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“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Brene Brown Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

There are eight of us women, sitting together in a circle of comfortable chairs, sharing our hearts with each other. The topic, however, is anything but comfortable. We are talking about our shame.

We are remembering how, as children, our moms or dads made statements or comments to us that were shaming. How our friends and fellow students put us down and we felt “less than”.  How even the shame carried by our parents was unknowingly placed on our own shoulders and became our burden.

Shame is subtle and sometimes difficult to name, much less to remove. This is our hope as we sit together for these upcoming weeks. To make at least a start at ferreting out this most painful of emotions. We are looking for the beginnings of freedom from shame.

The author of the WDA RYH Conquering Shame Workbook, Lee Tolar, has this to say about shame:

“In my 25 years of leading RYH groups I have found that shame is much more common than most of us think.  There will always be some people who have an obvious struggle with shame exhibited by “a poor self image”.   However, many of us mask our shame behind perfectionism, defensiveness, a false self, emotional numbness or low-level depression. Thus our shame is not so easily recognizable to ourselves or other people.”

“Shame originated with Adam and Eve.  After the fall, they felt guilty about having committed a sin and shameful of whom they now were (sinners).   They came up with the original defense mechanism: hiding from God.  This desire to hide our shortcomings has been passed down to us with our sin nature.

“25 years of leading RYH groups has helped me to see how extensive the problem of shame is in other people but it has also helped me to see and understand my own shame.  As I have recognized my own shame, I have been able, with God’s help, to release a lot of it, become less defensive, face and deal with my shortcomings, and to appreciate who He made me to be.”

WDA’s Conquering Shame Workbook helps people recognize what caused their shame, what their particular symptoms of shame are, and most importantly how to release and recover from these toxic beliefs and emotions. It is based on Biblical principles.  My favorite chapter deals with recognizing each person’s strengths.

Like our other RYH workbooks, Processing Pain and Understanding Emotions, it is designed for use in a confidential small group setting with a trained RYH facilitator.

A recent participant in a Conquering Shame Group had this to say about her experience:

“I want to express my gratitude to you and to those who have contributed in writing the manual for the ” RYH Conquering Shame group”!  I have been dealing with shame issues since I was a young child.  This group was able to clarify what shame is all about, and I clearly understand how damaging living this way is.  Shame affects every part of your being and it greatly affects your relationship with God. I believe the group dynamics and interaction, really enhanced the discussions.”

“The biggest breakthrough for me, was telling/hearing our shame stories!”

“Being able to verbalize what has been inside of me, in that dark place and bringing it out into the open (the light) with “safe” people was so healing. Actually, it was the first time I had been able to tell a group this story.  After hearing and telling my own story, I felt a great release in my spirit.  It’s freedom from the bondage of shame!  I have a changed mind-set about my shame- yes, that stuff did happen to me and it’s very sad, BUT that’s not who I am.  The lies that I have believed about myself for so long have lost their powerful hold on me.  Restoration is a process that takes time, and in my case many, many years.  Little by little, the Lord has nudged my spirit to take another step in the healing process.  God always knows what I need and at just the right time. One day, I will have total restoration when the Lord returns for, “HIS CHURCH” and that will be a glorious day!”

As our group concluded the 17 weeks together, dealing with our shame issues, we all felt lighter. I think most of us suffer from shame to one degree or another. Sometimes we feel shame but don’t even recognize it for what it is. We just have this nagging feeling that something is wrong with us but we don’t know what or why. Sometimes just being able to name shame is a powerful, freeing experience. It is definitely the start of conquering shame.

Our hope is that as the RYH ministry grows, more people will be able to benefit from participating in a Conquering Shame group. I certainly learned a lot about myself and gained some freedom while experiencing it.

Do you have areas in your life that have caused you shame? Maybe this article while be an incentive to start addressing those areas and begin to heal from them.

To learn more about shame, we recommend any of Brene Brown’s books. She is a leading expert on shame and vulnerability and her books are eye-opening, informative and honest.  Link to Brene Brown’s Ted Talk talk on shame.

Note: We do recommend that anyone who would like to participate in a RYH Conquering Shame group has first gone through our other two RYH workbooks, Processing Pain and Understanding Emotions.

This Article is part 2 of a series on Transformation. Part 1 can be read here.

To walk with Jesus in this life we have to allow God’s word to transform us, and this transformation involves 3 steps that we walk through again and again.  The movements are: Repent, Believe, Abide.  These three movements can be found in Luke 9:23, “Then he (Jesus)  said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

3 movements:  1. Turn from your ways 2. Take up your cross daily 3. Follow Me

This is a cycle.  It’s daily; it’s moment by moment.  And if you think about it, the movement always begins in your head, moves down to your heart, and then is lived out through your hands.

Let me explain that a little bit more.  Step 1: Turn from your ways: this is repentance.  It’s admitting that you’ve believed lies and that you’re lost.  It’s coming to Jesus with a humble heart and saying, “My way doesn’t work, Jesus.  Would you teach me your way?”

Isn’t that freeing just to say?  My way doesn’t work, Jesus, would you teach me your way?

But what’s next?  After we repent of lies, we must believe, actually walk out, the truth.  Jesus says that you then take up your cross… daily.  He commands us to carry around with us the instrument of our death.  Why?  Because this is our daily walk of Faith.  When the bible talks about belief, it almost always suggests an action, that something has changed.   Jesus says in the next verse, Luke 9:24, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

And it’s important to remember that this is an act of the heart.  1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your HEARTS, set apart Christ as Lord.”  We live from our hearts, and we love from our hearts, and the throne of our lives resides in our hearts.  And since this is an act of the heart, it means that real change in life has to happen in the context of relationships.

This is why we encourage disciples to be in a small group:  to create a safe place where people who know your story, who you trust and who you connect with, can encourage you daily to live for Jesus;  to do the hard work of radically reorienting your life around the words and ways of Jesus.  I don’t know about you, but this is the hardest part for me.  It is a daily battle to surrender my heart to Jesus, and one that I’m so thankful that I don’t have to do alone.

The people who I love the most are the ones who love me enough to ask hard questions, and constantly remind me to submit my life and heart to Jesus, and to let His words and truth shape my reality.

The last movement is to simply follow.  It almost seems odd that Jesus even has to say this.  Like, if I’m going to deny myself and take up a cross, then following is the least of my worries… but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had God do something powerful in my life, or show me some great truth, and I’m feeling awesome and filled with the Spirit and I’m ready to go change the world, and I’m sprinting ahead… and after awhile I finally look around and realize… I’m all alone.  And Jesus is standing there right where we started.

If you turn from your ways and repent, then walk in obedience to God’s word, and then if you stay close to Him, if you follow where he leads, if you abide in Him, then you will be transformed and begin to love like Jesus.  And when you love like Jesus, you will change the world.

Jesse Dukes is part of WDA’s Next Generation Staff and also serving as the Discipleship Minister and  worship leader at Legacy Christian Church in Senoia, GA.

Part 2 of 2

This article is part 2 of 2 on the topic of transformation.  If this article has been meaningful to you consider the following WDA resource on this topic, “Disciple Building: A Practical Strategy”.  You can visit the WDA Store under Leadership Manuals.  

 

Clock Face 8 am

Last week I finished meeting with a group of ten ladies that have become very special to me.  These ladies were selected to be part of a training group by the leadership of their church. The WDA Restorative Team  is helping their church launch a Restoring Your Heart emotional healing ministry. My ladies have now completed the majority of their training to be Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group leaders. Most of this training was accomplished by actually participating in RYH groups and working on their own self-awareness and dealing with their own hurts and pains. Sounds like fun, huh?

Here is a bit of the story of our journey together.

Last January, we met for the first time on a cold windy Sunday morning. My co-leader and I did not know exactly what to expect, the other nine group participants knew even less of what to expect. Let me start off by saying that 8 AM on a Sunday is not exactly the ideal time of the day or week to dig into your past and take a long look at your hurts. Yet this was the time allotted for the training, so we began.

In a typical “first group session” for RYH, we spend some time introducing ourselves and getting to know each other. This is one of my favorite parts of the group because we all know nothing about each other. It is always interesting to notice what people reveal about themselves, and I love the beginnings of getting to know each person. This group was no exception. Each lady told a little bit about herself and what she hoped to get out of the group. We are all usually very cordial and congenial and somewhat guarded when the group begins. After some sharing time in that first session, we went over the Group Covenant, which is basically the “rules” of the group. This is important because one of the primary “rules” is confidentiality. This is so important to make the group a safe place for healing. A person can be asked to leave a group if confidentiality is violated.

After talking a bit more about what to expect and what we hoped to accomplish, I asked the group members in that first session if they had any thoughts or questions. There was silence for a minute. Then one lady spoke up and said, “To be honest, I don’t know if I will feel safe sharing anything with this group. I have been hurt by gossip in the church in the past and I just don’t trust people in the church.” I nodded and said nothing. Then another lady spoke up and said basically the same thing, “I don’t know if I will feel safe sharing, either.” I waited a minute to see if anyone else had a comment or thought. Then I said, “You must only share what you feel safe sharing. Hopefully, as the group gets to know one another better, trust will form. But, YOU will be the one to decide what to share and when to share it.” Half the group still seemed uneasy; the other half nodded expectantly.

That was a year ago, two workbooks ago, numerous trainings ago, and many tears and laughs ago.

Over the course of our time together, the two ladies who were most unsure in the beginning have become two of the most hard-working, courageous, gut-sharing members of the group. It took some time and patience with each other. It took baby-steps of sharing and trusting. It took the powerful healing work of the Holy Spirit moving among these women and in their hearts.

These 9 ladies have bonded in a supernatural way with each other. They have shared things about their pasts and their hurts and their hearts that they have never shared with anyone else before. They have gained insights about themselves and new ways of thinking and acting. They have learned to express their feelings in healthier ways and they have learned the meaning of safety. They have disagreed with each other. They have confronted each other. And in so doing, have come out on the other side of their disagreements and confrontations even more connected and bonded. They have encouraged and supported each other. They have prayed for each other.  They have learned how they impact other people and why they do the things they do. Each lady, in her own unique way, has healed and become more self-aware. This is the beauty of a Restoring Your Heart group experience that is guided by the Holy Spirit.

These ladies have also learned a lot about the emotional healing process and group dynamics. They are all excited about using what they have learned and experienced to help other women heal: women who are also afraid to trust, women who have deep hurts from their childhood, women who want to grow and don’t know how.

When I end a training group, it is always a little sad and a lot exciting. It is sad for me because I grow so attached to the women in my groups. I hate to end our time together.

But it is also exciting to think back over how far they have come and to see the growth in their lives. It is exciting to see them want to share with others their experience of healing.

Ultimately, this healing is because of the power of the Holy Spirit, working in us and through us. However, the Spirit employs us as His co-workers and lets us work along side Him as He does His mighty work. I am encouraged by what is happening in these women and at their church. I am looking forward to seeing what God does next.

 

Have you ever been afraid to trust others, especially in the Church?

Have you ever wondered why the Church should be a safe place and sometimes isn’t?

Have you experienced emotional healing in the Church?

We would love to hear your comments or experiences.

 

PostScript:  At this church, there was a men’s training group going on at the same time. These men will also now be helping other men begin their healing process.

For more information on emotional issues we refer you to our Pocket Principles:

Created with Emotions

Understanding Emotional Problems

Healing From Emotional Problems

 

group of womenAs a counselor, I meet with people one-on-one all day long. It’s rewarding, exhausting and humbling. As much as I believe in the value of individual counseling, there is another way of helping people heal that I believe is, in many ways, more powerful.

The group.

Oh, how I love a group, in all its messiness, closeness, vulnerability and intimacy.

At WDA, our materials are designed to be used in groups. We believe in the vast restorative power of a group. We use groups for our discipleship materials and for our Restoring Your Heart materials.

There is a reason “small groups” are so popular in churches today. We all crave intimacy. We are designed for intimate relationships with each other and a healthy small group is the perfect place to “figure out” intimacy. Most of us really don’t know how to be closely connected to others because we have been hurt by others. We don’t trust, it is risky, and we would rather not take the chance. Yet, in avoiding closeness, we go against our created design. So, we get caught in an approach/avoidance relational intimacy dilemma.

With that in mind, I want to encourage you in three ways.

1.  Embrace the risk of either being in a small group or starting a small group.

No matter what the stated purpose of your small group, whether it be Bible study, fellowship, discipleship or emotional healing, no matter what materials you use or don’t use for your small group, there is an overriding transcendent goal for your group.

Cloud and Townsend, in their book Making Small Groups Work, refer to this goal as the ministry of reconciliation. In aiming for this goal, we (the group) are not supposed to be the moral police, we are supposed to be the restorer’s of life. We achieve reconciliation in a small group by combining grace, truth and time with our desire to connect with God and with others. We use a small group to be restored to God, to learn how to relate to others and to experience and practice grace and forgiveness.

And, yes, it is messy sometimes. There will be conflict. There will be unease. There will be anxiety and unsurety. But, don’t you have all of those in your life anyway? And isn’t it frequently hard to navigate those waters?

The beauty of a healthily functioning small group is that all these things can happen, but all these things can also be successfully navigated, dealt with and the group members restored to relationship with each other. There is nothing more exciting and bonding than to experience this reconciliation in a group.

2. Read Making Small Groups Work by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. 

Take notes while you are reading it and think about ways you can use these principles in your own life. This book is one of the best books available about small groups.

3. Read this Short Story.

I was leading a Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group several years ago. When leading these groups, I use one of several workbooks dealing with emotional issues that are written by WDA staff. With this particular group, I was using the Processing Pain Workbook, which deals with childhood issues and then moves into grieving and forgiveness.

The group consisted of myself, the co-leader and three other women all of whom had bi-polar disorder. (If you want to learn more about bi-polar disorder, click here.) My “starting out” goal for the group was to help these women see the impact their past had on them and move them joyfully into emotional health within the 18 week group time frame.

About three weeks into the group, I realized that my lofty goal was out the window. These women could not focus on the material or on their past long enough to gain much insight from it. They were having so many problems navigating their daily lives, largely because of their bi-polar disorder, that they were overwhelmed. Each week, one or all of them would come in with a present day crisis that needed to be discussed.

So, I readjusted my goal for the group. Once I let go of my agenda, I realized that these women were gaining much more benefit from the group just by being in a place where they were heard. So we moved through the workbook slowly and incrementally. Usually each week, we spent roughly one-third of the group time on the material, sneaking it in and out of our conversations. They all gained some small understanding of the impact of their past, and they gained a little benefit from talking about grieving and forgiveness.

But, the huge benefit they gained from the group was a chance to bond, experience intimacy and be heard. In other words, they experienced the ministry of reconciliation. Our group lasted about 6 months, much longer than the prescribed 18 weeks. During this time, I realized that the Holy Spirit was going to do a much better job of leading this group than I was and He was going to help these women experience intimacy at a more experiential level than the materials could. The group ended when one group member went to jail and another one went into the hospital. The workbook was still not completed.

Did this group challenge every aspect of my group-leading experiences and desires? Absolutely! Do I consider this one of the more successful groups I have ever lead? Definitely!  Grace, truth and time came together and created intimacy for women who rarely experience it.

And now, following the encouragement, a challenge for you.

Look for ways you can experience intimacy in a small group environment.

And,

Move towards the messiness that results in closeness and reconciliation.