Community is a Pain

Guys- I’m going to make an honest confession here:  I’m not sure I like community.  Do I need it?  Yes.  Does it sound wonderful in theory?  Uh-huh.  Community looks cute on TV- like on that show “Extreme Home Makeover”.   All the neighbors and friends rally around a struggling family and show up to support them- the construction people come and give them a home that meets all their needs- and then that bus rolls away and there are tears of joy, and smiles all around, and sometimes even a cute puppy in the background for good measure.  Ahhh…community.  And then…click…I turn it off, and I get to pretend that community ends that way- that it’s always happy, feel good, tears of joy, a bus of blessing.

But real community is kind of…messy, unsettling, annoying, hard work.  Community is like what happens when you try to bake anything with children- it’s going to take longer, there’s going to be arguing, and you’re going to get a whole bunch of flour all over the place.015

Turns out I don’t want the flour all over the place.  I’m a bit of a control freak.  I like to plan my things on my time.  I don’t like waiting.  I’m not particularly good at knowing how to let people help me.  I prefer to be in the driver’s seat, literally, which is why I didn’t let my older brother drive at all on a 16 hour drive to see my parents.  (I didn’t say I was proud of it.)

And why should I ever be vulnerable ever?  Whose bright idea was it to make that a prerequisite for healthy community?  And depending on how honest I’m being, I’d tell you I’m between 68-100% positive that my heart is massively selfish and I struggle to really love anyone and everyone.  Case in point- I maaaaay have told my husband the other day that I was trying to “not seem selfish” but also “do what I want”.  (Like swinging alone for instance.)newport 3

I don’t usually say it out loud, but I think that’s an ongoing undercurrent in my heart, an undertow that threatens to suck me in and drown me in the self-absorption I thought was in my best interest.

Turns out community is really great till it’s inconvenient to me.  Community is fantastic until it means someone has to see my messy side- my needy side- the yelling, irritable, keeping-record-of-wrongs me.  Guys, I can win a complaining contest without breaking a sweat, and as an avid talker I find it easier to gab than listen, easier to use my mouth to complain about something than my hands to work towards fixing it.  Community requires that I use my hands and feet for more than just myself.  Community asks me to let someone else help me up when my pride would rather hide and nurse my struggles by myself.

Community is beautiful till I realize that everyone else is a mess too and it’s not like we’re all getting more and more perfect at a steady rate.  Oh no.  The deeper in we get, the more likely we are to step on an emotional landmine of some kind, more likely to find hurt and more depths of our selfishness and yet…and yet I marvel at how my heart aches for community all the same.  I marvel at how even the sandpaper of community is actually refining me, sanding me a bit smoother.  At least, I’d like to think I’m a bit less likely to give you a sliver today than I was five years ago.

I was made for being with people.  My church family might be the best example of that for me…It offers me hope and love, the faintest picture of what I believe heaven must be like.  I’m surrounded by friends who I know will laugh and cry with me, keep me in check when I’m being a word I can’t use in polite company, and challenge me to grow and love more deeply through their own love.

Yeah.  Community is such a pain.  But it’s the kind of pain that keeps me alive, keeps me from being numb, keeps me from dying in a selfish stupor.

What about you?  Do you struggle with community?  How have you kept your heart vulnerable towards others?  How have you learned to give up your own selfishness?  I’d love to hear because I so struggle with this myself!

 

 

 

16 comments

  1. I don’t want to admit how selfish I really am …but oh boy, I need to hear this. It’s those landmines that get me but I’m praying and pressing through. Thanks for your honesty and speaking truth!

    1. And what I hate is that just when I think I’m getting good at community, I’m the landmine that everyone should be watching out for. ha! You have taught me a ton more about community than you realize…I owe most of my closest relationships to the way you let people into our lives on a regular basis. So thank YOU.

    1. HA! My original plan was to sit here for an hour coming up with an incredibly witty comeback. After a couple of false starts, I decided to say something boring and let you insert your own clever retort here___________________________________________________________. (P.S. Thank you for your honesty- your vulnerability and heart to network and connect with people even when it’s hard has been such an inspiration to me.)

  2. Community is so hard for me because I have functional anxiety, sometimes I am very social othertimes I am paralyzed by fear and panic attacks. When the later happens I can’t keep committments so people think I am a flake and stop inviting me to be part of things. This happens at church a lot so I usually end up very lonely, after a few years I change churchs and the cycle repeats.

    1. Elizabeth, I’m sorry that life is so very broken and I wish I had a perfect answer. For part of my childhood, we moved every three years it seemed, and I got used to picking up and leaving. It definitely seemed easier, because community never really got too deep and messy. Sometimes even now when I encounter difficult situations or people who don’t understand me, my reaction is to want to start over. Though I can’t pretend to fully know what you must go through, and how frustrating that is. I can promise you that you aren’t alone. I know others who are extremely introverted, can’t handle certain social situations, or have panic attacks that they can’t control or explain. Even as an extrovert, there are times I’ve been in social settings and have gotten so overwhelmed that I left within a few minutes of showing up! It’s not your fault and people have to take the time to know you well enough to give you the space you need when you need it. I so wish (and will pray!) for you that you’d find at least one person where you are that can understand that part of you- and not push you away but love you right through it. I don’t know if you’re in the CT area, but I’m always up for meeting new people. Feel free to email me! carrye.burr@gmail.com

  3. Thanks Carrye,

    This is so true and thanks for sharing. I loved this…for some reason we are just taught to be strong, independent and self-reliant. I don’t blame my parents they were taught that too, I think it might of been out of survival from many years back in our American history.

    However, the older I get I see the true successes in life come from collaboration of real relationships were people share the ups and the downs, authentically. It’s not always ponies and unicorns. Sometimes flour gets on the floor. 🙂 Sometimes its worse…ugh but hanging in there, praying, struggling together, hugging it out and letting go/forgiveness thats when community is sweet. But community, real community, it’s not easy. Not even a little bit 😉

    1. I totally agree with you- I’m glad you brought up the way we are raised to be independent… a good thing in some ways, but it can be a major barrier to community if we don’t handle it correctly. Your comment makes me wonder what other things I’ve been taught or picked up over the years that also keep me from community?
      Thanks so much for your encouragement- I need that reminder that a “collaboration of real relationships” is what brings about the most good.

  4. The way I stay open is by practicing Romans 12:1,2…I daily submit my body (which is the mind, thoughts, emotions, plans, time, mouth, hands, feet, etc) as a living sacrifice to God, to be conformed, controlled, and consumed by His will.

    1. Growing up that was always one of my favorite verses! What a practical, powerful way to start each day. Thank you so much for sharing this- I may have to post that verse somewhere as a constant reminder.

  5. Oh, I SO get this, Carrye! I “learned” at an early age that I should never be a “charity case.” So, if that’s true for me, then it’s true for everyone. Not so! Sometimes I have a great deal of trouble giving help because I learned that being a charity case is shameful. When a ton of people came to my house one day after church to help me paint, do yard work, and effect repairs in an effort to get it ready for the market I was mortified! What would they THINK??? It turns out, however, that I learned a lot by being vulnerable. It puts you in a place where people want to talk to you about your needs. A common theme was “what can I do to help you?” In so doing, I found out that there are people who are very unlike me…they THRIVE on being charitable. I was able to provide them joy and a sense of fulfillment with being able to help me. It turns out that I was able to give these people a huge gift by allowing them into my home and heart.

    1. Funny the things that stick with us and become part of who we are!! I think my friendships now are slowly breaking me of that idea, but it’s hard to get past old habits. How have you grown away from that idea?

      1. Your dad and church have had a lot to do with me breaking from the idea of the shamefulness of charity. I grew up in a different religion and it was very rigid and structured. We were always meant to feel guilt and shame…I was never, ever told that I was loved and forgiven. We had prayers and dogma to follow…I never knew that Christ was mercy and grace incarnate, and that He was the epitome of charity. I learned that from your dad, Carrye. To be honest, it is still work to “undo” 40 years of previous practice and I still struggle with it every day, but by learning from your dad I have come a long, long way in understanding the concepts of grace and mercy and charity.

        1. That is wonderful to hear, and I’m sure my dad would be humbled to know how God worked through him. Even though you may struggle with it still, what a beautiful story you have of rising out of false ideas into the strength and hope of God’s truth and love. Thank you again for sharing your story!

    1. Here in CT we actually rub sandpaper on one another. I wish I could take credit for an awesome metaphor. 😉 Even family “community” isn’t perfect as I, the squeaky wheel, constantly remind us all. ha!

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