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Like a Good Neighbor…the Power of Community

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.
— from “I Am A Rock,” by Paul Simon

It seems like an odd way to start a conversation about community, but trust me…I’m going somewhere with this.

Maybe you can relate to these sentiments. I know I’ve had moments where I felt like isolation was the answer. After all, most of the pain and heartache in my life has come from my relationships with other people: I’ve been through a divorce; I’ve been disappointed by people close to me; I’ve had business partners do things that hurt me deeply.

Life goes on.

We Were Not Meant to Be Alone

At the very beginning of recorded history, there was one man. He was the caretaker of a large garden in what we call Iraq today, so he had a job that kept him busy. He was totally complete in himself, with no needs except his need to spend time with his Creator

Everything around him was good. It was so good that God Himself said it was “very good.”

Except one thing.

The man was alone. Sure, he was designed to be complete in himself, but he still had an unmet need. He was surrounded by animals, but they weren’t capable of meaningful conversation.

That wasn’t good. God Himself said it was “not good.” It was the only thing in all of creation that didn’t receive the Creator’s approval.

The man was not OK by himself. He needed companionship. God provided it for him.

And even though enormous pain came through that relationship, it was still better than being alone.

Think about the lines from these popular songs:

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”
“All by myself…don’t want to live…all by myself anymore.”
“I feel so bad I got a worried mind, I’m so lonesome all the time since I left my baby behind on Blue Bayou”
“I’ll never go back to that circle of one, that circle of loneliness, I’ll never go back to that circle of one.”

We were not meant to be alone.

Community feeds a part of our psyche that nothing else can. Our self-image and self-worth is drawn from our relationships. That’s why isolation is so dangerous to mental health. Granted, there is some benefit to being alone from time to time; a certain amount of introspection is good for the soul. But as painful as our interactions with people can be sometimes, we need other people around us.

The mental health issues associated with isolation are well-documented: depression, phobias, anxiety, self-loathing, suicide. But just as dangerous are the physical manifestations of loneliness: arteriosclerosis, immune deficiency, sleep deprivation, to name just a few.

We were not meant to be alone.

Now, feelings of sadness and moments of isolation are normal parts of human existence. Sometimes, we all feel like we are alone against the world, especially when we are facing a difficult time or a challenge. But we are not supposed to stay in that place.

We All Need Community

Good times come and go, bad times come and go. We ride the waves of life or we let them drag us under.

Community is like a lifejacket that keeps us above the waves. Think back to a time in your life when you suffered through something alone. Who would you have wanted to be there with you? Now, think of a time when you went through a challenge with the support of a friend or a family member.

Wise old King Solomon picked up on this:

Two are better than one,

Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NKJV)

One of the oldest tricks in ancient warfare is “divide and conquer.” People are weaker alone. When lions chase a herd of antelopes, they look for the weak and the young and get them separated away from the rest of the group. Once they get one alone, they have their lunch. Have you ever noticed that when you are struggling with something, you try to keep it hidden? That’s the old “divide and conquer” strategy at work.

When you believe any of these thoughts:
  • No one else understands what I am going through
  • People would judge me if they found out what was happening
  • Others don’t deal with this problem
  • People don’t understand me
  • They don’t like me because I’m different
  • People are mean
  • I don’t need people
  • I’m better off just keeping to myself
…you are being set up for isolation and destruction.

Finding Community

People do stupid things.

People do hurtful things.

People do deceitful things.

People do destructive things.

Forgive them.

Because you need them.

You and I need to be a part of a community.

Find people who believe the things you believe, rather than people who will consistently argue with you. Find people who encourage you to be your best, rather than people who complain, gossip, and criticize of others. Find people who can rally around the goals you have for your life, rather than those who laugh at your goals. Find people who are going the same direction you are. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

For example, get involved in a church or synagogue, a business networking group, a community action organization, a game club, a cycling club, a gym, the YMCA, or some non-profit organization that specializes in a cause that is important to you. If you live in Naples, come to Fundamental Foods dinners at my office when we hold it. I can introduce you to a ton of really great people there.

Facebook Is Not Community

Facebook is a great tool and it has it’s place, but it’s not a substitute for real interaction. It feels like community sometimes, but it’s like being in a ballroom full of people with bags over their heads. You don’t really get the full experience.

Ninety-three percent of all human communication is non-verbal.

That means that our words only communicate 7% of what we actually mean. Have you ever read a post on Facebook that made you mad, only to find out that the person who wrote it meant something other than what you thought they meant? Because you couldn’t hear the expression of their voice or see the look on their face, you totally missed their meaning and maybe got upset for no reason. It happens all the time on Facebook because we communicate so much by our non-verbal behaviors. That’s why Facebook is not a good substitute for in-person interaction. Be around people. If that’s uncomfortable for you, you might need to identify what hurts in the deep parts of your soul. I’m guessing there is some pain there that needs to be forgiven, so you can come back to the community.

We’d love to have you back.

I hope this was helpful for you today. Maybe you know someone else who could benefit from a little community. It would be ironic to ask you to share it on Facebook, wouldn’t it? Maybe go to them and tell them about it. Who knows what else you might end up talking about?

I’ll see you here next Monday for “Move Right Monday.”

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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