Growing in Community: A Christian Counselor’s Perspective, Part 2
This is the second in a two-part series on personal growth in the light of community. In my previous article, I examined the natural human longing for community—and how God intends community to be a place where everyone belongs, where people celebrate, mourn, live, and strive together. In this article, I want to look at how relationships and community are related to our personal growth. Good relationships engender personal growth, but both community and individual development require intentionality. My hope is that this article will inspire you to determine whether your involvement in community empowers you to heal, grow, and live generously—this is what community can look like, and it’s what God wants for you.
The Power of the Family
In counseling we often see extreme examples of the power that family members have to harm a life. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize the effect a father, a mother, or siblings can have on an individual’s experience. Even if not directly affected, we all know stories of others whose lives have been dramatically harmed by those close to them. Family members have a special ability to hurt, and with a potency that would often be far less if the same thing were done by someone else. This is the basis of Daniel A. Brown’s book, The Power of Family,1. in which he argues that family members also have incredible power to engender strength and confidence, and to build up and do good.
This power of the family appears to be part of our design. What is a dad supposed to be toward his kid? He’s supposed to see him or her on their tricycle for the first time and go: “Wow! Look at you! Aren’t you incredible!” He’s supposed to see his little girl in her first dress and say: “Look at you Miss Lovely! Aren’t you wonderful!” Fill in the blanks with every other statement that delights a child, showing them that they are enjoyed and that their mere presence is a blessing. A mom’s power overlaps this. She has the special power to nurture and create security and warmth. Your parents and your siblings are the authoritative messengers that tell you who you are and how valuable you are. Is there anything missing here in your repertoire?
You are always growing – human beings are not static unless they have stopped breathing. But it is worth examining whether you are becoming more connected to your community and family, or whether you are growing away from them and becoming more isolated. Growth is sometimes automatic, such as in the case of children’s physical and cognitive growth, and, in some ways, their emotional growth. But growth beyond simple development may also require your help; it is something you need to be intentional about. Such growth is often not easy and may involve anxiety and challenges.
Growing in Generosity
This is what relationships are like. There is a degree to which relationships will grow naturally. But when they reach a plateau, or go a bit awry, they challenge us to grow personally if we are to continue in a relationship of closeness and connectedness. The initial easy part of a relationship is usually built on the kinds of skills for interacting that we learned as kids. But these skills become insufficient and we have to grow up and develop mature ways of interacting emotionally with others. This is also by design and is a normal part of life, and you will be challenged to grow in this way.
Learning to grow in generosity is also a normal part of life. That is, you should be growing in your sense of generosity toward others. This is not about money, or even about things, but about your growth in how you tolerate others, your patience toward them, and your understanding and willingness to care well for them while letting go of your natural fearfulness and defensiveness. If your relationships are not growing, you may need to look at your generosity and ask yourself how you can be generous in heart toward the other.
Christian Counseling as an Aid to Growth
This process of growth can be painful and challenging and you may wonder if you are on the right track. A Christian counselor can help you to look at these different aspects of your life as you identify areas of growth and deal with obstacles to personal development.
1. Daniel A. Brown. The Power of Family.
“Happy family enjoying holiday” by imagerymajestic; “Young Friends With Joined Hands” by imagerymajestic