Do I Really Need Community?

I used to believe that people aren’t important. That community wasn’t necessary for thriving. That I could get to where I wanted to go faster if I didn’t have people "slowing me down."

That belief was born from my identity, which said, “I’m too shy and quiet to actually connect with anybody, and far too different to build real relationships with people.”

To protect my heart from being hurt, I formed a defensive mechanism by pushing people out of my life if they got too close. I reasoned that if I didn't know anybody, I would never get hurt or rejected.

Photo by Japheth Mast

Photo by Japheth Mast

What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t someone else, it was me. I was rejecting myself. I was pushing myself away. I was my own biggest problem.

I’m definitely not 100% past that, but it has been so freeing to realize. Now I have permission stop hiding.

No longer is a life without deep, meaningful, and rich relationships worth pursuing. I’m done with running from what I now know that I need the most.

Here are a few pictures of what good community looks like

1. Depth > Width

Many equate good community to how many people we know. But to me, great community is when you have a few people who you know really well and who know you really well. 

Great community = a few people who you know really well and who know you really well.

We tend to go a mile wide and an inch deep, and that's what we need to do at the beginning. But if we keep living without any deep connections, we need to seek those out. My goal in community is to be an inch wide and a mile deep in relationships.

We physically can't get to know everyone. A lot of our relationships might be surface level, and that's okay. We identify the people we want to connect with, and pursue them to go deeper. 

Relationships can't all be shallow.

We must have the few friends we can call anytime and be real.

A good indicator of how strong your community is is how many people you can call anytime you need to process a hard day, a difficult decision, or to celebrate something awesome you did. How many people are on your speed dial?

2. Healing comes through community

All my big breakthroughs and life lessons came in community, often through hard conversations with real people. These moments almost never came when I was alone. 

You can't come to healing alone. | Wm. Paul Young | Japheth Mast Blog

You are designed to be open and unashamed - be vulnerable. We cannot get healing unless we are truthful about where we are at with our friends. Tell your secrets. 

Vulnerability means opening yourself up to be affected by other people. It's not just sharing the scary bad, shameful things about your life with other people. But it also means sharing the awesome, super cool things about yourself that you don't want people to know about because they might laugh at you.

Vulnerability is how we get breakthrough and healing and growth. It is impossible otherwise!

You have to risk in relationships - for relationships!

Kill introspection. Build roots with those in your life. Get out of your head, and into your heart. Connection happens heart to heart, not mind to mind. It's not always easy; it's always worth it.

Real connection isn't always easy; it's always worth it.

3. People at different levels in life

You need people who you are leading, people who are on the same level as you, and people who are leading you. It's been said that we should spend 1/3 of our time with each of these 3 categories of people.

We become like the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Who are you spending that time with?

We sometimes tend to believe that, "I'm invincible! I'm only affected by people I want to be affected by!" This is generally not true. 

So of course, we must spend time with broken and hurting people, because if we don't, who will? But we don't have to let them affect us in the same way we allow a close friend to affect us. There are different levels of permission we give to every person who enters our life.  

4. People who think differently

It's dangerous to surround ourselves with people who look, think, and talk just like us. It becomes hard to truly grow and move forward.

Some of my best friends are nothing like me. We look at life completely differently, and sometimes I think to myself, "Why am I friends with this person again?" But it is often those people who have changed my life the most.

We must surround ourselves with people who will challenge our beliefs. It is good to be friends with people who offend us, because it is usually them we need the most.

Offense reveals what is inside our hearts that can hurt us.

5. Everyone has something that we need

We are all needed. We all have something that someone else in our life needs. Every person we cross paths with has something that we need. We can learn from everyone. 

But let's not allow perfectionism to creep into our process. We begin thinking that people must be perfect, that those who are leading us must be perfect.

But no. Leaders are in process! I'm in process! It's okay to not be perfect. 

"You cannot give to someone what you don't have yourself."

We cannot give what we don't have. And we will get what we need from the people in our life.

Practical Next Steps

Take some time to evaluate the depth of your community. Are your relationships shallow and surface level, or do you have a handful of deep, meaningful relationships? How can you move to a place where you always know that you can make a call in time of need and have someone who loves you on the other end?

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Japheth Mast, Emotional Health Blogger

Japheth is a writer, photographer, and encourager. He currently resides in northern California where he is learning how to make life awesome every single day.