In our modern society, we are becoming more and more agitated with one another. We are quicker to be offended and quick to cast ourselves as victims, even in menial interactions.
We are in a very real danger. A few of them, actually. But the one we want to focus on here is the danger of devaluing community, of losing a true sense of appreciation for what it means to be in community.
I think the deepest fear in any person’s life is the fear of rejection. As such, we have made our communities into pockets of affirmation. We surround ourselves, exclusively, with those who agree with us. Our communities look like us, talk like us, believe like us, and think like us.
Safety is the bedrock of community. And our society is in a crisis of community; so it makes sense we have backtracked to the simplest and most basic need for it.
The problem is that we have diluted our need for security into a crippling fear. We feel attacked if we are disagreed with. We feel violated if someone has a different idea or doesn’t like ours. And so we distance ourselves from these people.
The inevitable end of all this is no community at all. Because we will always disagree with one another at some point. Some ideology or circumstance or idea will come between us. If safety is an idol, these disagreements will drive us apart. If safety is the foundation, our disagreements will build intimacy as we communicate on a stable base.
We need community because it helps forge our character. Community helps us set boundaries for ourselves and experience consequences. Community drives us into System Two. It pushes into the kind of conflict that shapes and grows our ideas and perceptions.
We need community to save us from ourselves. We are so afraid community will destroy us that we neglect the fact that we will be destroyed without community. Life is a delicate balance between hearing and being heard. A bold mix of confidence and humility.
The truth is too big for any one of us to understand and carry alone. We need community to help us see our blind spots, to gaze around the corners of our biases and limitations, and to celebrate and expand the truth of who we are and what we can do together.
Perhaps the strongest reason community is important is because we are capable of more together. The whole of a group of humans is always greater than the sum of its parts.
There are beautiful things in this world, incredible aspects of human life, that we cannot achieve alone. We need the intimacy of relationship and the cold truth of accountability.
Humans need lofty visions. And we need each other to achieve them.