Today, I covered two groups for one of my colleagues who took the day off for Christmas. I realize that most of us have already celebrated Christmas, but according to much of the Christian world, tomorrow is Christmas. If you’d like to know more, Google Orthodox Christmas. Merry Christmas to my Orthodox friends.
On my way to work this morning, I remembered that I would be facilitating the Relationships in Recovery group and a Focus Group. For me, I would be facilitating the same activities in these groups. As a result of running identical activities, I’ll only share the events and some of the “aha!” moments.
To begin, after checking in with the group members, I introduced the concept of a “round” type activity. A round is simply an activity in which each participant is selected in order around the table or circle. The motivation for the group was simple. Relationships with others cannot be healthy until our relationship with ourselves is healthy. And all of us are guilty of talking more ill of ourselves than those we love the most – our children, family, and other loved ones. So, why do we not talk to ourselves kindly and with encouragement?
The challenge for the group was, without keeping score as to who received the most encouragement, to simply encourage another member of the group. Perhaps a simple statement about their kindness or personality or positive attitude. Even mentioning a skill that one might know about another. The message wasn’t as important as to how it was received. However, it needed to be given in the second or first person, “You are good at…,” or, “I like … about you,” while looking at the member to whom they were speaking.
What we learned was that giving encouragement was a much more comfortable activity than receiving it. When group members heard their encouragement, over half of them discounted it, diminished it, or otherwise turned it away. Further, some group members were observed fidgeting in their seats or anxiously playing with their hands.
The second round of the group was a bit different. This time, group members groaned and grumbled a bit more as I challenged them to participate again and prepare again to offer an encouragement toward a member of the group, a different member of the group this time – themselves. Yes, they were to give themselves a statement of encouragement.
Some members would say things that they liked to do or whatever, and some finally were able to say, “I am good at…” or “I like this or that about myself.” Many attempts at positive self-talk were qualified with some aspect of attempted humility (which can’t be attempted, truly) in an effort to not seem egotistical.
After the group was done with their second round, I encouraged them to own their encouragement over the truth of what makes them special. To embrace the very real truth about themselves.
Why did I tell this story? Because you… YOU… have something to offer, something very real and true about yourself. And even if you don’t believe it’s true, that doesn’t make it not true.
What do you have to offer? What special skill, ability, character, or personality trait do you like about yourself the most? Now… who else knows it about you? If nobody knows… why not? Why are you hiding?