Let's talk confidentiality for a minute. I have been a part of many Bible studies with women where sharing your heart is encouraged, so confidentiality among the group is usually brought up in the first meeting of the study.
I remember the first time there was a disagreement among the ladies present. I was in my early/mid 20's and a newly-wed, although I'd been friends with and studied with all the women there for years before. One day, after the class was over, a few of us were chatting with the leader, probalby in her mid 40's at the time. The issue boiled down to: When I tell you something in confidence, is it assumed that you are permitted to share that with your husband unless I tell you not to? Or do you not share with you husband unless I specifically give you permission to in that instance?
We younger girls--again, remember we're newly weds, give or take a couple years--were shocked that the leader assumed the latter while we felt free to share it all with our husbands. We never ruled that day if, in our group, it would be only one way or the other, but we gained some insight into how things would be handled by different women.
OK, so what's the difference really? What does it matter if I am free to tell my husband or not?
The difference is a group with a "safe" environment vs. a "vulnerable" environment. Safety is good and important, but a fence is what provides safety. It keeps things out as much as it holds things in. It can develop into a club-like perspective/click where you're a member or you're not. Vulnerability is often scary and intimidating. We feel less in control when we don't see definite boundaries.
The difference is where we find our security. While I certainly am learning the art of discression--keeping private things private--there is not much of anything I could share with one person that I wouldn't share with another. There are friends who have definitely earned through time, experience, and a common faith a friendship with me where I can very freely share my whole heart with her. And if it will help encourage another person--please feel free to share my struggles and responses. Now, don't be a gossip about it!! But I don't mind being a good or bad example. I am a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus. What can the world do to me?
Whew--that's an ideal perspective, and one I hold much less than all the time. And I know I'm an extrovert, which makes vulnerable sharing easier. But it's also a learned behavior. I have learned the benefit of being open and vulnerable with others, as well as having others be open and vulnerable with me. And it's worth to me getting over the fear to be able to share and carry each others' burdens.
The difference is keeping things mostly surfacy and feeling free to share my heart. When I am in a vulnerable relationship, I know that person and they know me. They can look at me and read me because they have learned how I work from the inside out; they know the good, the bad, and the ugly. And it's mutual. I've heard all their stories too. We're both fully aware that we're each a big mess, and we love each other anyway.
I've been a part of both kinds of groups, and none are bad. Hear me well (assuming you're still reading, lol)--SAFETY IS NOT BAD! I am very, very thankful for those groups. Sincerely thankful.
And I know I'm missing some thoughts here. This is only my opinion, not entirely well-formed, and not the only one out there. I'd love to hear yours.
Now here's the real question now--to publish the post or not? :)