The other day I had a great conversation with someone I met a few years but with whom I am just recently becoming reacquainted. As we sat there telling stories, I mentioned how I thought context was important for stories because it helps whoever you are talking to understand the whole picture. She agreed and told me that thinking that way meant that I was a painter. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant so she went on to tell me that there seemed to be two types of people: painters and pointers.
I listened as she continued describing the differences between these two types of people and how they both share and process information. Painters enjoy context. They share context and include many details in their stories and in the way that they communicate information. They want to paint a big picture so that their hearer has a richer experience and a fuller understanding of what they are trying to communicate.
Pointers, on the other hand, just like the facts. They’ll give you the bullet point list of the most important information and appreciate the same. They prefer to get straight to the point and to leave out any frivolous details that don’t support the main point of the conversation. She described a pointer that she knew that would be frustrated when she “painted a picture” rather than just providing the points.
It got me thinking about how we communicate. I’ve written about this before because it is something that I think is important. Our ability or inability to communicate has a huge impact on our ability to live together in community. So many of our problems seem to stem from an inability to both hear and be heard. We don’t recognize the differences in the ways people communicate and assume that their preferred method of communication is not only the way that everyone else communicates but also the way they should communicate.
This all leads me to reaffirm the importance of communication. We all need to continually work on making clear communication a priority. This isn’t simply working on our ability to speak clearly or provide a good argument, but also learning how to listen, process, and understand what other people are saying.
I want to add to that the importance of understanding how you communicate and present information versus the ways that other people communicate and present information. Frequently, I believe, our conflicts stems from our expectation that everyone else should communicate like we do. If we’re able to realize that there are differences in communication styles and adapt, both as speakers and as hearers, I think that we could reduce our conflict and we might actually understand what motivates other people to make their decisions and choices.
You may have heard the question asked before, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" It is sometimes asked in order to be silly and other times asked as a metaphor for a situation where two things are related and one is trying to figure out which thing came first.
Today is what is known in the Church as Good Friday. It is the day when we remember Jesus being crucified on a cross, dying, and being placed into a tomb. It is a somber day of reflection and remembrance as we prepare for the joy that comes on Easter Sunday.
I stopped by the mall today to grab food from Raising Cane's which just opened yesterday. I hadn't eaten there since I left Texas and was excited to see that one was opening here in St. Louis. It struck me while I was at the mall that you would have never been able to tell that today was Good Friday by all of the hustle and bustle there. The whole place was busy and people were coming and going, seemingly oblivious to what today signifies. Now I'm sure that many of them are non-Christians who may not know or even care about Good Friday. But how about the Christians? Is this just another day to "clock in" at Church if you feel like going? Or is it a day for more than that? Do the Christians even know the significance of this day?
It got me thinking about how the trend in many churches is to play down the significance of many historic practices. In my own church body, the practice has become to celebrate "Passion Sunday" the week before Easter rather than simply "Palm Sunday". On Passion Sunday a church will briefly talk about the Palm Sunday processional, but the rest of the service will be focused on the passion week account of Jesus' last days. More than one cynical person has said that we do this because people don't show up for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services anymore and they need to see Jesus die before they can come back on Easter and see him rise again. Whether this is the true motivation or not, I have no idea.
It makes me wonder, though, if we downplay the significance of these events because people lost interest in them or if people lost interest in them because we downplayed their significance. I think a lot of times we want to believe that it is the first one and that we're just catering to people where they're at. I wonder sometimes if it isn't the second one. If we, as a church, are responsible for peoples' interest or lack of interest in what God has done for them and if we have created a generation of people who don't see much difference between their "Church life" and their "home life".
I don't have an answer for this and I think it is something that would be hard to prove either way, but I think it is worth thinking about.
Community and community development have been a big part of my life for at least the last 10 years as I've worked and studied at various institutions of higher education. Once I started working in residential life my main job became community developer. Both as a student staff member and professional staff member I was responsible for connecting with the students in my building and helping them to connect with each other so that the community would grow and be successful.
The interesting thing I found was that a community would develop with or without my staff or I intervening. The problem was that the community that developed didn't always turn out to be a positive community. Sometimes community developed around underage alcohol use, drug use or vandalism. This was quite a bit different than the community that we hoped to develop around shared interests, common academic goals, and civic engagement. In other cases, both communities formed and tried to coexist with various levels of success.
I'm thinking about community this week for two reasons. First, my current institution has just announced that they are lifting the requirement that all single students live on campus. The fact that this is a graduate school and that all of the students have at least had 4 years of undergraduate experience and some have had other careers makes this announcement not surprising. We currently allow married students to live on or off campus depending on where they can find space. I think it will be a nice opportunity for those who wish to have more space and flexibility to find a place near campus to live. My only concern is the impact that it will have on community. One rationale for the initial requirement was that it would form a communal bond among the students that were living on campus. Now that this requirement no longer exists, it will be interesting to see if a divide appears between the on campus and off campus students in a similar way that it has between single students and married students. There's no malice in this divide, it is simply the reality of living at a distance from each other and not having regular interactions. We used to tell students who were considering moving into a residence hall with communal bathrooms that they would be amazed by how many people they got to know simply because they had to walk down the hallway to brush their teeth.
My second reason for thinking about community struck me as I was eating dinner recently. I realized how many places I've lived and how easily I slide in and out of different communities. There have been communities that I've felt closer to and some that I felt more at a distance. I was thinking about how nice it is to have a supportive community in which you're able to be included.
The fact that community formed regardless of the "professional" staff's involvement and the way I see over and over again people trying to fit into a community makes me understand how desperately each and every one of us wants to be a part of a larger community. You may say, "But I'm an introvert, I just like being by myself." I won't argue with that. As extroverted as I am, I still enjoy quiet time every now and then.
I think community takes many forms. It can be a large group of people that you associate with or it can be a couple of close friends that you're able to rely on. I'm not sure you always have to experience community in person. Some people can find community through TV commentators who share a similar perspective or online communities. Some cultures have very close knit communities that include generations of the same families living with generations of other families.
We were created to live in community, perfect community with each other and with God. Sin destroyed that perfect community and has left us trying to pick up the pieces ever since. That's why our communities always disappoint us. It may not be intentionally. It can be by what they don't do rather than what they do, but it never seems to fail that we are let down at some point.
Sometimes people think that the church is a perfect community. When they have this idea, they are often disappointed at the first time that there is conflict or strife within the church. They think that the church is being hypocritical and get upset. That's the unfortunate reality, though. There will be no perfect communities, the church included, this side of the end of the age. What the church does have, however, is forgiveness through Christ so that its members may be reconciled with each other. That's the best community I can think of!
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.