4 Messages We All Need to Hear
In The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck defined love as the willingness to extend oneself for one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Community building is a willingness to extend oneself, as well, for community, at its essence, is love.
Extending oneself does not mean that we should tell people what they should do; what courses to take, what book to read; how to handle the situation. We don’t help people by “helping” them. Attempting to help sends the wrong message – that we don’t believe they are capable of helping themselves, or worse; that we believe we know better than they how to live their lives.
We extend ourselves by supporting one another with our presence. Our presence delivers four messages to them:
- You matter to me
- You are worthy of my time and attention
- You are competent in my eyes
- You have the power to influence this situation
These are the messages we needed to receive from our mothering figure when we were small children, the four messages that formed our self-esteem. These are the messages that, unconsciously, we are still listening for in our conversations today. I came across this information when I was listening to Professor Dalton Kehoe’s lectures on communication (highly recommended).
These are also four messages we receive from the members of our communities. When a group of people has evolved into community together, these messages are integral components of the relationships.
When my son died, the members of my community extended themselves for me. They didn’t try to make better something that could not be better. They stayed with me when I felt I was such terrible company that I would not have asked for theirs. Their presence let me know I mattered to them, that I was worthy of their time and attention, that I was competent in their eyes and that they knew I would eventually triumph over my grief.
We all need that presence in our lives. We need to be a part of a community of people who will cry with us when we are hurting as if our pain were theirs too; who will celebrate with us when we are joyful as if our triumphs were their own.
We all need community.