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I thought this blog was finished when my friend came by my office this morning. I decided to include her story. She shared how she has been hurt by our Christian community here in Portland. I asked her why and she expressed how words had been said to her in harsh ways.
When I asked her to explain, she replied, “Everything they have said has been right and what I needed to hear. It’s just the way in which they’ve said it that has turned me off and made me not want to listen.”
She also said, “But you know what? Even though I don’t like it…this is what community is about, right?”
In the midst of her pain, I was so proud of her. She gets it. She wants to trust that their hearts are good, and she wants to talk to them about how it was communicated, but she won’t deny that what they said was truth. She could just walk away, but she won’t.
She’s committed to community.
Often, “being hurt” is why we walk away. My friend is hurt but she refuses to walk away. She knows walking away can contribute to the breakdown of community and building bonds of trust.
I see this often in the church when we talk about this euphoric, authentic community. Yet after a few years of attending, rarely serving or financially giving, we give reasons the church has offended us. We don’t agree with 100% of what they do, so we take our toys and go home.
Is that authentic community?
I think I want the word “authentic” to be synonymous with “fun,” “easy” or “safe.” When that becomes all my community is, it’s no wonder my trust will break down. I see this break down in our society, churches and relationships. All three of these things are strengthened through commitment, investment and shared experiences. Trust is also built with these elements, and with no trust, there can be no growth in this “authentic community” that we talk a big game about.
It seems that Authentic Community should consist of a mixture of people:
1) People who challenge us because they think differently than us.
2) People who challenge us because they love us.
3) People who are wiser than us and can give us counsel.
4) People who are less wise than us, that we can lovingly challenge and guide.
5) People who enjoy what we enjoy and laugh with us.
A few years ago, I contacted a number of people who know my mother and asked them to write letters about her for a journal I was making. I realized there were quite a few women who call my mom, “best friend.”
She speaks the truth in love. She honors people, serves people and encourages them. She doesn’t tell people what they want to hear. She lovingly says what they need to hear. She commits to friendship for the long haul, and that builds trust for people to call her “best friend.”
Not everyone in our community will be our best friend. And with our transient lifestyles or at home entertainment, it’s harder to build and commit to communities. On top of that, our access to seeing all the crime and pain in the world (like I mentioned in pt. 2), contributes to our distrust of society as a whole. Why would we want to invest in people?
We hear the statistics, but no one really wants to live in a society that is building safety walls and has trust issues. Dr. Jean Twinge says in GenerationMe, “’Trust no one and rely on yourself’ is a self fulfilling prophecy in an individualist world where the prevailing sentiment is ‘Do unto others before they do it to you.’”
So what will we do? My guess is that we will have to find a balance for ourselves between, distrust for safety’s sake and trust for the sake of committed authentic communities.
Let’s first assess how we currently live, engage and react to others.
1) Do I want to be fully known?
2) Do I assume the best or worst about people?
3) Do I seek counsel from wiser people and obey their guidance?
4) Do I desire what authentic community can be in the good days?
5) Do I commit to authentic community in the bad days?
For those of you who think I am making a big stretch between society, the church, relationships and trust, I hope it’s becoming clearer.
In the good days, in the bad…in sickness and in health…
People will hurt me, break my trust, and some relationships will end. I am choosing to not walk away. I am choosing to commit. Sure, societies will have crime and the church will screw up, but how I respond is up to me. There may be more pain or confrontation than if I safely keep to myself, but I am starting to believe if I commit to trust others first, it will have a strong ripple effect on my relationships, the church, and hopefully society. I trust, despite my issues.
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.