The Common Misconception About Community – Are You Making This Mistake?
Do you know what a community is? Most people confuse the word “community” with the word “group” as if these words were interchangeable. In years of researching community as I wrote my book, I bumped into the misconception in literature, online and in conversation repeatedly. So let me be very clear right out of the gates:
Every community is a group but not every group is a community.
In fact, very few groups are true communities. We’ve let the word become watered down, devalued, overused. It’s become a hopeful label, a lazy one, like calling every car a BMW just because it has four wheels and drive. Lazy.
To say a group is a “good community” is redundant. If it’s not a good community it’s not a community at all. “Community”, in my mind now, is synonymous with “good”.
Similarly, you can’t say “bad community” because if it’s “bad” it’s either not a community yet, or it perhaps doesn’t even aspire to become one.
The other day, my husband asked me to define community. That’s not at all easy to do. It has taken a book to define it and to explain how to build one. But don’t all the finest things in life defy simple definition? Scott Peck would agree. In his seminal work, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, he says:
“When I am with a group of human beings
committed to hanging in there
through both the agony and the joy of community,
I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon
for which there is only one word.
I almost hesitate to use it.
The word is ‘glory’”
Most of us have never had this experience, and yet I believe all of us want to have it. Maybe we don’t know what community is, maybe we can’t name nor describe it, but in the deepest part of us, we yearn for it. Community is like the home you had and lost or the one you always wanted. Community is the warm and welcoming place where you can be yourself without fearing judgement. Community is the family that dreams are made of.
I have good new and bad news. First the good news.
You can build community yourself.
The bad news is actually good news as well: It’s not easy to build community but it’s worth the work it takes to build, even the difficult parts, because the journey itself is a huge part of the fun, especially when you understand how groups grow into community and how you can help.
That’s what my book is about; what a true community is, how a group becomes a community, how you can assist in the process. Community building is some of the greatest fun you can have. But you won’t really believe that (and maybe you shouldn’t) until you’ve jumped in and played with it. Have you ever built a true community?
Photo Credit: Virginia State Parks