How people's shame is responded to by a group and its leaders will determine how deep they or others will feel safe to go. What would make it safe to share issues of shame in the first place? Group leaders set the tone. When leadersare in touch with their own brokenness and can talk openly about it because they have received help and healing, they create space for others to do the same. If people are not bringing up realstruggles of the heart, could it bethat they do not feel safe because it has not been modeled in the group?
We have been talking about shame over who I feel I am. But there is also legitimate shame over what I know I've done. It is not the goal of the group to talk people out of either kind of shame. Both expose what I am allowing to define me. In both cases, I have lost awareness of who I really am in Christ. Fortunately, once I have identified what is going on, I have the opportunity to go to the Cross and confess what I have believed. It is a beautiful thing when a group can go there together with one of their members, pour out their heart in confession, and, in exchange, have the righteousness of Christ poured out on them.
As a final thought, it could happen that someone will confess shame and, along with that, communicate a desire to do harm to themselves or someone else. Or someone could confess having committed a reportable offense. In either case, the responsibility of the group is to preserve and protect life. Get outside help. No group agreement of confidentiality supersedes this responsibility. Loving community will, however, walk with the willing through the darkness and into the light, wherever that leads.
—Mark Bonham; copyright 2008 by the author and Christianity Today
- What parts of my life do I prefer to keep hidden away? Why? Is this a conscious effort, or an automatic response?
- How would members of our group define accountability? How can we maintain a healthy view of accountability?
- Do I set the tone for accountability and love as the leader of our group? How can I be intentional about doing so?