Appreciative touchThere are some emerging trends in the scenario of formation and education which offer helpful approaches for formators. One of these trends is the approach of appreciative coaching used in the training of personnel for different fields of work.

The classical model for helping professions is the medical model where a person is viewed in terms of what does not function well (illness), diagnosis (finding the cause of illness) and offering remedy for it (treatment). In spite of its practical applications, this model sidelines the more important aspect of life: all that functions and contributes to the wellbeing of the person. The focus in this approach is on what does not function.

In a formative setting we have certain expectations from a young man in formation as to what kind of a person he should be and how he should be progressively growing into greater maturity in consecrated life. It is the normal tendency of the formators to fix their attention on the weaknesses and fragilities of the formandi that comes in the way of meaningful religious commitment and offer help to overcome them. Hence formative energy is spent on combating the negatives than building the positives in a person.

Appreciative approach in formation greatly enhances the positive potential in a formandus and attempts to engage them in living his commitment meaningfully. The main presuppositions of appreciative approach are the following:

 Constructionist principle: Knowing who one is and how he becomes what he is now (insight into strengths) gives a sure base for what one can and will become in future. Greater appreciation of one’s vocational identity and personal gifts and graces nurtures vocational growth. Instead on undue focus on what one is deprived of in consecrated life, emphasis is placed on the positive graces and gifts of being a consecrated person who comes to realize himself in and through them .

  1. Positive principle: It says that positive attitudes, actions and connections influence long-term change. The formators and formandi establish a positive rapport in the pursuit of a dream for the good of the people of God. Positive appreciation of vocational values and the role of the Church in the modern world in spirit of limitations makes a difference in ones journey. The proved life of saints and effective missionaries act as a catalyst to affirm the desirability of such a life program.
  2. 3.The simultaneity principle: It affirms that Changes begin to happen in the same moment as when one begins to look at things positively. The future happens in and as a result of the present. In a formative setting, the “already” of the Kingdom is equally important as the “not yet”. The joys of consecrated life are not something awaited in the after life, but consciously cherished and lived here and now.
  3. The poetic principle: It says that life stories can be rewritten or reinterpreted to flow towards the envisaged present or future. In stead of seeing a painful past as an affirmation of one’s doom, it can be perceived as preparations for a more committed ministry. The poetic principle affirms that a story can be reframed, reimagined, and refocused to enable more hopeful and joyful action toward a desired change. Bible attests to this fact in the stories of many a broken men and women who have found new horizons of life when they came in contact with Jesus.
  4. The anticipatory principle: It says that a particular dream of the future can guide current behavior in the direction of that future. focusing on a clear vision or dream enables one to take clear action towards that future. The more vivid is the dream of missionary commitment in a student in formation, the more concrete will be his action steps towards the realization of this dream. When Jesus set his eyes to Jerusalem, he was unflinching in his steps towards embracing cross and death.

The appreciative approach is not a substitute to earlier formative approaches, nor does it do away with the wisdom of the past. In fact, the principles enumerated above are present in the formative tradition of the congregation (Cf. General Chapter of 1967). Highlighting and affirming the wealth of God’s goodness present in those whom God sends to us and in the form of life that we are invited to live is live, we become prophetic presence and a sign of the gospel beatitudes a midst a fast growing consumer culture.

– Fr. James Kannanthanam cmf

The formators who interested to develop skills in appreciative approach are invited to follow the online course in this site tutored by Fr. James Kannanthanam cmf.