Community: Change or No Change?
June 24, 2014
If you read last week’s blog, you know that it focused on the stages of community development as authored by M. Scott Peck in his book A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. Now that you know the stages of community development, let’s ask the big question.
Why do communities (systems) not develop? What keeps them stuck?
If you think about communities you might know or even relationships in which you participate, like a marriage or a friendship, I believe the answer will be same. Relationships get stuck because people do not want to do the hard work of figuring out how they are participating in/ contributing to the problems. When this happens, relationships just go back and forth between Stage One, pseudocommunity, and Stage Two, chaos. Things go along just fine, then there’s chaos. Then we try to make things go back to the way they were before the chaos, so we go back to pseudocommunity. Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.
Stage Three, the stage Peck calls emptying, is the stage most people are either unwilling to enter, or truly don’t know how to enter. Emptying means a surrendering and stripping of the ego. It means taking a long, loving look at what is really happening and how we are participating in it. Emptying might require a good bit of meditation, prayer, and thinking. It might require enlisting other people’s honest opinions and thoughts. Sometimes it involves bringing in third party help, like a therapist or a consultant. We often hear things we don’t want to hear, like how our behavior has contributed to problems. In the stage of emptying we are required to develop compassion for other people, for their way of thinking and relating, as well as compassion for and an honesty with ourselves. We are required to expand our Selves, to be bigger than, stronger than, more capable than we were before. In a way, we are called to an ego-death, so that in the emptying, something new can be born. This stage, therefore, requires great maturity, humility, responsibility, and grace. It can be exhausting and exhilarating. Most people would rather go back to the pseudocommunity and never really be transformed.
This is why community can be so risky. We can spend great amounts of time going back and forth between pseudocommunity and chaos and never really get anywhere. We can spend energy, time, money, and our Selves in an exercise in futility. The more we invest, the more we can get hurt. It just is that way.
On the other hand, if a relationship or a community is truly interested in transformation, if they are willing to do the hard work of emptying, then the payoff can be life-changing. Being in a transformative relationship can not only change the people involved, it can change the world it touches.
In her short but poignant book The Faithful Gardener, Clarissa Pinkola Estes ends the epilogue with these words that speak to me are about the process of emptying.
What is this faithful process of spirit and seed that touches empty ground and makes it rich again? Its greater workings I cannot claim to understand. But I know this: Whatever we set our days to might be the least of what we do, if we do not also understand that something is waiting for us to make ground for it, something that lingers near us, something that loves, something that waits for the right ground to be made so it can make its full presence known.
I am certain that we stand in the care of this faithful force, that what has seemed dead is dead no longer, what has seemed lost, is no longer lost, that which some have claimed impossible, is made clearly possible, and what ground is fallow is only resting – resting and waiting for the blessed seed to arrive on the wind with all Godspeed.
And it will.
I encourage all of us to make empty ground in our hearts, minds, and bodies. In that emptying, in all the little “deaths” that accompany emptying, there is the true hope of transformation. This is the only way to be in true community or real relationship that makes any sense to me.
A client of mine drives a taxi part-time. Although it is a second job and is requiring some long hours, the job is allowing him to see many sides of life in his city, and he likes this. He recently told me that sometimes he shuttles children from homeless shelters to school if school bus…Read More
It’s 9:17 Wednesday morning. I am sitting on the loveseat in my office, drinking a cup of coffee. I’ve already exercised, had my morning meditation, and gotten showered and ready for work. My office door is closed, the phone is on Do Not Disturb, my secretary knows not to interrupt me unless someone is bleeding…Read More
Dear Blog Friends and Readers, I recently preached at a Lutheran church here in SC and I have been asked for copies of my sermon. I am posting it to my blog for ease, knowing that sermons are not my typical blog. You are welcome to read it and even comment. Or if this isn’t…Read More