By Jasmine Williams, Crosswalk.com
Oftentimes when we think of emotional health, we consider the importance self-care and alone time, while forgetting about the role community plays as well. What we do in our personal time greatly impacts our emotional health, but the community around us is also significant.
When feeling the need to take care of ourselves emotionally, solo dinner dates or hot tea along with a good book can go a long way. But so can a meaningful conversation with a group of friends, or the embrace of someone who may not have a solution but is simply there for support.
Here are 4 ways community improves our emotional health.
Let’s face it. We all have something awkward about us - maybe a unique view on parenting or a political opinion that makes us seem a little different. Well, in a community there’s a good chance we will come across others who share at least some of our opinions. This can be especially helpful when feeling isolated or misunderstood. When we stay to ourselves and avoid making connections for fear of being labeled “strange,” we miss out on opportunities to engage with people who are similar and can assure us we aren’t so different after all.
While our sole goal for community shouldn’t be to affirm our own opinions, it feels really nice to connect and converse with people who share our convictions. It’s emotionally freeing to be able to openly to talk about a passion or belief with someone else.
In Romans 1:11-12, Paul expressed how he longed to be with his brothers and sisters in Christ so they could mutually encourage each other. During this time of the founding of the church, Christians were regularly ostracized for their beliefs. What relief and emotional healing they must have found in coming together, affirming each other, and strengthening each other’s faith. The same is true for us today.
2. Exposure to New Ideas
As important as it is to connect with those who are similar to us, it is equally important to form bonds with people who don’t think exactly like we do. In a community of people with diverse thoughts and lifestyles, we can become better versions of ourselves. This is specifically true when everyone in the community shares the same core values.
A Christian community, for instance, will be full of believers in Christ, but will have all types of people. When doing life together and getting to know each other, we’ll see other ways of doing things that may actually be good for us. Likewise, our own unique ways will influence others who may have never considered some of our preferences.
I remember a particular church my family attended where several of the churchgoers were very into exercising and weightlifting. For my family, it had always been an interest but not something we pursued. Being in that community made a healthy impact on our lives. We picked up better habits and invested in fitness equipment that we still use today. Group settings give us more opportunities to be inspired by the lives of others.
Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that just as iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another. Individually we will never have all the answers. As a community, with mixed abilities and perspectives, we can make a greater impact on the world and experience personal growth that is very fulfilling.
Photo credit: ©SparrowStock
3. Shared Experiences
It’s human nature to want to share experiences - both happy ones and sad ones. I never realized how true this was until I had children. When something is funny or enjoyable, they want to share it. My kids will rewind something they’re watching to show me the part that made them laugh. The second time around, they’ll pay attention to my face to see if I’m enjoying it too. Then when I laugh, they laugh ten times harder as if they didn’t know what was about to happen. This is the power of community! Happy moments are even more enjoyable when we can experience them with people we care about.
At the same time, the rough patches in life are a bit more bearable when there are people who love us and will check in to offer prayer or a helping hand. Community is a gift from God. Many times we desperately seek Him for happiness and comfort, and He sends us people — neighbors, church families, fellow soccer parents, coworkers who become family, and so on. We were meant to do life with others, and when we find those who are good to be around, it’s a wonderful blessing.
1 John 1:7 tells us that if we walk in the light of Christ, we will have fellowship with one another. It’s not merely a commandment. It’s God’s way of instructing us to do what is good for us. He wants us to engage in community because it is healthy. It builds us up.
Some people are incredibly disciplined and can motivate themselves to do almost anything without the help of others. I am not one of those people! I think most of us can hugely benefit from the encouragement and accountability of others. Take exercising for example. When I make up my mind to start a new workout plan, by myself I may last for a week or two. But in a Crossfit class or group fitness class at the YMCA, I am so much more motivated to show up and give it my all. Perhaps it’s the edge of competition that I enjoy, but truthfully I think it’s the joy I get from working alongside others with a common goal.
When people whom we have formed a relationship with are expecting us to show up and do our best, we are more energetic about being there. Maybe you’ve seen this in your own life, when your house is its cleanest right before visitors come. Sure, there’s a big part of you that just doesn’t want to seem like a slob, but there’s probably also a part of you that wants to offer your best to the person who is visiting. That’s accountability. We naturally want to give what is good and to be our best selves for those who are important to us.
In turn, it makes us feel better too. While I’d love to keep a spotless home 24/7 or stick to a workout routine effortlessly, I’m still delighted when I manage to be successful in those areas with the motivation from someone else. It’s not a weakness, but just another thing that shows we’re better together.
How to Engage in Community
These four benefits of community are great to tap into when you already have a group of people you consider to be your village, but what about when we don’t have that? Whether you’re in-between churches, new to town, or just too busy for a social life, there are times when we all find ourselves without a community to call our own.
Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re longing for one, but God created us to be in unity, so our spirits will desire community even when we don’t think we need it. If you’re looking for fellowship with others, or if you aren’t even sure you want that, pray for God to open your eyes to the group He has for you. Consider your interests and core values. Rest assured, everyone is self-conscious about something, so don’t let that hold you back. Pray and let God guide you to the amazing blessing of an edifying community.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Molchanovdmitry
Jasmine Williams, founder of Built To Be, is an agent of change with a passion for Jesus and a love for family. As a wife, mom of four, homeschooler and seminary student, she knows the challenges and rewards of living purposefully for God even through life’s busy seasons.
Jasmine is pursuing her M.A. in Biblical Studies and seeks to inspire parents to embrace their homes as places of ministry, where they welcome God’s presence and raise children to be disciples of Christ. Visit her website, builttobe.com, and connect with her on Facebook for more encouragement.