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The Rewards of A Healthy Group
Ideas from shared by a Southern California Marriage and Family Counselor, supportive of Liberated Christians:

There is substantial research that clearly proves that one of the requirements of good mental health is personal involvement, on a regular basis, with a healthy group of individuals. Dr. Bernie Siegal, in his book Love, Medicine and Miracles, discusses the value of groups for the individual's mental health. This is just one of many sources on the value of group involvement.

Healthy groups stimulate us to take risks and become more than we could be on our own. It is important to join a "healthy" group as opposed to just a group. This is an aspect about group involvement that confuses many people. Sometimes they find that the group (church, work or club) in which they are involved does not feel good to them. The group seems too controlling and stifling to their creativity; it does not make life better. This is because these individuals are in unhealthy groups. Healthy groups must be well-formed and have a wise leader. The group should be designed to make life better for each member.

Groups can Divide the Pains of Life While Increasing the Gains in Life
Let me show you what I mean. First the pain. Much of our pain in life comes from feeling like we are alone in our problems; that no one has ever felt the way we do. Of course that is usually not true, as we soon discover when we discuss our problems in a group. In fact, if the group is a healthy one, we can discuss anything and know that we will be understood - not necessarily agreed with, but understood and encouraged to grow. Any "pain" shared with concerned others becomes divided. We feel supported and uplifted; encouraged and understood. Groups have enough different people in them (if they are healthy) to make certain that common human experiences will find at least one understanding ear; one other person that can help us communicate all that we are expressing; at least one other heart that can help the members of the group feel our pain. We could conclude that this pain can only be reduced if we are involved with a healthy group. But, where do we find a healthy group?

The first place to look for a healthy group, the place that God probably intended to be our healthy group, is the family. The family could provide all the important aspects of a healthy group. The family does, however, have to be healthy! That is, of course, a tall order. I am reminded of a cartoon showing a convention for Functional Families (not the popular dysfunctional family). The cartoon showed a very large convention hall with mostly empty seats. The point is, for many people, the family is not healthy. If we want to be part of a healthy group, we usually have to look outside of the family. Maybe someday that will change.

There are organizations that provide groups. Churches have support groups and there are many twelve-step groups. Some of those groups are healthy, some are not. A good group has requirements other than just wanting to be healthy. If you do not have a particular problem, it is often difficult to find a group to join. Yet, people with no major problems need to be part of a healthy group too. We all do!

Healthy groups have two leaders. One that helps the group move in a certain direction, and the one that helps the group members relate well to each other. (The two leaders can be one person with both skills.) The leader of an unhealthy group lets one person dominate the time and control everyone else, or at least control the topic, meeting after meeting.

Groups can help us get what we want out of life, whether it is feeling better about ourselves or building a yacht. This is possible because a group of people has collective talents from which the individual members benefit. Members of groups are also stimulated to be more creative than they would if they were alone.

I know that this may not seem particularly relevant to you if you are not having a particular problem. You probably don't feel the need to be part of a group, healthy or otherwise. But truly healthy people usually want to become healthier. So we could conclude that if you do not at least want to be in a healthy group, then you are not as healthy as you could be. We all need to be in a group so we can gain a clearer picture of our strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to continue to mature as an individual. To be truly, humanly mature we need to be part of a good group or "family." It is only when you are in a group that you can be more and more mature. (See, you need to be with a few others to figure out what I just said.) Groups may operate like a family; a family with a particular purpose.

If you are currently in a group that you think is controlling, then get out. Find a group that may challenge you but is not controlling. Groups that are healthy will make you feel that you are improving your lifestyle and quality of living. They will not make you feel like you must hide who you are.


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