Meeting with others on a regular basis builds strength and resilience in our Mental Health. Friends build each other up to be strong.
I wasn't expecting any great life changing moments happening in this small group of three people. As they talked I could see that they were increasingly feeling comfortable with each other. They all had similar backgrounds and struggles and as they shared, the privacy walls dropped and they started to talk deep.
One of the quieter ones felt safe enough to ask a question, and then another. Soon others felt safe enough to ask 'silly questions'. There were huge moments of life changing discovery.
We were never meant to do life on our own.
Having relationships with others builds a solidness in our Mental Health that can weather many a storm.
It fascinates me that one of my blog posts, in particular, gets a lot of search traffic from Google. It has the title 'How do you respond when someone stabs you in the back'. It tells me that this is a big question out there. That people get hurt.
Within all of us, there is a need for friends.
I need someone like me
to feel safe enough to share
the someone nobody sees.
And when you find that someone then there is this sense of joyful relief. Someone who gets you.
I believe that meeting together is a kind of Spiritual Exercise that God wants us to do, especially where Jesus is invited. To have a few special others that we meet with together on a regular basis.
Jesus said this.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20
It's all about having a few others that we can share life with over a shared activity.
5 Keys to Getting Strong with Friends
- Look for people who have a common interest.
It could be a sport, a hobby, a cooking class. Maybe it's a play group for your children. Cars, woodworking, dogs and birds. It may well be with those who struggle with the very same issues that you do.
It's all about having a similar starting point. Of finding people who can you can say 'Oh, you too'
- Take Small steps of exposure.
Please don't go into your meeting to tell your whole life story. Learn to just listen and let little snippets out. To create trusting relationships it takes time, lots of it. Getting to know others takes years of conversation and testing the water.
- Just listen.
No making judgements, problem-solving, giving 'good advice'. Just be there to hear.
Later it might be a time for problem-solving but for now, listen and listen deep. Once you have listened you might have more understanding of what the problem truly is.
- Express Confidentiality.
Something's need to be said so that some things can be said and that other things won't be said.
One of the most effective small group meetings I have been in followed the format of a liturgy from an organisation called Renovare. In the liturgy, part of the opening dialogue said together, are these words
Please keep in mind that everything that is said here is to be held in confidence. Only then can we feel free enough to share openly and honestly. All hopes and dreams, all fears and failures – even our joys and successes, are to be kept within these walls. This is how we help each other.
It was the reminder every week that this was a special place of privacy. We were to keep things to ourselves.
You might like to say when people are sharing that you are not going to be sharing it anywhere else without their permission unless you are concerned about their welfare and the welfare of others.
- Be regular around meeting together.
I think this is crucial and relationships aren't built unless there is a regular meeting together. I have been meeting with two other guys every week now for around 10 years. We call it Balcony. If it had been haphazard and irregular then the closeness wouldn't be there.
As I was writing this post I was thinking of those who feel isolated. Possibly due to a mental illness.
Perhaps you just don't feel like you fit in anywhere anymore. I've met many of you.
Because of what you have been through you don't feel wanted, or accepted. Maybe you just can't seem to play the game of social niceties that others seem to pull off. You want a relationship but you fear hurt and rejection.
I know it's hard and may seem impossible, however, I know you can do it.
Having a few close friends doing an activity together can be the most powerful spiritual exercise you can do for your Mental Health and for others. Perhaps it will be you that takes the first step.
Quotes to consider
- Beneath what our culture calls psychological disorder is a soul crying for what only community can provide. Larry Crabb - Connecting
- The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares.
Henri Nouwen - Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life
- Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
- When spiritual friends share their stories, the others listen without working. They rest. There’s nothing to fix, nothing to improve. A spiritual community feels undisturbed quiet as they listen, certainly burdened . . . but still resting in the knowledge that the life within, the passion for holiness, is indestructible. It needs only to be nourished and released. Larry Crabb, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be
Questions to answer leave an anonymous comment here
- What are the qualities of a safe community of friends for you?
- Why is it so difficult to listen without wanting to fix the problem, make judgments or give out 'good advice'
- What experiences of small intimate groups have you had?