Yesterday Lotus House hosted a seminar entitled “Thriving Community Life” led by Carolyn Griffeth. Carolyn lives in Kabat House here in St. Louis, and has many years of experience living in community. One of the highlights of her presentation was twelve “beatitudes” of community living. With her permission, I’ve reprinted them here, along with her introductory comments:

Since we come to life in community carrying both a longing to be embraced and deep hurts that make embracing others not always easy, we must be very deliberate about making sure our communities are places of embrace and healing, rather than hurt and further wounding for all those that enter. The following 12 practices can help build a community life that is oriented toward healing, connection, and growth. These are my Beatitudes of community living—ideals we can strive for within the messiness of community life.

1. Commit oneself to doing one’s own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual work. Healthy community life begins with choosing to be physically and emotionally healthy one’s self. Spirit inspired community life begins with everyone seeking God in one’s own way and in one’s own hearts.

2. Nourish a healthy relationship with everyone in community. There is a real violence to proximity without intimacy. People entering community life expect and deserve to be known and loved, just like every child in a household deserves to be loving noticed by their parents and not just ignored. This doesn’t mean going out for coffee once a week with each community member, but it does mean clearing up anything that prevents you from fully caring for someone.

3. Never withdraw from any relationship—it you live in community together this is not even an option. Instead, when you have an issue with someone, draw closer to them in order to prevent reducing them to your “story” about them, and to instead reconnect with the fullness of who they are. If a relationship in community is abusive the whole community should engage in correcting the situation. We must not tolerate any community member being treated with anything other than complete respect by another.

4. Speak the truth in love. Love demands that we challenge one another. Refusing to challenge someone is a way of failing to fully love someone, and a sign that you are not committed to their growth or your growth in relationship. If you are angry, wait to speak until you can speak the truth in a loving way that it can be received.

5. Commit to no negative speech about any one in community. Nothing builds communal trust more than this practice, which also demands that we wrestle with our own demons. You can relay events (Jack, forgot to do the food run) but leave out your interpretation.

6. Learn Nonviolent communication which teaches us to directly communicate our needs and values and not speak in ways that reduce and judge others. Study Nonviolent Communication by Marchall B. Rosenberg.

7. Admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness even when your error hasn’t been noticed. This creates a culture of forgiveness and models humility.

8. Seek reconciliation in a conflict by first speaking to that person directly. Try beginning the conversation by taking full responsibility for the way you have failed in the situation. If you meet an impasse, say, “Is there someone that we can talk to about this together?”

9. Encourage one another, as the Christian community has been called to in scripture. Point out each others abundant giftedness. No one gets enough words of affirmation and appreciation.

10. Create sharing times where individuals share what dreams and goals they are working on (related or unrelated to community projects) and receive enthusiastic support and interest. Support each other with goals, mournings, and struggles.

11. Know the ways others are marginalized. Chances are most everyone in our communities feels left-out or marginalized in some way, maybe because they are the only parent or single person, or they are of a different racial or class background or sexual orientation than most, or they have a disability or chronic illness. Resist the temptation to compare these experiences of marginalization (my struggle is greater than yours) and instead seek to fully include everyone.

11b. Resist ageism by cultivating significant relationships with folks much older than you, much younger than you, and with children.

12. Have Patience with yourself and others as you move toward liberation. We all come to community carrying beliefs, values, and habits that have been laid into us by the culture and by the way we have been hurt. For example, all of us have to wrestle with internalized sexism, racism, and the values and habits of those raised on the winning side of global capitalism. With compassion for yourself and others study these forms of oppression and support one another in making steps toward liberation.

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