I see so, so, so many articles about people desiring a tribe or a community. They want to find their people; do life with them.
This sentiment is also a regular struggle I hear from people in my role as a counselor and leader within the church.
With all these people wanting this sort of relationship with others, why do so few have it, or feel like they don’t have it?
Being in a relationship takes vulnerability
One of the biggest barriers to these types of relationships are that they require us to be vulnerable enough to put ourselves out there. What we really want is for someone else to approach us first. Or we want someone else to find the relationships for us.
Common complaints I hear (from a variety of people in a variety of settings): No one approached me. No one acknowledged me. No one made an effort to talk to me. No one was friendly to me.
We want others to notice us, not realizing that everyone else is waiting for you to notice them. In this waiting game no one gets approached and everyone feels alone because no one had the courage to be vulnerable enough to be the initiator.
Being vulnerable is hard work. We risk the rejection of someone not really wanting that type of relationship with us. That can be painful. But it is part of the process of building relationships.
In order for a relationship to be built, the first brick has to be laid by someone. If you are waiting for someone else to do it you might be waiting forever
Being in a relationship takes tremendous effort
A common theme I see woven through my discussions with people and the articles I read are, it’s all about what you get and nothing about what you have to give. Receiving the benefits of this kind of relationship is great. Giving of yourself in this kind of relationship is hard work.
Deep relationships take mountains of work. They require us to give a piece of our time, our space, and even our hearts.
Being on the receiving end of a check in text message, getting a meal, or going to someone else’s house to play games and have dinner requires pretty much no effort on our part. It is easy to be loved and to receive.
However, doing those things for others takes work and effort. We have to notice things about others in order to check in with them. This requires us to be observant of other people’s emotions. It requires us to be compassionate. It requires us to express empathy. It requires us not to be self-focused. That’s hard work!
We also have to be present and available in order to nurture the relationship. This requires planning an event or having people to your home which likely requires cooking, cleaning, and preparation. That’s hard work!
It requires vulnerability in the relationship and letting people really see you through the lens of reality rather than through the lens of how you want to be perceived. This is the hardest work.
I see over and over again people expecting loyalty and effort and vulnerability from friends, family, church, work … but not giving loyalty and effort and vulnerability. We desire to receive these things from our friends, our family, our church, our co-workers, our employer … without grasping their desire of reciprocation.
And if it isn’t given, the relationship will dwindle and quickly fade away.
Lasting relationships require grit
Life is HARD! Your friends are going to experience pain: divorce, loss of a child, death of a spouse, loss of a job, mental illness, cancer, car wrecks. Going through this type of pain is awful, and being the friend of someone going through this type of pain can be nearly as excruciating.
Loving a friend and their family deeply requires giving them your heart. This makes their pain your pain; their loss your loss. Not only will their pain break your heart, it is going to require great effort on your part as you help carry the other person’s burden.
Walking with a friend through a crisis requires time, attention, and effort (to someone else besides yourself).
You are going to lose sleep so they can sleep.
You are going to go hungry so you can make sure they are fed.
You are going to shelter them from burdens they don’t have the strength to bear.
You are going to be loyal to them and their struggle until the day you die.
That is what real community looks like.
Relationships require saying no
To be in this type of relationship you’re going to have to say no to a lot of things. There is only so much of your heart, your time, and your life you can give. Our lives are already “full” of work, kid’s activities, girl’s/guy’s nights out, volunteer opportunities, birthday parties, bible studies, and programming ……..
There are many good opportunities available for us to be part of. There are many needs in the community that surround us. However, not every opportunity is meant for you to be a part of, and not every need is meant for you to address. Sometimes you have to just say no! I can’t do XYZ and still continue to be the type of spouse, parent, friend, child of God that I am called to be because there are other things I am committed to that require my attention.
You can’t be all things to all people, but you can give yourself wholeheartedly to a few people.
I encourage you, be brave! Get out of your comfort zone. Initiate a relationship with someone else. Put in the hard work that is required of this commitment. Share the burdens of the hard times. Say no when the opportunity and need doesn’t match the values you have predetermined. In doing so, you will reap a rich reward … you will have the community you desire.