Tag Archives: Confessional Communities

Monday Morning Moment – Real Friendship – on Friends Who Wound, Fierce Friends, Friends who Turn Around, and Friends Who Stay

When you think of a real friend, who comes most immediately to mind? That old friend you’ve known your whole life? That new friend who came close quickly during a life crisis? That like friend who shares many of the same growing pains you’re having in life right now? Real friends. What an incredible gift they are! As we look for a few minutes at friendships, a bit of self-examination might prove profitable.

On the way to the airport last week, returning home, I grabbed a quick supper with one of my dearest long-time friends. As we caught up on the latest turns in our lives, she shared something I didn’t expect. Well…to be honest, it is a subject that occasionally comes up. I, at some point or the other, drop the ball on communication. It is a failing of mine through the years. Quick to repent, but the turning and trying to do better don’t last. Sigh… And it’s not because that friend (or any other) is not worthy of constancy. She certainly is.

These relational struggles and misfires make the gift of real friendship even more precious. We are not always great friends to one another…but being great at friendship…being real…is worth the effort. You, Dear One, who actually reads my blog, are worth the effort.

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

I’ve written about friendship several times. Below are some of the pieces I’ve shared previously…and a new bit. Maybe you’d benefit from a review…I sure have.

Friends Who Wound – OK, this isn’t for everyone. When my friend shared what she did above, it felt yucky. Wounding. However it was a wound that potentially brings healing. I don’t want something inside my own heart to grow, without my awareness, into something that hurts others. Greg Morse recently wrote a piece for Desiring God on finding a friend to wound you.

We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of people who have a negative impact on us, to walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us.

The article above talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing…and stay. I appreciate people who love me in this way and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):

“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.”   – Greg Morse

There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends. – Deb Mills, from the archive

blog-best-friends-woundsPhoto Credit: Dgreetings

Fierce Friends – How grateful I am for friends who don’t give up on me. You have friends like these, too – those who love us enough to tell us the truth without ripping our hearts out. Friends who will keep loving us no matter the distance or ideologies that could separate us but don’t. These are fierce friends…friends who “stick closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

I’m reminded of an occasion when a room full of women gathered to discuss a hard thing going on in our current city. These women deeply love each other but have some very different stances on issues that mattered to all of us. The tension was palpable but the love more so. Our culture today seems peopled with friends when convenient, fair weather friends, and friends with benefits. Friends who politic together, work together, play sports together, or drink together. Take away the activity, and the friendship fades. What a wonder are these fierce friends who stay with us through the worst…those we know have our backs and we have theirs.Photo Credit: Quotesta

Real Spiritual friendship is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.”
Timothy Keller

When connections are real, they simply never die…If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstance… Real connections live on forever.” Victoria Erickson

True friends aren’t the ones who make your problems disappear. They are the ones who won’t disappear when you’re facing problems.” —Author Unknown

“If you fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…but if you is lookin’ for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.”Ron Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me

Who are some of your fierce friends? Please share in Comments if you want to give a salute to some of them. – Deb Mills from the Archive

Real Friends – Beyond Cliques and Closed Communities – Because friendships seem fragile and temporary, when we find ourselves in a group with staying power, we hold on tight. Now some of my dearest friends are actually family…I guess that would constitute somewhat of a closed community. They aren’t going anywhere…not to say it couldn’t happen, but so far, so good.[The husband, the daughter]

As my friend lamented above about my own “leaving the room”, I was deeply convicted by Curt Thompson’s work in confessional communities. He talks often and at-length about the healing nature of groups who listen hard, speak truth, and commit to care over time – choosing over and over NOT to leave the room. These are therapy groups, but I think they are the substance of what may develop into cliques outside of mental health situations. A good thing that can turn too inward. Now, none of us would say we’re in a clique, but do we sometimes find ourselves so committed to a few that those friends just beyond our tight circles begin to miss us?…and we didn’t know it was happening…in fact, didn’t mean for it to happen.

“Is it possible to have the benefits of close relationships without becoming a clique with our close friends? It is. And the process is very simple (although like many simple things, it isn’t easy). There is one basic movement that can transform a closed clique into an open and welcoming community:

Turn around.

That’s it. Instead of facing in, focusing only on the good things inside the group, we can face out, focusing on sharing whatever good we have with others. We can unlock the circle, and let it grow.

I’ve seen this in action in our church—a community of people who are facing out together. I was freely welcomed into that circle by those who were there before me, and I’ve experienced the joy of joining them in welcoming others. I’ve seen how a welcoming circle of friends is deepened, not diluted, by including others…friendships do not grow the deepest when we face in and focus only on the deepness of our friendships—they deepen most when we face out, together, in a shared mission of giving for the good of others beyond us. –  Seth Lewis, How to Turn a Clique Inside Out

Photo Credit: Emily P. Freeman, Quote Fancy

Friends Who Stay – Finally, I offer this book on friendship:

Photo Credit: Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson – Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World

In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

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Forgive the length of this piece…hopefully you were able to skim over parts and dig into others. I want to be a real friend to those God has placed in my life. Not a thin-veneer, “say all the things” but not truly by there for that person, shallow kind of friend. In closing, I had wanted to share a bunch of images of friends through the years…but decided not to. We have been wildly blessed with great people in our lives… people who have been real friends to us and others over a lifetime. You know who you are. Thankful for all the real friends in my life…striving to be one.

[P.S. We can be real friends and not always behave so. Life circumstances, personality, strengths/weaknesses, losses, pressures, as well as joyful distractions can all affect our leaning into and staying deep into a friendship. When we come up short, we can face it and hopefully restore, and be restored in, real friendship. Grace upon grace.]

Photo Credit: Incourage.me

What Makes For a Lifelong Friendship? – A Snapshot of Such a One – Deb Mills

15 Signs that Prove Your Friendship Is the Real Deal

I Believe in Guilt-Free Friendship – Lisa-Jo Baker

Befriend – Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear – Scott Sauls

Monday Morning Moment – Confessional Communities – What Are They? You’ll Wish You Were In One If You Aren’t Already

Photo Credit: Group Therapy Central

[As I was preparing my own take on confessional communities, I came across Aimee Byrd‘s piece on the same, as part of her analysis of Curt Thompson‘s latest book The Soul of Desire. Byrd’s blog is a quick read and very helpful.]

Confessional communities – probably sounds like some sort of monastery life. Or a group with all kinds of touchy-feely exercises framed by unintelligible psycho-babble, right? Oh no! So much more and so much better!

I’ve been awakened to the presence and possibilities of confessional communities since recently reading of the Thompson trilogy below.

What rung intuitively right for me throughout my adult life has actually been tested and found true in something called Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). No time to go deeply into this now, but, in short, our brains are wired for connection, and that is connection inside the brain/mind itself as well as with others (and God).

Confessional communities are used by Dr. Curt Thompson and others as ways to help clients get in touch with shame, trauma, fear, anxiety, etc. in the company of others struggling with some of the same. Shame, for instance, drives us to isolate from God and others. It compounds interest over time, if left to itself in our own minds, and muffles our desires and longings, as it condemns and flattens us.

“We need to create confessional communities where people are confessing the truth about their life – some of which includes confessing sin or doing things that show my brokenness. Some of it is just things that have happened to me, or things that I feel; things that I sense; things that I dream; things that I long for; things that I’m conflicted about. But I’m trying to tell the whole truth about my life – but not so that anybody can just hear it and then move on.…In confession, what I’m really looking for – in your eyes, in your body language, in your voice – is for you to be able to say, “You’re right, Curt; you were wrong to do that. You’re forgiven. I’m not leaving.” I need to know you can bear the weight of what I know to be really wrong [with me], and that you will still stay. If it’s minimized, it will continue to linger with me…Shame always requires outside help for healing. My shame needs you. If it’s a small thing, I might need only one conversation with you. But, if it’s much bigger than a very, very small thing, I’m going to need multiple conversations with multiple people, because shame will come through multiple different doors into my head when I’m left by myself…”Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

“…in order for me to be liberated from the shame I carry, …I need to hear that my behavior was really as bad as I think, if not worse, while simultaneously sensing that the person I am confessing to is not leaving. Shame has the effect of coaxing us into pretending that sin is not as bad as it seems; for if it really is that bad, and I have to face it, it would be too much and I fear I would be overwhelmed. When someone seeks forgiveness for the wrong they have committed, we who have been wounded must be able to acknowledge the reality of the pain inflicted if forgiveness is to be real, and if the offender’s shame is to be effectively healed.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

Confessional communities are spelled out in Thompson’s writing, teaching (found on YouTube), and podcasts (his own and as guest on many others). The common factors include:

  • small group meetings over weeks or months.
  • willingness to tell our stories as truly as we can.
  • intentional leaning in to the stories of other group members such that “being known” is part of the outcome for all.
  • commitment to stay with each other; to “not leave the room”.
  • imagine beauty together – learning to explore and create beauty, to see what is good, true, and beautiful in each other’s personhoods.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

I have a friend who for several months was part of what I would now call a confessional community. She called it “Vegas”. Remember the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? It was a Bible study/house church. A group of people who committed to care for each other with masks off (not the COVID kind, but the masks we don in shame or fear). A group of people who would stay in the hard and love no matter what.

My Mom modeled this for our family. She died way too soon. My prayer is that our (birth) family will model it for each other, and my children will learn from their Dad and me how to love like this…To have the joy of being fully known and deeply loved. No matter what.

Trauma, Healing, and Side Effects with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jamie Ivey’s Podcast, The Happy Hour

Shining Light on Shame – Curt Thompson, Angulus Wilson, Steve Beers, and Morgan C. Feddes

Curt Thompson – 51 Podcast Episodes