Is community worth the hype?
By Sathiya Sam
Has someone talked to you about the importance of community recently? How about the value of vulnerability?
I bet you’ve heard talks on both subjects at least once in the last six months.
Interestingly enough – contrary to these popular messages, science has shown that the percentage of people in this world without ANY confidants in their life (not even one) has doubled in the last 20 years. Somehow, loneliness is on the rise.
I work with men on a regular basis who struggle with pornography. Each of their stories is unique, but one thing remains the same.
The man has felt, or currently feels lonely. Without fail.
Then I ask… what have you done about it?
The answer usually includes one of the following:
- They told a trusted leader and never followed up with them
- Their accountability partner is struggling just as much as they are
- No one in their friend circle can be trusted with the details of their struggle
Maybe it’s not pornography you’re struggling with, but there is something else. I bet you’ve had a similar experience. We hear messages about the value of community, we see that clearly this is something we need in our lives, and yet there is little to no opportunity.
So it begs the question… is community really worth the hype? Is it everything it’s cracked up to be?
Johann Hari, an English journalist, gave a TED talk in 2015 called “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” The essence of this viral speech was simple: Historically, we have treated addicts and those with unwanted compulsive behaviours using one tactic – isolation – when in reality, the very thing they need to recover is meaningful connection.
We tend to put criminals and addicts in prisons and other environments that separate them from society. It makes sense as a protective measure to the public, yet for those struggling, it does more harm than good. Hari goes on to explain that research has shown those with addiction that were treated in highly communal environments had much better outcomes and were able to integrate with society more successfully.
Brene Brown also gave a viral TED talk on one of the most uncomfortable subjects a human can discuss: Vulnerability. Her research showed that more than anything else, the human heart is aching for meaningful connection. The only way to experience it? Overcoming shame through vulnerability. Shame breeds disconnection; vulnerability breaks shame.
Often you hear the word “community” and think of something picturesque and perfect like the cast from Friends. Brown’s teachings explain that we do not need 100s of friends and followers, but instead just connections that are deeply meaningful and impactful.
Is community worth the hype?
I personally think it is. But as with any buzz term, there is risk for misuse, overuse and even abuse. So if you’re looking for healthy community, either to overcome a debilitating issue or simply to improve your quality of life, I recommend the following in your pursuit.
- Vulnerability Is Not Enough – Vulnerability for the sake of vulnerability breeds cycles. Not results. Vulnerability is the start, but if it’s going to be helpful, it has to lead to something greater. A greater purpose, greater connection, a greater sense of belonging, etc.
- Community Doesn’t Happen Overnight – This is yet another area where being a ‘microwave culture’ really hurts us. Building long-lasting, meaningful connections in an established community takes time. You must be patient and persistent. This is where you have to remind yourself why you wanted community in the first place. Otherwise, it will be hard to stay motivated.
- Don’t Wait For It To Happen – Community rarely happens by accident once you are past college/university. In our early years of life, community is built into our rhythms of life. Beyond that, the onus is on us. Be intentional with this. It will not happen by itself.
I wish the answer here was easy. Either community is not worth the trouble and you can move on with your life, OR community is worth the effort and it happens easily! Unfortunately, neither are true. Community is so worth it and it is equally laborious. Yet the research is clear that we are at our best when we have close, meaningful connections in our lives.
Sathiya Sam is a coach that helps men overcome pornography addiction through a systematic process. A recovered addict himself, Sathiya harnesses the power of his story, scripture, and science to facilitate the journey to freedom for men around the world. He is a sought-after speaker and works with high-profile clientele including C-level leaders, medical doctors, and business owners. Find out more at www.sathiyasam.com