The papers and pieces that we encounter are not our own.  They belong solely to the writers who come to us for our feedback and our guidance on how to strengthen their work.  Although it can be frustrating to take the backseat—even when we think it would sound so much better with a different verb or a particular structure—the nondirective and hands-off approach also relieves us of the need to support every opinion expressed in a paper.  Although we help with the papers, we can rest easy knowing that they do not become our papers and that the opinions expressed need not represent our opinions.

For example, I imagine a writer sharing with me a paper arguing for the irrelevance of religion in a modern, scientifically advanced society.  My Christian faith is a fundamental part of my identity and undergirds my purpose in life, and I feel joyful whenever I find people deeply engaged in their faith journeys (whether it be on a Christian or other path; I believe they all lead to the same mountaintop, if you know that metaphor).  However, I acknowledge that I can help a writer strengthen their anti-religion argument despite the fact that it is antithetical to one of my core beliefs.  Hopefully I would still help the writer reverse outline their argument, consider the organization of their argument, and point out any patterns of error.  Making an argument for the opposing side deepens your understanding of an issue, and might even sway your opinion or strengthen your prior convictions.  Ultimately we can take comfort in the fact that the name in the paper’s header is not ours; we help writers express their arguments, but their argument need not match up with ours.

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