I joined Seven Graces (or Budding Community as it was called then) in December 2014. I remember being extra nice, gentle and smiley to everybody because isn’t that what is expected of a Christian? <Inserts beaming face here>
That exactly were the expectations I was subconsciously bringing with me into community! And of course, everybody was being super nice to me as well – a new girl in the community.
Anyway, at this point, I would like to introduce to you an excellent book by M.Scott Peck called The Different Drum. You could get a copy on Amazon here. (Get the kindle one, it is cheaper =p)
According to M. Scott Peck, any group of strangers coming together to create a community goes through 4 distinct and predictable phases. The very first phase is “Pseudocommunity” of which the essential element is conflict avoidance. Here are more details about what that entails:
Members are extremely pleasant with one another and avoid all disagreement. People, wanting to be loving, withhold some of the truth about themselves and their feelings in order to avoid conflict. Individual differences are minimized, unacknowledged, or ignored. The group may appear to be functioning smoothly but individuality, intimacy, and honesty are crushed. Generalizations and platitudes are characteristic of this stage.
That exactly depicts what I felt on my first few weeks in community! And actually to be frank, in any new setting in my life. Everybody seems friendly and nice and you naturally want to do the same for others too. The problem only starts when you are not ready for the next stage of community living.
Once individual differences surface, the group almost immediately moves into chaos. The chaos centers around well-intentioned but misguided attempts to heal and convert. Individual differences come out in the open and the group attempts to obliterate them. It is a stage of uncreative and unconstructive fighting and struggle. It is no fun. It is common for members to attack not only each other but also their leader, and common for one or more members–invariably proposing an “escape into organization”–to attempt to replace the designated leader. However as long as the goal is true community, organization as an attempted solution to chaos is unworkable.
Chaos is not necessarily bad in this case, and in fact to be encouraged because a community can never really grow if it stays within the pseudo community stage. Most importantly, why would one prefer to be in a community where people are not free to show their individual differences? Of course, this is not to be confused with excuses for our own failings and be condoned for hurting one another. Instead, we should recognize the necessity to work through our differences together, learn more about one another to take that extra step daily to avoid hurts and to love one another authentically for who we are individually.
There are two more stages as described in the book above, but I’m going to keep that to the next post. Keep watching this space for more updates on community living! =D