Ok, that's a fairly elementary statement, but sometimes we need to get back to the basics.
The reality is that we spend a whole lot of time practicing "at-an-arm's-length" communication techniques. Instead of addressing issues (or even non-issues) face-to-face, we text. Or Facebook. Or e-mail. We barely even use the phone any more.
But when your goal is community, you need real communication.
Your own community needs its own definition. It could be the community between you and your spouse, among your coworkers, your friends, your neighborhood, your own makeshift household. Whatever your community is, my guess is you want it to thrive. And in order to thrive -- in order to commune together -- you need to start re-learning communication.
Here are some ways to start:
1) Set Aside a Time and Place
The best way to ensure that things will be addressed and heard is to have a space for it already worked into the lives of all involved. In our own little community household, we have set aside a weekly meeting time to gather. We set aside this time not only to talk about household matters, but also to genuinely commune through prayer, worship, and Bible study. It's important to give yourselves ample time to address possible issues, as well as just be together. The earlier you can set this in stone, the better.
2) Posture Your Heart
If I ever find myself getting annoyed or frustrated with someone or a situation, the first thing I do (or maybe the second thing, after I complain in my head a bit) is go to the Lord. I ask Him to soften my heart and open my eyes in order to see things clearly. Am I the one in the wrong? How should I be reacting? Without going to God with my emotions, I find that I just tend to brew and boil over minor things. Or I just keep my eyes focused on the speck in someone else's eye while ignoring the plank in my own (Matthew 7:4-5). This stop-and-pray mentality has sustained me in marriage, and I believe it will sustain me in friendships and within this intentional community. Honestly, I don't know any other way to fight through my feelings.
I think another way to stay in a correct posture of heart is to be willing to take correction. Even if you think you're in the right, if someone brings to you a concern or correction, take it in silence. Sit with it; pray over it. I know that my first reaction is to fight against corrections, but many times, others see things I cannot see about myself.
3) Be Willing to Have the Hard Conversations
My husband once told me that people generally respond to difficult circumstances in one of two ways: fight or flight. I tend to be in the "flight" category, while Elliott dwells more in the "fight" realm. Although this has made for some difficult scenarios, ultimately our opposite natures have benefitted our marriage. There are definitely times to walk away from the fight and let things cool down; however, there are other times when it's necessary to fight in order to resolve the situation. Ultimately, things will need to be addressed -- and sometimes these things will be hard to bring up and push through to resolution. It's important that everyone within the community be committed to having these hard conversations.
4) Find Your Foundation and Commit
Every community needs a firm foundation -- something they can return to when it's hard and it would be easier to part ways. Some communities may want to draw up a covenant of sorts, a way to clearly state goals and beliefs. Others may have a verse or larger-picture-idea. Whatever the foundation is, articulate it early on and commit to it and to each other. You'll need this when the harder conversations happen.
In your own life, how have you kept your community thriving through communication? Is there something you would add to this list?
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sister, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone [i.e. have those difficult, vulnerable conversations, friends!]. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. [and finally, keep yourself in good posture:] Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:11-18
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