Community, like family, is a term I define in my life loosely and liberally. It could be a group of 2-3 people, to a network of thousands or millions. What is not flexible for me are the qualities found in the communities that I belong to, feel welcomed in, and am proud to be a part of. The communities I feel most connected to tend to value the following: love, acceptance, compassion, authenticity, honesty, openness, respect, and support.
It is easy for a community to live out these values when things are going well. However, it is when an individual (or the community as a whole) is struggling or hurting that these values are challenged and tested. People get scared; people worry about judgment; people want the problem to away; people cling to secrecy. It is in these moments when we really see the strength of our communities, or the work that remains to be done.
Author Brene` Brown, in her book, Daring Greatly writes, “Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”
I totally get that. Just the other day, I was catching up with a friend who has been going through a challenging time. He recognized how it was just so much easier for him to get really angry and pissed off and “go off” on people, rather than acknowledge, deal with, and sit with the feelings of fear, hurt, loss, and uncertainty within his situation. It’s scary and hard to look at and be with those feelings.
I think the same is true within communities. It is hard and challenging to recognize and accept that a profound loss has occurred in the community. It is scary to realize “these things happen here, to us”. We want answers and explanations. Most importantly, we want to know that it was a crazy fluke and won’t happen again… and that it wasn’t ‘our fault’. We want to make sure it quickly goes away, because we are proud of our beautiful community and we want others to recognize it for the great place that it is. We don’t want a blemish on the image of our community.
While I can understand where that comes from, that is where I find exception. That does NOT help the community to heal.
Be it natural disasters, disappointments, or loss of members, I have found the most pride for and comfort in those communities that did not entertain shame, blame, secrecy, or judgment. The communities I feel connected to embrace one another; displaying love, compassion, empathy, and whole-heartedness. They embrace the healing power of connection, honesty, relationships, and faith.
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.” – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
THOSE are the kinds of communities I want to be a part of and I want to bring others into.
Today I have been moved to see such an intense and genuine outpouring of love and support into a community I used to be very connected to. People of all ages, from all places around the world have been quick to take the time to shower members with prayer, concern, and love. To see one terrible event quickly capture the attention and focus of so many, moving them to re-connect and offer support is truly moving. It may be “just” an e-mail or Facebook message or “like” or comment, but I believe people heal by feeling the support of and connecting with other people. It’s about love and compassion, y’all.
There have been times when I have questioned my connection to and/or support of this community. However, over the past 14 hours, as I see women (and a few dudes 🙂 ) come together to create a loving, supportive, embracing faith community around those who are hurting, I KNOW that I am proud to be a part of THAT.
I will not apologize for or back off from publicly showing my love or support of that community and those who are hurting; and I hope no one else does either. If anything, I am PROUD to let the public see the true character of, love within, and power of this community in the face of adversity, pain, and loss.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews, 10: 24-25