Lately I've been thinking a lot about what makes a community work well. This week there have been more than a few reminders of how it looks when community doesn't work in a healthy way. The post I'm about to plunge into writing is a hard one, because all too often I'm guilty of exactly what this post is about. So just know that as I write, I'm listening too.
Up until recently, I reserved the worst of my anger about this for the church culture, for that was pretty much my only experience with messy and dysfunctional community. And then I joined a couple local kids items swap/sell groups for moms on Facebook. Boy, has that been an education.
As it turns out, what ugly things often happen in the Christian community, happen elsewhere too. Duh. You'd think I would know this by now. So I've been thinking about why this is so, why groups we form turn ugly, whether it's a church thing or a mom's swap group.
When people are involved, brokenness will follow. That's just the way it is. Our struggle then, is to work to put things back together until that Perfect Person comes to make everything right with the world again and make all things unbroken.
The core behavior at heart is unkindness. It comes about in many forms, from snide remarks to cliques to downright cruel actions. I think, perhaps, the core cause might just be pride. We would rather be right and have our own way than to ever give a bit of undeserved grace or cut some slack on another fallible human being.
That is just sickening for so many reasons.
The first reason obviously is that we hurt another human being created in the image of God when we act with unkindness and lack of care or concern. Our focus is so inward-bound that we forget the person we are hurting has a heart, has tears, has loved ones who could be hurt as well by our selfish behavior. We look at that person as expendable, merely a commodity to be traded for a better one. We do this in friendships. We moms do it all too often with each other. And sadly, I know all too well that the Christian community does this all too often. What happened to "they shall know you by your love"? Instead, it's become, "they shall know you by your infightings, splitting, excluding, and unkindness".
The second reason that my heart feels sick about the way we tear down each other with our words and actions is that there is a whole broken world out there that needs our touch, and it's foolishness to get caught up in petty unkindness and having to be right. Is it really the most important thing if the item you bought from a swap doesn't meet your standards and you have to go out of your way to rectify the situation? Is it so necessary to tear down the poor mom who did that? Meanwhile, there are children being starved, abused, trafficked, left homeless or orphaned. And that's just the beginning of all the broken things going on outside our little homes. Part of changing our hearts and behavior includes enlarging our focus so we can see more of the big picture.
I don't know if any of this makes sense or not. I find it difficult to articulate very well. But what I do know is that it is so much more wonderful and satisfying to learn how to be nice to each other. (Cue Boz music here.) Seriously, if preschoolers can get the idea of "be nice to each other, be nice and you'll see how nice being nice can be...", surely we grown-ups can put a little more thought into our words and actions before we type that post on Facebook or alter the course of someone's life in a moment.
There are moments when we will have to make hard choices that will cause pain to another, but surely we can learn how to do it in a loving, healthy, caring manner. Can't we?