Being part of a healthy community is essential to us all.
‘Community’ is a buzzword at the moment, but what does it really mean? Another word for it is ‘connection’ — how we connect with other people, and how this connects us with the world. Brené Brown, research professor and author, says that “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
So while community, and in essence, connection, is on trend, it has always been an essential part of our wellbeing because it helps us to formulate our identity.
If you consider every group you have been a part of, be it a family, workplace, a group of friends or a sports club, you can trace the impact it’s had on your identity. Positive or negative, community gives us meaning and helps us to find direction in life.
Below are five signs that show your community is a nurturing and healthy one:
1. IT IS AUTHENTIC
If community is a buzzword, then ‘authentic’ is its cousin. Healthy community doesn’t take place without a group of people committed to being fearlessly authentic and vulnerable. That means there are no hidden agendas, people don’t feel they have to lie or make excuses, they feel free to talk about their ups and downs, and acceptance is shown for one another.
2. IT IS INCLUSIVE
While a community is formed on common interests or relationship, it is built on different personalities, ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual preferences and religions. Each community group will naturally skew towards a certain type of people, but its willingness to accept all others is what makes it healthy.
3. IT IS OUTWARD-FOCUSED
A healthy community will nurture its members. This often occurs through group outings, activities and celebrations. However, those that thrive take this a step further and empower their members to be outward focused. This means members are so energised by their belonging to the group, they actively invite and inform outsiders about it.
4. MEMBERS ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER
Acceptance is different to inclusion, because it involves actively doing life beside people who are different from you. It goes further than inclusion, because through it others are given a home and members invest in each other. A healthy community is willing to listen and learn from one another, even when members disagree on things. Instead of taking offence, they respond with empathy and love.
5. IT SUPPORTS MEMBERS AND KEEPS THEM ACCOUNTABLE
Seeing a family member on the holidays is well and good, but what happens when they come to you with no place to live? What do you say to your friend at the gym when their marriage has just broken down, and how do you respond when a friend wrongs another friend, seemingly against the principles your whole community is built on?
Healthy community isn’t easy, and we see this when its members make mistakes or are in crisis. When one person falls, a healthy community will do all they can to pick that member up, be it through a coffee, a frozen meal or a roof over their head.
This is complicated when a member has actively broken your trust — for instance, by cheating on their partner, using all their money to fund an addiction, or manipulating a friend. There is no one solution to this scenario.
A healthy community will do all it can to understand and empathise with the member who has ‘failed’ and help them to recover without compromising their values. However, they will also protect and support the people the member has directly affected.
Ideally, a healthy community will see the warning signs that a member is struggling or beginning to compromise their principles, and help that person be accountable to getting back on track before anything major happens.
We all want to be accepted, validated, cared for and understood — and do that for others in return. This is what community is all about, and we all need each other as we walk life’s journey together.