As a leader, haven’t we all had someone in our class who comes in and dumps their problems into the middle of the group circle? But haven’t we also been that person at times? We have a few people we trust to talk about our issues and problems. When is it mutual conversation and when is it emotional dumping?
Imagine each of our wounding we carry as a rock – about the size of our fist. We hold onto it until it becomes too heavy and then we offload it on someone else through explaining for the hundredth time what we feel is wrong in our lives. When the dumping time is over, we feel less burdened and a little lighter. But what about the other person? Did we ever think that they have their own rocks to carry? Do they sit there politely and hold our rock while were speaking along with their own? Eventually, we feel the burden again because it always returns to weigh us down once more.
As leaders of small groups, we must be aware of those who participate in our classes and come in for just this notion – a way to unload all of their personal baggage, to dump it in the midst of the circle of participants, and leave it there unresolved. This is where we step in as leaders and guide them to the only one who can lift burden, heal wounds, and resolve issues once and for all. His name is Jesus.
Sometimes it requires a side conversation or a pre-class discussion, or a follow up email addressing certain issues. Facing these potential dumping episodes and addressing them with the participants is crucial in maintaining a healthy small group atmosphere. There are times in which we should be guiding the participants into seeking more professional help, by way of speaking with a pastor, counselor, or licensed clinical social worker.
I just finished teaching a class at church over the summer called Tending The Beloved Healing Wounds Into Scars, also the title of my upcoming work book based on that class. One of the comments from a participant at the end of the program was, “I was afraid to come to class because I didn’t want to share my personal experience. When I arrived to the first class and realized there was no pressure to share and I was not required to talk about my issues, I was very relieved. ”
There are times when conversation is necessary, objective discussion, situational conversation, but when someone uses groups to offload their burdens and wounds, a leader of the group must set boundaries and redirect the expectations of participating in the group.
The whole goal of the class I taught over the summer was to show each person in order to sufficiently heal they must form a deep connection with God, rely on Jesus for their courage and strength, and do the work necessary to uncover where they’re wounding occurred and address it properly. It was not an easy class to teach and it was not an easy class to take. But those that participated gained insight into their own wounding, came closer to God, had profound realizations, and worked hard to address those things in life that God lead them to address. All this – without sharing the personal woundings each had suffered. They shared their wounds with Jesus, who wants to bear their burdens and has the strength to do so.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28,30 NIV