September 7, 2023

Coaching Fundamentalism?

If you are not in the mood for a mental stretch, stop reading now. If you’d like to read some philosophical musings, read on 😊. I will be drawing on my theological education (Master of Arts and Religion) to reflect on Coaching and Fundamentalism and how this relates to our personal philosophies of coaching.

Let me start with a quote from Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance", Essays: First Series, 1841”). It reminds us that our thoughts can change direction and that we should not limit our thoughts and opinions by trying to be consistent with what we thought yesterday. This is widely misunderstood to mean that we should not aim for consistency or coherence of our thoughts at all. While I do believe that the days of a grand theory of everything are over, I personally value coherence in what I am thinking. If I discover that one of my thoughts is diametrically opposed to another thing that I am thinking, I am going to reflect until I have found a new way which allows my thoughts not to be in opposition to one another.

Let me give you an example of me both changing my mind (avoiding foolish consistency) and creating more consistency in my thinking. When I was a teenager, I joined an evangelical youth group. I was attracted by the thought that a divine being loved me and loved every human being. Jesus’ message of “love thy neighbor” and the concept of seeing God in our fellow humans resonated deeply with me.

On a 2-week prayer retreat in Sweden, I met a boy who had been bullied in school and whose joy in life was heavy metal rock and the camaraderie of his fellow fans. He wore Black Sabbath t-shirts and mainly black clothes. The retreat leader told the boy that he would have to give up heavy metal if he wanted to be a Christian. He would literally have to leave the camp if he did not “recant satanism” or something like that. I was disturbed: Was not Jesus’ message different? Did I not get this right? Was God only present in some, righteous humans and not in others? What was going on here? I thought long and hard and stopped being an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian to be able to hold on to the thought that all human beings are valuable and worthy of an invitation to inclusion. Excluding someone for their musical taste was not consistent with what I valued in the Christian message.

“Now, what does that have to do with coaching?”, you might ask. I think that fundamentalism and coaching are hard to integrate into one coherent worldview. Fundamentalism of any kind presupposes that there is one “true truth”. The Bible, the Quran, the book of Mormon, the writings of Ron Hubbard can be taken by some factions of the respective religious group as “the truth” that tells them how to live righteously with a chance of a reward. I can only speak for my Christian evangelical/fundamentalist past and not for the other groups, but I know that in Christian fundamentalist circles, it is important to proselytize, to show others the “light” and the “truth” so that they, too, can be “saved”.

In coaching, we adopt a not-knowing stance and value diversity. Coaches know that clients can only explore their own values and grow in directions of their own choosing. This firmly puts coaching into a worldview of “multiple truths”. What is true for the coach may not be what is true for the client and the coach makes a commitment to helping the client within the client’s own frame of reference.

I don’t know how someone can be a coach and hold these two worldviews at the same time: “There is one truth that should best be followed by all, otherwise they will perish” and “There are multiple truths, and I will support my clients in discovering and living their own truths”.

This is not only a theoretical discussion. In the last months I have had conversations and encounters where I bumped up against professional colleagues living out their personally held views as if these were appropriate to all participating in the conversations or encounters.  

Now, you might say that I am making the same mistake as fundamentalists when I am saying that fundamentalism and coaching cannot live peacefully in the same mind. However, I am not claiming that being a fundamentalist is “wrong”. I have my ethical and philosophical reservations, but I respect everyone’s right to choose their religion or worldview. What I am saying is that you cannot think:

- “There is a fundamental truth that is valid for all people, and it would be best if all people followed that truth.”


- “There are multiple truths, and I wish to support people in finding their own truth through coaching.”

And at the same time and still be coherent in your thoughts.

I welcome a discussion on these points and hope I haven’t stretched your mind in a way that does not create spaces for your own philosophical musings. Do come to our free meetups if you would like to see who is writing these lines, if you would like to disagree, agree, find out more about our courses or just hang out with a bunch of cool people. I promise that even if we may have different points of view, we will listen to learn more about your perspectives and engage with you in debate that takes us towards expanded awareness 😊.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.


No items found.

Popular Posts

Subscribe weekly news