steps need to come 100% from you so you own them and are excited to pursue them.
I have participated in many clearness committees and they are a powerful learning experience for all. It is an honor to listen to someone so intently that the critical questions emerge from a place of wonder and serving others. If you serve on a committee you are offering a gift to the person of pure deep, listening, no agenda but to support the person.
As you navigate your transitions this summer, try gathering a clearness committee. A deep listening session could reveal new growth and new opportunities for you.
What would it feel like to be deeply listened to for an hour? What would it be like to share an hour with someone in need just by listening and asking powerful questions? Enjoy the adventure together and watch the new growth emerge for everyone.