I love COMMUNITY, I long for COMMUNITY, I dream of real COMMUNITY, and I have very deep convictions about COMMUNITY. I also love pushing myself. I love challenges. I love fitness. But what I love, is when challenges and community come together. I did a post a while back called, RUNNING in which I explain some of this.
Anyway, myself and nine other people, teamed up to do the 2011 Central Texas Tough Mudder. I honestly believe events like this, attract people the way they do, because of an internal longing to push yourself, but even more than that, our longing to be part of something that is beyond self, something that forges a community together through the trials of the course. I believe, that while it rarely happens, these events show what community should be, and what it should be is much more than a popular word we use. So, I wanted to do a post on what I learned from the tough mudder:
Everyone Pays the Price: In many "communities" a few pay the price and many ride the coat tails. And as much as we preach against this, and boast about how unhealthy we think this is, I kind of think, at some level, we secretly crave this unhealthy co-dependency. It makes us feel good about ourselves; if we are the one's who pay the price, it kind of allows us to play the superiority card when needed; It allows us to have a pseudo self-righteousness; It makes us feel we have this weird sense of authority; it gives us a wrong sense of importance (the list could go on). Then as leaders, we say 'kind words' like, "well it wouldn't be right to ask them to pay the price" "it wouldn't be nice, right, good, of us to expect that out of them" the list could go on, but I think these are all clever ways of simply saying, "I need them to depend on me like this because it gives me popularity, it gives me a false sense of accomplishment, it gives me a false sense of leadership, it keeps me in charge, it keeps my job, etc..." But this is not leadership, and this is certainly NOT community.... From a Biblical perspective, even Paul thought this was a really bad idea. In 2 Thes 3:10, Paul makes the equivalent statement of, if you don't contribute, if you don't participate (this is not the Greek word for attend), then you're not in. We do a real disservice to people when we make them think they are part of community, but NEVER expect their best. We had a motto, in this race - start together, run together, finish together - period. That sounds all inclusive, but there was one exception - we had to know you trained for this race. In other words, if you didn't train for this race, we weren't helping you, you were going to get left behind, because you, in the name of community, expected the community to make up for your lack of contribution, and that is not community, that is ball-and-chain...It didn't matter your fitness level, it didn't matter what your condition was or wasn't, it didn't matter if you were as strong as everyone else...what mattered, is that you cared enough about the mission and the community that you trained the best you could, and if you did, we were going to make sure you finished with the rest of us - that's community!
Identity was Lost in the Team: Please hear me, I'm not saying our uniqueness doesn't matter, it absolutely does! I'm not saying the qualities that make us the individuals we are aren't important, they are. What I am saying, is that we live in a culture, in which certain qualities, statuses, fame, education levels, etc, feed our individualism and make us 'better than' the people next to us. But that's not the way it works in community - in fact we were a team of 10 individuals with different education levels, different financial accomplishments, different morals, different status levels, different successes, different failures, different fitness levels, different strengths, and different weaknesses. And the truth is, none of this stuff even mattered in community, unless it helped the entire team get to the goal. No one cared that I may be a decent speaker; no one cared that Lamar can inspire a crowd with music; no one cared that my brother was a doctor (actually all of us cared if we ended up injured, but you get the point); because if it didn't add to the team, it didn't matter...what mattered was what our strengths and abilities did for the whole... I think this is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 15. This is the danger of popularity and celebrity, they often isolate us on a platform that makes us think we are better than we are. There was no "I" on our team, the team as one was the "I".
Vulnerability is a Must: My old boss used to tell me, "Those who do, do. Those who can't teach." and while we know that is a very vague statement and not completely true, there is a lot of truth to it. As a teacher, I know that when I get up to teach, if I nail it, I know people will think certain things about me, I know they will assume some things about me that are better than what or who I am in reality. They will assume I am better than who I am...and as a good teacher, I'm going to just let them assume that about me. There's another saying, "talk is cheap." We all know this, and am convinced this is the reason many people don't truly engage in deep community, because people might figure out who I really am, or more importantly, who I'm not. I often say, the real leaders, the ones really forging the new work out there, are the people we will never hear from; they are the ones doing right now, what we will write about in 20 years as a 'new discovery'; they are the ones that will never get a platform; they will never be a featured speaker; they will never have 300-500 people in front of them eager to take notes on what they are saying; they are the one's who don't have time for that because they are too busy making it happen now. We knew, once we started the race, every weakness we had was going to be revealed. Every inability we had, would be exposed to the whole. The frailty that we seek to cover would be shown for what it was, and we would need, at different times, to deeply depend on others, that normally we would want to seem 'better than', because they, in truth, were better than us.
There is no such thing as THE Leader: Insecure leaders hire 'leaders' to do work they don't have time to do; real leaders, hire leaders to do work they are not capable of doing because they are not as good at it, and they are secure in that. We live in a one-leader-knows-best-all-the-time culture. But when we are exposed for who we are and what we are, this is an impossibility, well, it is possible in pseudo community, and in controlled environments that the one-leader sets-up. However, in real mission, in real game time, in real life, this is not a reality, it can't be. I can think of several times in this race, where I was NOT the leader, not even close, I had met my limitations, and to depend on me because I can lead in some areas would have been foolish. We allow leaders to walk a very dangerous plank when we hoist them to the point of beginning to believe, they are the best there is in every situation they encounter. In this challenge, many of us had to step up at different times and lead.
Yes, I learned more than this, but according to blog rules, I've already gone too long. But I'll say this, when I can experience and live in community like I experienced in the Mudder, I'll take that above anything else, even if we do get a little dirty and a little banged up! Until next year Rhinos-n-Tutus - DEUCES!