(“Community” is a buzz word, especially around Christian circles. For the sake of this post, I define it as consistent, intentional interaction with other like-minded people.)
Everyone wants community in the sense of a group of friends that bring fun and joy into your life. The problem is, as we age we settle in to our preferences, which include the kind of people we want to be around. If the friction is too high, we usually jump ship on the relationship, and sometimes that’s not a bad thing. But it can get to the point where we don’t spend time with anyone except those who affirm us.
It terrifies me that being a know-it-all is something only other people can see. I’ve never met a know-it-all who sees that they are one. One good argument for being active in a community is that it helps prevent this invisible social disease.
Recently my wife made me aware of a behavior of mine that I didn’t know was happening. That’s putting it lightly. I frowned as she told me about what I was doing because I felt misunderstood, never intended to leave that impression, and couldn’t have possibly been doing what she claimed I was.
Then I realized, this isn’t the first time she’s told me about this. Not only that, other people at different times of my life have told me of this same tendency in me. It’s completely invisible to me.
In this moment I have a choice: trust myself, or trust the opinions of those around me. I decided to trust her and have since come to see that she was right. I would have never come to this realization, never even known the behavior was there, without her telling me.
That’s one good argument for community. Of course the topic is riddled with complexities. Good community has to be sincere. There has to be trust. You can’t rush it. It has to be organic. You can’t over-organize it. You can’t just go to the store and buy it. You can’t force it. Not just anyone can confront you. It’s a great ideal, but it’s sometimes hard to find.
But you can show up, play the long game, take an interest in others, and accept that friction is not only a necessary evil of community, it’s one of the goods. You need others to contradict you, to tell you something about yourself you disagree with, to misunderstand you and sit with you and work it out together.
We don’t know ourselves as well as we assume. We need community.