Small Group Breakthroughs, Part 3
Honesty: Taking Off Your Mask
Third in a 5-part series about building intimacy in your small group
Building intimate relationships takes commitment, honesty, acceptance, and trust. That kind of intimacy is an incredible testament to the power of God working among us – and is modeled in small groups.
Mike (from our previous article) experienced a personal breakthrough when he made a decision to be committed to God and his small group members. Now Allison is on the verge of connecting a deeper level with her group, too. Allison is isolated, convinced that no one, especially “religious people,” can love her as she is. Yet her outgoing and vivacious personality disguises her hurt. By adopting a carefree attitude, Allison has created a mask. She struggles with being honest.
Commitment sets the stage for going beyond superficiality in your group. Honesty drives your group members into deeper relationships with one another.
Why it’s so hard to be honest
Allison is not the only one who avoids being her true self. We all share that struggle to one degree or another.
And with good reason. Each of us carries a share of brokenness … a condition we falsely believe we can hide. If others find out that we don’t “measure up,” we think, they will reject us. We will be deserted, lost, and abandoned. Rather than face isolation – one of our deepest fears – we do two things:
- We hide. We buy into Lie #1: “No one can love the true me, so I can’t be the true me.” Like Adam and Eve who hid from God when confronted with their sin (Genesis 3:8), we run from ourselves and from others. We create and wear masks we think others will like. Allison disguised her deep wounds under a mask of good cheer.
- We justify. We buy into Lie #2. “I have to justify myself to be accepted.” The real me isn’t allowed, Allison thinks. So I’ll just have to be someone else, or show only one part of me, so I fit in – or at least don’t get hurt again. Because we don’t face the truth, our only recourse is to make excuses. We create a cover up scam.
Battling Two Lies With Two Truths
It’s next to impossible to build close relationships when we are not honest and hide our true selves. And when it comes to defending, validating, or justifying the walls we build – well, rationalizing a cover up doesn’t build trust, either.
Small group honesty is rooted in two truths:
- You are safe to be yourself. Being honest is frightening. Transparency gives others the ability to hurt you or reject you. Yet a small group, founded on commitment and honesty, becomes a “safe zone.” Members can be honest and vulnerable. They can take off their masks and reveal who they really are, some for the first time. It’s risky, but worth the risk. In this circle of protection your small group reflects God’s grace, love, and mercy – His character – to its members. A small group can be a safe place and play a vital role in bringing about change in lives.
- You don’t have to justify yourself. God has already taken care of that: “We have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1, NIV). Honesty removes our need for excuses and blame. Once the weight of the mask comes off, there is tremendous freedom.
Honesty: Removing the Mask
Some people are so good at masking who they really are that it takes loving support, an objective third party, or even an assessment to help remove it. Yet finding your true strengths can reveal issues that have been keeping you masked and move you to a deeper intimacy with your small group members.
That’s what happened to Allison. During a conversation with her small group leader, Allison learned how the older woman had been abused by her father. Prompted by her leader’s transparency, Allison shared her story honestly for the first time. The group surrounded Allison with acceptance and understanding as she began her recovery journey. Part of that process included taking a strengths assessment, in which Allison discovered she had considerable listening and empathy skills, hidden so long behind her mask of carefree living. Allison came to understand her sensitivity as a strength, one that brought tremendous depth to her small group as she moved from being a superficial “life of the party” to becoming an empathetic listener.
“Once I felt safe to be myself, I felt valued for who I truly am,” says Allison. “And now the gifts I once sought to cover up are now helping others.”
The worst place to be in a small group is alone and isolated. Don’t let your group go there … or stay there. When you create a “safe zone” for members to take off their masks, be honest, and leave behind the need to justify themselves, your group will move to a deeper level of intimacy and transformation that you ever dreamed possible.