The world is a diverse and complicated place full of diverse and complicated people. We know that we can’t live without one another. Loneliness is widely considered one of the most tragic of human conditions. Solitary confinement is our harshest punishment (apart from the death penalty). And yet, we also can’t seem to live with one another either. There is hate and prejudice. There is ignorance and isolation.
How do we redeem our lost sense of community? What went wrong in the first place?
Made for Community
Community is sort of like a contract, a covenant. It consists of two parts. The Me participates in the community, serving and caring for others. And in turn, the others in the community care for Me.
This is best for all of us for a number of reasons. We are too weak and foolish to do things alone. Others are more skilled, more knowledgeable, and more experienced in certain areas. Therefore, collectively, we can accomplish a lot more than we can individually.
In the midst of this context is a culture that places an extreme value on individuality. And rightly so! Individuals make up the community. The whole is a collection of parts. At our best, we are best and the others are best when we participate in the contract of community.
Half the Deal
Somewhere along the lines, we’ve lost this sense of togetherness. It has become an arena of me versus them.
What has happened is that we want just half of the deal. We want to reap the benefits of community without any of the costs. We want access to the profits without paying the membership fees.
And so, we turn one another into enemies, even while we acknowledge the need for one another. Spouses become passive aggressive competitors. Churches and schools and workplaces become the arenas for gossip and bullying. We demand others give us the benefits of community but we cannot see or even fathom where we ourselves are falling short. The result is a world full of entitlement, defensiveness, and victim mentality.
Instead of an individualized I participating in the collective We, society has become a world of Me(s) all fighting and using one another to gain a greater share of the spoils.
The only way to redeem our sense of community is to be unified. To realize we are on the same team.
The most powerful pronoun in the world is not me or I or Them. It is We.
We allows for the individual to be an individual. In fact, what we need is for each individual to be the best version of themselves. That only happens through participation in community, merging who we are into a We.
Our differences make us better, both communally and independently. Only when we return to the original purpose of community and agree to serve both sides of the deal with truth and humility will we see a change in our culture and in our own lives. The choices are out there. Let’s make them together.