Communal Breakdown

The following is a strong start to a book I have been looking forward to reading for some time:

“This breakdown could have been avoided. But then, few breakdowns in community are inevitable. In this case, some folks made poor decisions. Other people responded poorly to the poor decisions. More decisions, more responses, more trouble. Words were exchanged, positions hardened, sides drawn up. Rumors flew, and even when folks knew they were rumors, they repeated them until it was very difficult to discern wheat had ‘really’ happened.

People were angry and hurt; some conversations stopped, and new alliances were formed. Only certain people knew about key meetings. A lot of energy was expended in determining motives, justifying decisions, and anticipating ‘the opposition’s’ next move. Regular activities continued, but the life was drained out of them; everything seemed hollow. Small acts and casual comments were freighted with huge symbolic meaning. Everyone felt undervalued and betrayed by someone; a number of people threatened to leave. The meltdown had taken on a life of its own.

Friends questioned one another’s commitments; grumbling and weariness became highly contagious. Disagreements took strange turns; old differences and hurts came to the surface and played into the present trouble in unpredictable ways. Some people ducked, determined to weather the storm without being drawn into it. Others ‘defected in place’ — showing up when the occasion required it, but emotionally and relationally absent or detached. A few seemed to add fuel to the fire, reporting the latest outrageous development and speculating on what might happen next. Still others tried to keep conversations going and looked for resolution, but were often battered or sidetracked in the process. Several years later, members of the community continue to live with the wounds, even as they move forward.

Is this a description of the a church? A school? An intentional community? A parachurch organization? An extended family?”

Living into Community, by Christine Pohl

If this sounds familiar, perhaps you should order a copy.

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