Last week, we said that genuine community is about doing things with other people. It wouldn’t make sense to say that you are part of a community if you don’t know any members of a community and you don’t do anything with them. In this week’s blog, we don’t want to just define what a real community is, we want to go a step further and talk about healthy community versus unhealthy community.
Presumably, you have had experiences of both the good and the bad of community, unless you’ve had a remarkably easy or hard life. You have hopefully had experiences where community picked you up when you were in need, or moved you to growth that you wouldn’t have experienced on your own. Likewise, you’ve been part of a team, workplace, or neighborhood that hurt you or dragged you down. What were the differences between these communities?
A healthy community is one that helps its members flourish, rather than hindering them. Flourishing does not mean doing whatever you want or feeling a certain way; to flourish is to fulfill your purpose in life. Perhaps you did not know you have a purpose. Everything has a purpose! Tools are made for a task; biologists talk about plants or organisms having a function, and you have one, too. Perhaps a harder question, though, is figuring out what your purpose is.
Humans cannot be a mere means to a society or corporation’s end. Your purpose is not your job; nor is it to entertain yourself, though these things can help you accomplish your purpose. Some people talk as though they are called to a particular job–being a pastor, being a writer, or being the best teacher they can be. Perhaps people are called to particular tasks, but do not mistake this as your purpose. After all, most people don’t feel called to any particular thing. Does this mean that they missed out on fulfilling their purpose in life? We do not think so.
So, the community’s good cannot be placed on such a high pedestal that your flourishing is ignored. By the same token, your good cannot be placed on such a high pedestal that other member’s flourishing is hindered. Interestingly, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church says that the good of a community is dependent on the flourishing of each of the parts (paragraph 1912).
An unhealthy community makes it harder for you to find and fulfill your purpose. It does this either by not giving each member what he or she is due, not promoting the truth about what humans are or the ordering of the world. We conclude that your wellness is tied to whether you are part of a healthy community and whether you are promoting greater health in your community. Are you helping or dragging others down? Are you being lifted up or dragged down?