Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Building Community

When we think of building community, we often think about reaching out to helping others who are struggling. We don’t always think our role and benefits of being a part of community. Within our world, there is a lot of differing views of community. In this newsletter, I invite you to think about community in a different way. As you read, I encourage you to think about what you have in common with others versus what is different.

In order to build community, real relationships are built among people. This means getting to a place where we can truly be ourselves and not worry about the judgement of others. I’m not saying we extend trust to all of those we meet; however, I do think we often let barriers, whether real or perceived, get in the way we relate to and interact with others.

In the early 1980’s Dr. M. Scott Peck discovered something by pure accident during a workshop he was conducting. In short, what Dr. Peck found was the more time people spent together the more they felt like they were able to be their genuine authentic selves. Through this process, he found people were able to learn a lot about themselves and others, while being able to open up to process challenges and joys in life. This process helped participants feel accepted, which in turn helped them see the world through different, less hurtful lenses. This process of Building Community helped participants see where their fears were getting in the way of connecting with others and helped them more openly love others and be loved.

When we look at the core of each person, we are people. We all struggle, we all experience some sort of joy, and we all yearn for connection to others. Often our views and perceptions keep us from reaching out and connecting to those who are different. We are often afraid of what might happen. Perhaps what we are afraid of is finding out there is nothing to be afraid of in the first place. Perhaps we can find more openness, joy, peace, and understanding.

How to begin building a larger community:
1.       Get curious about those who are different by asking questions. Learning about the differences of others is not going to compromise your values and beliefs unless you chose to allow it.
2.       Allow yourself to be placed in situations where you can learn about others different than you and where others can learn about you.
3.       Examine any biases or stigmas you have of other cultures, groups of people. This goes beyond people of different races and ethnic backgrounds.
4.       Educate yourself about others. Read up on what others are doing and how others live. Educating yourself can help get rid of fear based on differences; the more you know the less scary something can be.  
5.       Allow others to tell their stories and actually listen to them. We often feel defensive when others who differ from us begin to talk about ways their life is different from ours.
6.       Be aware of differences in communication, values, and beliefs.
7.       Challenge yourself and your beliefs. Don’t always assume the majority way of thinking and acting is the right way.
8.       Take risks – you are going to stick your foot in your mouth from time to time when learning about others. This is okay. After you get over the embarrassment you’ll have had an opportunity to grow closer to another person through learning.
9.       Be an ally to others who are different than you. You don’t have to have the same values and beliefs to be an ally to someone. All you need to do is be willing to respect who they are.

Relationship is reciprocal. By using the tips above, you will give yourself the opportunity to grow and experience more of this world through relationship with others. If you are having difficulty, try asking yourself the following. Do I live in fear of difference, and if so, where is my fear coming from?

The following sources were used to write this post:

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