Social Work Values: What We Do Counts
So much of what we do in social work, from micro to macro level practice to social work values, is essentially arriving at new ways of trusting the process and committing to the journey while advocating for ourselves. Not so different from what we expect and hope for our clients, I think. We do well to reflect upon that.
My Social Work Mantra
There is something of a mantra or affirmation that I use to locate myself in this process. It may risk a flavor of pretense or lofty indulgence, but I emerge from creative writing, so it is my self-language:
I will be anxious. I will doubt. I will falter. I will judge. I will transgress. I will, at times, not be a good fit.
I will shift in the raiment of my privilege when it chafes.
I will be humbled by the insights of clients at which I may never have arrived.
I will meet them in the mist or under the waves.
I will hold the excruciating silence, so from it, we may mine meaning.
I will bear the darkness with them, even when I wish nothing more fiercely than to dispel
it with “expertise.”
I will insulate my credentialed airs with the stuff of humility.
I will hold the candle for which they hold the match.
I will gaze with them into the horizons.
I will squint with them into the light breaking.
I will wonder alongside and aloud.
I may never know their experience, but I may hear their story – and nod toward the pens they hold.
I will remember that our stories are the mortar of our species.
I will join them in the narrative of hope, in which we all have a chapter.
I will honor the individual; the human being which is our own.
I will value the social; the human doing which is our whole.
Social Work has Many Perspectives
The very essence of social work beckons connective perspectives, recognizes systems interplay, and encourages an understanding of the interactional and transactional dynamics that shape human beings, their experiences, and their identities within those experiences.
The disciplined comprehension and articulation of this understanding through completion of our social work program affords us the fortitude, confidence, and humility to engage and own our locations in the human schema. The operation of we – intricate, subtle machines of nature – within the context of our collective social constructions toward the empowerment of our conditions for love, approval, and self-acceptance.
Thus the convergence of competence and self-acceptance coalesce as the apparition of our self-actualization; social workers whose education and professional course directly endeavor to shape empowered life stories, just social systems and thriving environments to promote voice and mobility amid the stalwart cacophonies of exclusionary values and restrictive structures.
It can be easy to wax philosophical about our purpose and profession; I want to reassure you that I entertain few delusions about the challenges, obstacles, and even mistakes that may lie ahead. I know I have so much to learn – my clients remind me every day.
In our helping states, our connectedness cultivates purpose, and we stand to enhance our insight, autonomy, self-worth, the perception of impact, and well-being. In a way, our sense of possibility is made quantum. It is a vision of fulfillment at once tenable and elusive through social work values.
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