Toward Authentic Community

Right now you are looking at a computer screen or your phone to read this blog. I’m sure it is not the first time today. Isn’t it interesting that most of the technological advances achieved in the past 25 years have been designed to extend our abilities to connect?  We have to ask, how does reducing our words to 140 characters or sharing our wellbeing through status updates really help us to experience belonging and connection?

Every person has a deep and sacred need for relationship with God and others, this is a principle that we adhere to at uLEAD.  Community is about all the ways we connect with other people. It is the ability to recognize the greater impact we can have through sharing our giftedness with one another. The origin of the word "community" comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together.  So literally, when we belong to others in true community, our unique human expression is a gift we share with one another.

The need for belonging is a primal human drive. The mapping of the human brain has disclosed that our limbic system is an open loop requiring connections with others in order to be healthy. A study by New Directions for Youth Development shows that youth reported their identity formation was directly linked with connecting and belonging in relationships they experienced with people and with the transcendent.   Community is where youth experience significance, and where they connect with stories, beliefs, and traditions that give meaning to life.  This space of authentic community frames spiritual development as primarily about being human.  It is a core process that occurs for all persons, regardless of their religious beliefs. Although it may be most evident in youth through their dramatic efforts to ‘fit in,’ adults never grow out of the need to belong to a tribe that engages a messy process of discovery.

According to the late Psychologist M. Scott Peck, any group of strangers coming together to create a community goes through four distinct and predictable phases: 1) Pseudo-community – where there is conflict avoidance, 2) Chaos – where good intentions abound to fix, heal, convert, 3) Emptiness – where people die to their expectations, prejudices, ideologies and solutions, and 4) True community – where people begin to speak of their deepest and most vulnerable parts, and togetherness is characterized by a true sense of peace, joy, and shared brokenness.

When we risk entering into community with other annoying, beautiful, imperfect, gifted people, we join the ranks of those who have gone before us, and those to come, who have strived for and who are reaching for relationships to address the void that only belonging can fill.

Being a part of a community is hard work.  It requires the pursuit of vulnerability, a willingness to both give and receive gifts of imperfection, and a risky clinging to a belief that where two or three are gathered The Transcendent is present.