Several years ago my family and I went on vacation to the shore. While at the beach I observed a large group of surfers take on the waves about 100 yards away.
There were probably about thirty of them in total splashing, swimming and surfing. All seeming to have a good time. Throughout the day guys and girls would come and go, usually by themselves. Each person who made up that larger group of surfers existed quite independently.
They’d arrive by themselves.
They’d leave by themselves.
They’d catch a good wave and ride it in by themselves.
And yea, they’d wipe out by themselves.
There was no teamwork or collaborative effort. Just individual achievements or failures. And despite the appearance of being a large collective, each member of that “surfer community” was completely on their own lacking the support and safety of a real community.
However, down the beach was another group of individuals.
This group was composed of only four guys and two women, a much smaller group than the gathering of surfers just a stone’s throw away. One of the guys in this group really stood out because he suffered from a condition called spina bifida. (For those of you who don’t know, spina bifida is an awful congenital disorder that can result in significant deformity and paralysis.)
This small group was a real joy to watch as they took turns rallying around their handicapped friend. Despite his condition and physical ailment, this tribe of six fully enjoyed the beach together.
They played games, splashed in the waves, and buried each other in the sand.
On multiple occasions the other guys in the group would pick up their friend and carry him down to the water so he could enjoy it with them. It was so cool to watch and hit me very hard emotionally because I was so touched by this tribe’s incredible love for each other.
It was truly amazing.
Why do I share this story?
Because unfortunately I feel that our modern day society looks a lot more like that large group of surfers than the small tribe of six.
Yes, on the surface we all seem to be “in this thing together.” We share our carefully curated moments on social media, we chat it up over coffee and donuts at our local churches before service begins, and we engage in shallow conversations while attending sporting events and the like exchanging trivial tales of shared life experiences and challenges.
Yet despite all appearances, the truth is many of us feel more alone and disconnected than ever. We continue to face down our own unique demons while feeling alone and helpless because we have no authentic community to lean on.
We lack any meaningful supportive connection.
And when struggling with unwanted sexual behavior or the pain of sexual betrayal, that loneliness and isolation can feel smothering. How can anyone navigate life effectively when they feel broken and beaten with no one willing to help carry them to the water?
This is why community is so critical to our healing and recovery.
- We need safety.
- We need support.
- We need genuine love and empathy.
- We need others who can pick us up when we lack the ability to walk on our own.
If our recovery life looked more like that small tribe of six than the large group of thirty, we’d all experience more hope, peace, and yes, even freedom because life is not meant to be a solo adventure.
Rather than participating in a collective independent effort to achieve, we need to seek out communities where we can navigate the treacherous waves of life together, as united tribes, not leaving those who can’t stand on their own to fend for themselves. Places where we can feel inspired to do things outside of our comfort zones because we knew we had the support and love of a group.
Being part of a supportive community isn’t just a nice idea, rather it is essential for our success and optimal emotional health.
Because community allows us to feel like we belong, helps us heal, and reminds us that we are not alone and worthy of love.
Stop trying to surf alone.
Stop facing the crashing waves by yourself.
Leave the large disconnected group you’ve attached to, and seek out that smaller tribe who will love and support you regardless of your true condition.
And if you aren’t quite sure where to start, check out Small Groups Online. We have groups for men, women, and spouses that meet every week and are there for the purposes of recovery, healing, and mutual support.