How To Create Community Instead of Being Stuck in a Crowd
The old saying claims,
This was originally spoken by an introvert who had a mad crush on somebody.
But things change when you move from two people to three, and everyone knows it. I’d like to suggest why.
The desire to love and be loved is at the root of all relationships. Even distant auxiliary connections between acquaintances–if they’re healthy connections–are built on derivatives of love. For example, you want your coworkers to be pleased with your performance even though their opinion doesn’t have any bearing on your job status, because the respect and admiration of your peers is a healthy way they can love you. This sort of love comes with high fives and “way to go!” and is both appropriate to give and receive, and it also helps you avoid any awkward unwanted hugging and kissing in the break room.
Sometimes people feel disconnected when a relationship moves from two people connecting to three.
I wondered how this would work for Leisha and I, once we had Avai. Our son smiles and giggles and takes all our spare attention. Other couples said having a kid created a challenge for them: how do you maintain relationship with your spouse when your attention and affection so naturally flow towards your newborn child? And how do you help your first child navigate potential jealousy from sharing their parents with a new sibling?
Okay, so you aren’t starting a family. Have you ever had to share a friend? Have you ever had a meaningful coffee interrupted by an acquaintance? Have you ever tried to get to know a circle of friends and felt like the odd person out?
How do you develop meaningful connection beyond one-on-one moments?
This is sometimes difficult for me, because I’m often the most introverted person I know. I find it exhausting to be in a crowd of people. Sometimes I’ll sacrifice what I need or want for the sake of a group, but then I struggle with some abstract resentment.
Here’s what I’ve learned: I need community because I don’t just need the chance to love and be loved.
I need the opportunity to behold someone I love being loved.
I need to witness connection and affection being exchanged between other people, without being responsible for it!
If everyone begins at the same level of connection, then
Whatever level of intimacy you have with another person can be shared with another if you invite that person into the connection you’ve created. Obviously, your relationship with anyone else is unique, and the goal is not to replicate it. It would also be wrong to try to make everyone have the same level of connection: that’s a Communist community, and we all know how friendly the Soviets seemed to be.
I’m just trying to say that community begins when you experience the joy of the people you love, loving each other. Parents get excited when siblings enjoy one another’s company! Teachers feel like a smashing success when the classroom is working together. The weird extroverted friend you have who plans all your group activities simply loves it when the whole room is laughing and talking and sharing life with one another!
This doesn’t happen by accident. This happens because someone decides to catalyze, and then stand back to witness, the connection happening in the room.
Do you ever feel lonely in the midst of the crowd? There’s something you can do about this.
How are you helping people love other people?
It feels great to receive another person’s love, admiration, and respect. It also feels good to give love to others, even when they aren’t the first to love you. Individuals cannot become communities unless someone chooses to create space for disconnected people to love one another.
Healthy people give and receive love as a matter of course. Community begins when we move outwards and take responsibility to build the greenhouse love can grow in. It takes great intention to become a person who gives place for love to be exchanged. We can not only be donors and recipients–we can be the doctors doing the transfusion.
This is why God is a community. He’s a trinity of all-encompassing love and creativity. He still hovers over the waters of creation, filling all the space. There is no place in the universe where He is not present, ready to create the same conditions He experiences in relationship with Himself.
Do you attend a home group or a house party and wish people were better related to one another? Have you thought about doing something about that? Are you always talking, or always listening? Is there a way to facilitate openness in those people who always stay in the peripheral? Do you urge people in conflict to reconcile, or do you take sides out of sympathy?
Have you found the joy of beholding love in action? It’s the original inspired thought which initiates community.