In The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, M. Scott Peck’s has a chapter on the stages of community-making which provides excellent insight as we mindfully make our way towards true community. Here is a quick excerpt:
The members attempt to be an instant community by being extremely pleasant with one another and avoiding all disagreement. This pretense of community never works.
In the stage of chaos individual differences are, unlike those in pseudocommunity, right out in the open. Only now, instead of trying to hide or ignore them, the group is attempting to obliterate them. Underlying the attempts to heal and convert is not so much the motive of love as the motive to make everyone normal – and the motive to win, as the members fright over whose norm might prevail.
Members need to empty themselves of barriers to communication:
- Prejudices which come in two forms: One is the judgments we make about people without any experience of them whatsoever. Even more common are judgments we make about people on the basis of very brief, limited experience.
- Ideological and Theological Rigidities and any idea that assumes the status of “the one and only right way”
- The Need to Heal, Convert, Fix or Solve: Often the most loving thing we can do when a friend is in pain is to share that pain – to be there even when we have nothing to offer except our presence and even when being there is painful to ourselves.
- The Need to Control: [The] desired outcome – community – cannot be achieved by an authoritarian leader who calls the shots. It must be a creation of the group as a whole.
Achieving emptiness is is a sacrificial process. Consequently the stage of emptiness in community development is a time of sacrifice. And sacrifice hurts. Such sacrifice hurts because it is a kind of death, the kind of death that is necessary for rebirth. But even when we realize this intellectually, such dying is still a fearsome adventure into the unknown.
The group has become a community. Where does it go from here? What, then, is its task? The community will frequently fall back into chaos or even pseudocommunity in the process. Over and again it will need to do the agonizing work of reemptying itself.
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.”
Excerpted from The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, by M. Scott Peck, M.D.