Isolation is dangerous. But connecting is often hard. In my work with people this is almost always the most challenging part of their journey for them to address. If you’re one of those who feels relationally “full,” great! But it’s likely you’re one of the more than half of adults who feels lonely or seriously lonely. As hard as it seems, there are very real ways you can find your people.
I’ve heard over and over; “I don’t have anyone to talk to.” You imagine that telling someone will lead to even more shame. Nobody seems interested; that’s why you feel lonely in the first place. And things such as a history of abuse, a troubled marriage, an addiction, a mental health challenge, or some other brand of brokenness often seem especially isolating.
As hard as it is to do, talking about it will be the most liberating thing you can do in choosing healing. I’ve never met anyone, not one person, struggling with an issue of deep sexual or other brokenness who has found lasting and ongoing transformation without connecting deeply and often with a few other healthy growing people in the process.
Let me suggest three ways to find your people. These ways are not mutually exclusive. But considering these separately may help you see one next step you can take.
Be a Joiner
There are many varieties of already-organized communities you can join.
One of the best things to ever come out of addiction was the establishment of 12-step groups. Though far from perfect, these groups offer places where countless people have found safety, support, healing, and real transformation. If you’re struggling with sexual issues, check out Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) or Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA). If your family is dysfunctional (even if it’s not alcohol), go to Al-Anon. Celebrate Recovery is a biblically-based 12-step program helping people experience “sustainable recovery and healing to our hurts” regardless of their struggle. There are other organizations offering such groups with various specific focuses, and it’s almost guaranteed there is one or several near you.
Is a small group at your church sufficient? Rarely, at least as they are usually conducted. You may have experienced meeting with a handful of others doing a ten-week book study, or something similar. These types of small groups can be helpful, but they don’t usually facilitate the lasting healing and transformation you truly need. They are not set up to let you be truly seen and known.
You need a place where it’s safe to talk about anything, especially the things you don’t want to talk about, where you know people won’t talk about you outside the group, and where nobody is trying to “fix” you. 12-step programs are one place to find those elements. Other facilitated therapy groups can do the same. For example, consider Be Broken, Pure Desire, or SHE Recovery if porn or other sexual brokenness is your issue.
Be a Starter
Another paradigm is to form your own group. Start by writing down a list of your acquaintances or friends, people who might possibly be “your people.” Pray about your list, especially about who God might have you reach out to. While you may not know people personally who have the exact same struggle as you do, it is guaranteed (I am 100% certain of this!) that some of the people you know have struggles similar to yours. You know people who are struggling with porn, a broken marriage, mental health challenges, a history of abuse, or whatever.
Start by sharing your story with just one person. Make an appointment for coffee, lunch, or a meet-up at the track, with one person on your list. When you meet say something like, “God is working on me and I know I need to connect more deeply with a few others. I’m wondering if you might be one of my people. Could I share something with you?”
Then share one piece of your story. It doesn’t have to be the worst part, just one significant piece. And watch how that person responds. If that person minimizes your struggle, tries to fix you with easy answers, or turns it around and makes it about themselves, they’re not one of your people. You’re looking for someone who literally or figuratively leans in and says something like, “Oh wow. That sounds really hard. I’d like to hear more.”
Then do that with the others on your list one by one. Ideally you’re looking for 4-6 others who are also interested in growing. You’re gathering your tribe who can commit to meet regularly, to support and pray for and encourage and challenge each other. It may be you know one or two others; start there, and perhaps one of your people knows one of two others. Telling your story can be truly life-changing – for both yourself and others.
Get Some Expert Help
A third paradigm of connecting with others is to consider professional help. An expert can provide perspective and support that moves you past roadblocks, facilitates healing from trauma, and shows you how to employ tools for living well.
A truly knowledgeable and caring pastor can be a priceless blessing. Just make sure your pastor is a people-person with a measure of training and experience in transformation and healing. Other categories include a Christian therapist, trauma therapist, or spiritual director. You may have a wise and godly friend already, and you need to embrace the courage to tell them the truth about where you are.
Getting professional help does not mean you are weak; it means you are intentionally looking for the nourishment God is making available and choosing to take it into your being. If you’re stuck, investing the time and possibly money to get good professional help can be life-changing.
One Next Step
Who are your people? Like Frodo and the fellowship of the ring, you need a band of brothers or sisters to walk with you. The fact that finding your people is hard doesn’t make it either impossible or unnecessary. Please don’t rush past this critical part of your transformation journey.
David’s marriage nearly ended when his wife found out about his porn use, but they successfully went through the long hard process of restoration. Now porn-free for years, David invests regularly in maintaining his new lifestyle of sexual wholeness. When I asked what advice he would give to someone who feels stuck he immediately responded, “Find a friend!” He continues to meet weekly with three other guys and the four of them support, challenge, and encourage each other.
That’s my challenge to you; Find a Friend.
This is hard. It’s scary. It’s not something I do easily myself; it takes work. But there is nothing that will make a bigger difference in your journey to wholeness than doing the hard work to find your people.
Your Turn: What have you done to find your people? Will you write down, today, a few names of people you know, and ask God to show you who you need to reach out to? Leave a comment below.
Want More? In the podcast this week Rachel Faulkner Brown talks about her journey through pain and loss, and how she’s now offering other women the connection they need to find healing and goodness.
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