You live in a community of some sort or other. It might be the nation you call home, or state, city, town, village, or even local neighborhood. But this usually is a general notion and not YOUR community.
Your community is the people who you call friends and family. Chances are, you may even have more than one community. This is important to find and be a part of because community is a resource for both familiarity and possibility as you work out your personal development in whatever form that takes.
What is a community?
There are several definitions of community. For the most literal, let’s turn to dictionary.com:
Community — (noun)
1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the)
4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage
The city/town/village/hamlet/borough where you live is your local community. This is the physical place you may call home, though chances are this is not the community you call your own.
What’s the difference? In the sense that I am exploring here, community, for lack of a better word, is your tribe (see definition 3 above). It is the people among whom you can share your self, ideas, common interests, and various experiences. It is the people among whom you feel most at home and settled.
You may even be part of more than one community. A community could be your family; a group of friends; another common interest group.
This is a group of associated people sharing common interests and/or experiences.
The community of family
This is something certain cultures place greater emphasis on than others. A lot of it has to do with a shared heritage, and a sense of togetherness only community can produce.
For example, my wife comes from a large Italian family. Her aunts, uncles, and cousins — plus many of her cousins’ spouses and kids — number in the dozens. I think she has about two dozen first cousins (plus spouses). By comparison, I have six.
They have several get-togethers throughout the year, some of which are small and intimate, some of which draw almost everyone who lives locally. Together, though, they have formed a community as a family.
You don’t need to have dozens to create a community of family. If you and a sibling are inseparable, you have a community. It is one of your tribes; one of your clans; your people. Within this community, you take comfort and ease, and potentially have a sounding board to new ideas and future decisions.
If your family is a bit more on the dysfunctional side, though, chances are they are not your community. This is not to say that your family doesn’t matter and/or that you do not love them — but when they are not your community you tend not to turn to them for the same comfort.
It’s ok if your family is not your community. That’s why there are other options.
The community of friends
People tend to become your friends because you find common ground, share common interests, and/or just generally “get” one another. There is understanding, and there is comfort in your friendships.
If, along the way, your friends’ friends become your friends, they may come together as a community. When you share interests and/or ideals and experiences, this can be a huge source of understanding you can use to help become the best you that you can be.
I have been playing within the same medieval reenactment society for over 27 years now. Overall, the other members of the society are my community. But deeper than that, I joined a specific and smaller group of people within the society nearly 20 years ago, who has since become my family.
There is more than one group I can and do include in this, but as we all share the common thread of the medieval reenactment organization, I am going to group them in the same community. There does exist within this hierarchy sub-communities, but they still are my community of friends.
Unlike my blood family, these people “get” me. We share common interests, have shared numerous experiences, and many of us know we can rely on one another in good times AND bad for assistance, encouragement, and more.
The community of a common interest group
You and your community are sharing in a single interest that is your point of identification as a community. Members of this community, for the most part, tend to take a similar focus.
Such a community may be based on a religion like Judaism or a philosophy such as Buddhism. Your community could be based on a shared interest like writing, reading, crafting, cooking and eating, and so on.
One of the best things about such a community is that you have that one thing you can work with one another on. The experience you share helps you to help each other.
For example, writers on Medium are a community. Sure, we may be working towards separate goals, but we are all working together as a community of writers to promote our craft, to help one another succeed, and to encourage making the most of our skills and abilities.
This community is super-diverse, as we all have different approaches, beliefs, ideas, and goals. Yet as a group of writers striving to make the most of ourselves we ARE a community.
Downsides to community
The feeling of belonging that community creates can go a long way towards helping you become the best you that you can be. How? By having sounding boards and recognition that you are not alone.
Human beings, even the most introverted among us, need connection. We are individual at heart and in our own heads, but we still crave connection. Community can be a great provider of connection.
But there are some downsides of a community to be wary of. Mindfulness and awareness of these pitfalls can help you and your community to be a support structure to build, rather than a wrecking ball to destroy.
Pitfalls of community to avoid
The pitfalls may include, among other things:
The One True Way. Some communities will establish that their way is the one-and-only way. For me, religions are the first to come to mind, but they are not alone. Political parties, reenactment organizations, even writer’s groups can dictate that any not following their way are wrong. This leads to division, disenfranchisement, unkindness, and numerous other unsavory problems that can tear people apart.
Community as an excuse. When you are uncertain or afraid and look to avoid a change or an opportunity, your community might become your excuse. They won’t accept you or you don’t want to abandon them or some other excuse will be made to not grow and change. This, in turn, can lead to:
Community for avoidance. You use your community as a reason to avoid something or other. They become more than an excuse, but the embodiment of why you won’t do something. They won’t let me or they will come after you turn them into a blunt instrument, rather than a resource for familiarity and possibility. People tend to join cults as their community in this instance, for example.
Disempowerment. Some communities will, along the way, work to override the individual. You will be disempowered in the name of the community, and expected to toe the line. This can be particularly insidious, as denying individuality and empowerment tends to do a lot of harm. This divides and conquers people, and utterly takes away the empowerment of having a common community.
Community helps you see that you are not alone
The biggest reason to find and/or create a community is to satisfy the need for connection and belonging. No matter how much of an individual you may be, it is human nature to find connection.
A community of people who share your interests, beliefs, ideals, and/or experiences, and more, create that connection. Knowing what and who your communities are can help you become the best you that you can be.
Is the idea of community contradictory to conscious reality creation and mindfulness? No, because you still need to find and experience connections with other people, even as you work to be the most you that you can be. Community provides a base to turn to for comfort and support, as well as people whom you can bounce new ideas off of without judgment (for the most part).
A community can take many forms but is frequently a source of comfort and support. Knowing your communities can provide necessary connections and go a long way towards finding and creating the life you most desire to live.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter, and you can choose what communities you call your own.