GroupsRecovery 6 minutes to read

I have been facilitating sexual betrayal groups for over 15 years. It has not been perfect, but it has been rewarding. I continue to realize there is always room for growth. This was something I didn’t know in the beginning when starting this recovery journey. 

You know when you find something and it works, you want to share it with others—wholehearted thinking it is going to affect them the same way it affected you? Imagine my surprise when some women didn’t believe that recovery from betrayal trauma was a great thing! Some would say I “seem too happy all the time.” It was difficult to understand why they weren’t excited to be in a safe place, working on their healing. I quickly realized, there was no way I could lead the same way I did 15 years ago. 

I went from facilitating in other ministries to facilitating in this one area of sexual brokenness and betrayal. My husband and I trained and encouraged other group facilitators too. In the beginning, the goal was that everyone who went through a group would find healing. For many people who participated in groups, I knew they wanted this recovery as much as I wanted it for them. Being able to offer this in a church was unique. 

Can you imagine the devastation and failure I felt when individuals quit the group or reacted negatively toward the ministry or those leading? And with all this, I felt responsible for them giving up. I wondered, “What did I say or not say? What did I do or not do that caused them to quit?” Sometimes I would meet with those who quit and try to convince them to return. Oh, that was emotionally exhausting. I believed others would want to take the same journey as me and appreciate the opportunity for restoration in their lives. And yes, most did. The beauty in this is realizing that everyone’s journey is different, even those who may not have completed the group. I could still see God at work.

So why did I feel like a failure when someone left the group? We offer hope, encouragement, tools, and safety. What more is needed? Well, as I learned and am still learning, we need grace—which is valuable not only in groups but in relationships. 

As we all come to the recovery table, we bring our trauma, our unwanted behaviors, our belief system, our culture, and more. You name it, we bring it. 

I had to learn to seek the grace of God in my own life first. I had to stop the false belief that I was not good enough for God’s grace. Huh? This doesn’t even make sense, but there it was lurking in the back of my mind. 

Last year when I went through the training to get my Peer Facilitator Certification, I learned the importance of self-awareness. Self-awareness is vital in recovery; it is not an easy process, but it is very humbling and critical in our recovery journey. It requires taking a look at the internal factors of why we do what we do, who we believe we are, and how we interact with others. When we become more self-aware, we also become more other-aware. This helps us to not be so quick to judge or come to a swift conclusion about someone criticizing or comparing. 

Through this training, there was one particular assessment I had to take. I had to answer questions about myself and someone close to me also had to answer questions about me. We were both surprised by the results of this test. It said I had a low internal self-awareness and a high external awareness. Huh? I think my bubble deflated a little. This revealed that I’m good with what’s going on with those around me—meeting the needs of others—but less likely to meet my needs.

I didn’t see this coming. 

Here is where grace comes in. I didn’t beat myself up for not being where I thought I should be. In fact, in the other assessments I took, they also clarified my strengths, gifts, and calling on my life. I’m learning to embrace all the parts of myself. I can be uplifted and proud of what I have accomplished while finding ways to improve in the areas I am lacking. I was also able to see how my upbringing, life experience, culture, and relationship with God played a role in creating who I am. 

All this to say: in groups and our relationships we need grace for others—knowing there is so much more to them than what is presented and giving grace space allows them, and us, the capacity for growth. 

Since last year I can see how much I have grown in giving grace to myself and others. This year, 2020, has been a beast; and yet, God has given me the grace to sit with it and be more conscientious of my internal self-awareness. When leading groups or in any relationship (family, marriage, work), self-awareness is critical.

For example, suppose something triggers you: how would you respond? I had a situation where this happened. When I allowed myself to be vulnerable in a safe space, the other parties involved did not respond favorably. I realized this as a trauma response to my trauma being shared. This was also a time where God’s grace was able to intervene. I felt empathy for the person without disregarding my own experience and trauma. I did not compare their trauma to mine. I didn’t try to fix them or the situation. I gave space for the emotion because I realized they were being transparent. And, most of all, I didn’t take the blame for something I had no control over. 

In the past, I would have been apologetic, blamed myself, and tried to fix the situation. I would have gotten stuck in a corner of my mind and said to myself, “You have no right to share how you feel! Look what you did? You should stay silent.” But, where is the grace in this? I am confident and believe God will do more excellent work in both our hearts because His grace allowed wounds to be revealed so they could be healed. 

This knowledge gave me the ability to better understand those in my recovery groups and what they bring to the table. It is always our goal for all who come to the group to feel safe, accepted, and hopeful. When it comes to giving grace space in groups or relationships:

  1. We need to take the time to grow in self-awareness and see ourselves as God sees us. Improve in areas where we may be lacking. Find safe people who we can trust for feedback and who can see our blind spots. 
  2. We need to be aware of how we are feeling and interpreting what is being said. If we are feeling negative, ask clarifying questions. Listen intentionally to hear the other person.
  3. If we need to speak up about something, we need to evaluate our intentions. Respond with compassion and empathy. Consider how others might feel about what is said and how it is said. 

Remember, we are allowing space for grace. In the area of grace, we’re allowing space for God to bring healing. Don’t be surprised if it looks different than what you expect. Know and trust He is doing the work in all of our hearts and minds.