Session 4: Building a Village

In the last session, I highlighted the importance for a group to yearn for “soft hearts” as a village on mission. Simply if a child doesn’t have a soft heart, if an adult doesn’t have a soft heart, they are stuck. Maturation simply doesn’t happen. So, this must be our yearning.

In this session I want to talk about how to build our village. This is the village that raised a child, that facilitates the softening of the hearts in those we are responsible for.

CAVEAT: The content below was originally written before the pandemic, so please apply it with wisdom and discernment.

Words create worlds.

How many words do you hear in a day?

Some say 30,000 words; others put the total much higher. This varies from person to person, depending on environment, personality and many other factors. We hear words all the time, but words are more than just sounds that bring information, they have power to do a lot more.

All the theories of growth in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s were centered around words. Therapy was a talking cure. Psychologists observed for adults, words are the foremost instrument of individuation and maturation. Carl Rogers explained this in his concept of congruency. Martin Buber’s described this in his concept of authenticity, using words not to hide but to reveal.

When we look at children’s development of attachment, as the child turns to 3 or 4 years of age, they realise they are a secret. This is very significant, because until this time, the child still believes the parent can see their dreams. Till this point if they talk on the phone, they will nod and point as if you can see them on the other end. They think they are fully knowable.

Then at 4yo it shocks and scares them to discover that you don’t know. It dawns on them whatever mummy doesn’t know won’t get me in trouble. This then is the temptation to hide. This also burns a hole in a child, in all of us because we no longer feel close to those that don’t know us.

Words then (or self-disclosure) serves as the ultimate instrument of intimacy. Many of us choke on this, because why would we ever share what could be used against us? Many of us fail our childhood so we need a second chance at this.

Self-disclosure then being the final instrument of attachment, is the also the foremost instrument of adult maturation. This is to declare oneself in one’s true colors, to come out of hiding. Then to deal with the verdict of whether you like me or not. I must risk not being liked, so as to make myself present.

We must uncover what has NOT been invited in one’s formative attachments, what is it that your parents or caregivers did not give you. This for sure is very scary.

Words are God’s tool for creating the universe, such as when God says in Genesis “let there be light, and it was so.” They are also our tool for creating our own world, as well as our final instrument of attachment, of connecting with each other. All sorts of possibilities are suddenly open to us because of the words and insights we share.

What we get wrong about disclosure.

In our endeavor to find our own words, the big mistake we make as adults; is we seek to find fulfillment first for our own dependency needs. We are looking to be taken care of. This is the temptation for us, to take what seems the easier path.

  • Perhaps we look for a spouse, or someone to follow who will give us what our parents didn’t. We all know that it’s impossible for another person to meet all our needs, and a marriage like this certainly does not last long.

  • Perhaps we believe God is to meet all our needs, but this is still thinking like a child, still looking for someone to take care of us. It is no longer our turn and this prevents us from turning the corner and caring for others.

  • We might look for words of affirmation or truth from peers. Words that build us up. This too does not work. Finding our own voice is always about ourselves taking down our own mask, having the courage for us to come into our own. It is not affirmation from peers that we need.

A child is physically and psychologically dependent on a caregiver. A child does not yet have the cognitive capacity to understand the world, they are still growing. So yes, they need an adult in their lives who offers them an unconditional invitation into their presence. When they have a confidence in their caregivers, they move out with curiosity and explore the world.

As an adult, we need to turn the corner. This corner is to assume our responsibility as the provider for another, to care for others, where we are part of becoming someone else’s answer. It only makes sense we reach our potential in this place of taking care of another.

As adults it is in context of who we are responsible for. The teacher for my students, the therapist for my client, as a parent for my children, even as a doctor for my patients.

  • It’s also not taking care of our own unfulfilled needs.

As adults, we are often told today to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. We use the example of being on an airplane where we put our oxygen mask on before we put the child’s mask on when they drop down. That is a terrible example, because it only holds true for that case and nothing else. This is not the way it works. If you do this, you just dig yourself a narcissistic pit. Yet we have a billion-dollar self-care industry that is confused with growing up.

But what of my needs? If after we feel frustrated or exhausted, and we say to our children, “I need a break from you, I have needs to!” As soon as we start the “I need”, where are we? We are in the dependent mode, looking for the child to meet our needs and it makes a mess of parenting. We don’t grow. We must not make our children responsible.

Yes, we need to find a way to share our words when we are taking responsibility for another. Hopefully you have a supporting cast; a friend, a partner, a God that you can speak to frankly. That you can share all that is within you, you need someone, else you will act these emotions out. We save the self-disclosure for our supporting cast.

It’s by taking the provider role, by taking responsibility that we grow up. This is the stage of life we are in. We all as adults have capacity to do this; we can all step up to the plate, nobody is disqualified.

We are either taking care of somebody else, or looking to be taken care of.

Leading a group around the corner.

One practice for some groups is to share words of truth and encouragement about each other, we speak about our identity and calling. It’s a powerful practice because it fosters connection by saying “I see you. I hear you. I appreciate you. You are valued here.” We are in this receiving mode, dependent on the leaders, on our peers and on God. It calls us up, it cultivates life and even sometimes brings much needed healing. This is great for a care group. When we accept the words, we certainly can feel welcomed and accepted. There are stages in life for all of us when we need to be cared for.

This practice can also be significant for children, both from their parents and from other adults in the group. We can speak into possibilities for our children, we invite them to explore more of their world around them.

Here now is also an opportunity for us, it is to lead the adult group beyond the care group model, beyond an accountability group or peer group model, beyond the traditional home group model. It is to engage with participants who have turned the corner, who have had a watershed moment and now provide for and care for others, they take responsibility for another. One example is when you bring your child home from the hospital. It strikes you, “You are now responsible and you have to grow up fast!” You are now the provider.

I like to imagine a provider as a person with a hand down lifting another person up. In this place we no longer need words of truth spoken over us, that is the dependent mode. We are now in the provider mode, so instead, we need a supporting cast, and a village in which to raise the dependent. Our focus has changed and it is no longer about us. My wife for example is part of my supporting cast, we both take responsibility for our children, and we both see growth through the same paradigm, we both make up part of the village for our children.

We are either part of a care group receiving from others, or we part of a village responsible for those in our care, with a supporting cast we can be frank with.

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