Family is the best picture of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Period.
I know firsthand that does not mean it is easy, neat, or clean. We bump into each other. We tolerate things we do not necessarily agree with. We argue and fight. We feel like pushing away when our space is encroached upon and we are hurt when others distance themselves because they feel smothered. Family is community at its best even though it can feel stifling, and that is when everyone involved is trying their best to work together!
But family is also the best place to fail, because it means we tried something new.
Family is where we ask for forgiveness because we know the heart of those around us.
Family in its purest form is a place of vulnerability and nakedness we do not necessarily share with the rest of the world.
It is hard to displace all the top qualities we need and desire for survival and success in life which we intrinsically experience by way of family.
Unfortunately we do not all experience family as a means to a harmonious end. There is hurt involved and there are times where misunderstanding separates us from trust and interdependency. There are plenty of pictures of family in different places and cultures, and we can all relate a little differently to what the word speaks to us, and there are just as many ways that this picture can be broken. The intent of our need for family is not always insured by our individual actions and personal notions, and that creates isolation.
Community in my mind is an absolute need for all of us in all systems and in all settings. Regardless of how it displays itself, all individuals have some need for connectedness. Community comes from the same word we use for communion, to share together. Even when things have not been at their best, community is an expression of what we grew into as part of family. This is why so many people either love or hate their workplace based on how co-workers and managers treat them. Even more importantly, we judge leadership for the mood or culture that exists in this space. Very similar to how we might view parents in a household.
Community is my highest value in any system or organization.
When I walk into a setting I look to see how people cooperate and rely on one another. How trust and motivation are both formed and broken. What does it take to enter into your community? But what does it also mean to violate it? Are there healthy boundaries in place and clear understandings of one another? I value community so highly because it is out of this place of ‘family’ where all other values and outcomes will arise. Consider what we heard time and again in the speeches at this last Oscar’s: I am so proud to be part of this community!
So what are some of my main interests in true community in a system?
- Trust – This is built and maintained daily. People need to know they are safe with the ones closest to them, both for protection and also comfort. You will do no harm and you will not steer them wrong. Is it a safe place to fail? Will you have my best interests in mind?
- Honesty – A family thrives on helping one another understand the truth that impacts the whole. Lying and withholding information to keep individuals in a weakened position, or profit others, destroys trust and ties that bind.
- Authenticity – I have not used the word ‘transparency’ in this description because I believe true authenticity is transparent in nature. Are the people around you encouraged to be truthful and grow in their understanding of self? Do they have to put on a work self in order to be with you? A fake culture is difficult to maintain because everyone involved must wear a mask in order to fit in. In true community we begin to look like one another while maintaining our sense of personal identity.
- Identity – There is a sacrifice of self that comes to all individuals when they enter into community. There is also a great honour is owning a name and place in this community. Just like a family carries a name and a face wherever it goes, both the good and the bad, a team and a work community have a name to share. Are individuals willing to share your name with honour?
The above image is my Valentine’s card from one of my great-nephews. It is on my fridge because it marks family and belonging to me. He gave it to me without expecting anything in return, and I have the honour of being called ‘Uncle’. Community, just like family, needs to be maintained, because the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices in its creation.
So what cards would your community put on their fridge?