Tag Archives: community

Breaking Down The Walls Between Us

“So we can hate each other and fear each other
We can build these walls between each other
Blow by blow and brick by brick
Keep yourself locked in

Maybe we should love somebody
Maybe we could care a little more
Living for love, unafraid of the end
Forgiveness is the only real revenge

So we can heal each other and fill each other
We can break these walls between each other
Blow by blow and brick by brick
Keep yourself open.”

(Taken from the lyrics of Holy War by Alicia Keys)

Do you ever feel misunderstood? Those days and moments when somebody decides they think they know who you are, but you know that what they are saying and how they are acting shows that they don’t have a clue who you REALLY are?

Now let’s reverse the question.

Do you ever misunderstand others? You decide that you think you know who someone is and why they say and do what they do. But perhaps over time you realise that you totally ‘missed it’ and you didn’t or don’t have a clue who they REALLY are.

We can ALL make a lot of assumptions.
We hate being judged.
And yet we are guilty of judging.
Of assuming that we know.
When in fact we really don’t.

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try & figure out why they do what they do.” – Dale Carnegie

We live in a world of barriers and brick walls. We can build our little fortresses to protect us and ours and in protecting ourselves we can end up ‘locked in’ rather than ‘open’.

That is why I love the lyrics above (that I have edited) to Alicia Keys’ song Holy War. The song highlights how we have built so many walls between one another.

Walls of pride: My way is the best way.
Walls of hate: I don’t like who you are and what you do.
Walls of fear: Our differences scare and distress me.
Walls of hurt: Somebody hurt me and you might too.
Walls of misunderstanding: I don’t want to listen to you.
Walls of stereotypes: I already know who you are.
Walls of differences: Look at all the ways we are different.
Walls of revenge: If you treat me and mine badly I will treat you and yours badly.

And yet the more we lock ourselves into our places of safety, the worse it all gets. Our perspective becomes tunneled. Skewed by our own limited view. We don’t attempt to understand. We assume we already know.

But the trouble is, usually we DON’T KNOW!

from darknessI LOVE diversity. I have spent all my life with such a diversity of different people. People from different cultures, countries, ethnic groupings, social groupings, sexual orientation, different backgrounds, different faiths, different colours, super intelligent or with learning difficulties, the able bodied, disabled, chronically and terminally ill.

And I LOVE it!

I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I want to live, learn and grow all my life and I can only do that by opening up mine and my families life to diversity and difference. I would honestly get so bored only spending time with people like me! I need change and difference to help challenge, inspire and shape me.

I need YOU to make me a better ME!

I want my level of exposure to keep growing. To meet more people. To understand more about why YOU do and say what you do, and for you to learn why I say and do what I do.

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try & figure out why they do what they do.” – Dale Carnegie

This is one of the reasons I LOVE watching documentaries and reading books about other people’s REAL life journeys, battles, challenges and victories. It opens my mind and enlarges my perspective.

It helps me to be a better human.

I want to understand why people do what they do. Because it helps me to show empathy and love to others more. As well as helping me to understand myself more. It opens my heart and expands my mind.

Perhaps we are ALL more similar than we think.

The lyrics I’ve shared above help to paint a picture of why I believe we ALL need one another. To inspire us to spend more time with, and listening to, a diversity of other people. Bringing love and understanding to our conversations and choosing to learn more about each other’s perspectives. So that TOGETHER we can make the world a better place. It tear’s down all the walls and barriers of ignorance and fear that exist between us all. It is there that we realise we perhaps didn’t know quite as much as once thought we did.

The more I get to know people that at first seem very different from me. The more I realise that we have a lot more in common than we might at first think.

We are ALL human and we all live in this world TOGETHER!

It’s in that place that we learn that we can’t really hide away from the world, instead we all have to live and be here. You and me are stuck on this earth TOGETHER, whether we like it or not! And these days I am grateful that our world is a lot more mixed up than it once was. It brings so many more opportunities.

So instead of hiding maybe we could learn how to be more open. To reach out to others with open ears, hearts and minds. Ready to listen and learn. Ready to be challenged and changed.

Ready to be more human.

Ready to pull down the walls between us and do our best to build bridges instead.

Bridges of love: I am going to treat you how I want to be treated.
Bridges of humility: I still have so much to learn, (even when we disagree) teach me what you know.
Bridges of faith: I am going to chose to believe the best about you rather than the worst.
Bridges of healing: I will try to empathise and support you in your pain.
Bridges of understanding: I will listen to your perspective.
Bridges of acceptance: We are all unique individuals who can’t be put in a general box.
Bridges of similarities: We all have common ground because we are ALL human.
Bridges of forgiveness: We ALL make mistakes and get things wrong.

I know I would rather be a builder of bridges rather than a builder of walls. A person who chooses to break down these walls we have between each other.

‘Blow by blow and brick by brick’.

I want to keep myself OPEN because it is ALWAYS so much better than staying LOCKED in.

How about you?


We Are Not Meant To Be Alone: Individualism vs Community

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
― Mother Teresa

In my last blog post: Surviving the Storm I shared some of the story of the last 3 months of my life. During the post I wrote about the journey I had been on following a fall off a ladder which, for a while, left me with a debilitating brain & spinal fluid injury which stopped me in my tracks for a number of weeks. (And included a two and a half week stay in a local hospital).

It was an immensely challenging time for us as a family. Suddenly I found myself lying in bed pretty much all day, for 10 weeks, and if I did get up, for a minimal amount of time (usually 10-30mins) I was so lightheaded, dizzy, uncomfortable & in pain that I couldn’t function normally and quickly had to return to bed. Even lying in bed I battled various unpleasant symptoms.

My husband Matt, whose job can take him all over the country, as well as being one of the leaders at our local church, suddenly lost the day to day support of his wife (and our girls (age 8 & 10) mum) and had to take on many of my roles whilst coping with his own. Anyone who knows what a ‘full’ life we normally lead knows what a challenge that was for him. One to which he stepped up to and executed so well and calmly amidst a very challenging time.

However, in this season one thing we knew early on is that we could not face this alone – without our daily life falling apart.

We needed help.
We needed support.
We needed others.
We could not cope on our own.

It’s a humbling process when you can no longer manage day to day life on your own. Having to ask for and accept help from others so that life can somehow keep moving forward each day.

For this season we could no longer be the ones to offer help. Instead we had to accept others help daily. And that brings a new level of humility as well as a new level of gratefulness for family, friendship and community.

from darkness

It was the:
and generosity
of so many people around us that made our storm bearable. This combined with the inner strength and peace that came from our deep relationship with God allowed us to push through our weaknesses and somehow weather the storm.

We are not meant to be alone.
We are created and built to be together in family and community.
We are built to show and share love even beyond our natural families.

It is so sad that our western societies often place individualism over community. I believe that individualism is often a fruit of selfishness and self preservation and it robs us of the joys of true community. Our societies have lost so much community spirit and although various people attempt to revive it, it can be a challenging battle to fight. People are so busy with their own lives & families that we can easily loose a sense of community on a wider level.

Although myself and my husband are big advocates of community; sharing our lives and journeying together through life with others through local church and in our general lives, the last three months revealed that even after years of advocating community we too could still be too self-sufficient, individualistic and prideful in our own thinking.

How did we recognise this?

Simply that we soon discovered that early on during my illness we didn’t find it easy that suddenly the roles reversed and so many people had to help us in so many ways. That we were the ones struggling, the ones in need of help and support.

I realised that I was so used to being self-sufficient, getting on with life, facing challenges, keeping going and often the one helping others that it was a challenge when we became the ones that people rallied around to help and support.

You can feel weak and helpless, a bit of a burden to people who are already so busy with their own lives and commitments. That you are letting others down by them having to find the extra time and energy to cover your roles. 

Matt and I are great advocates of grace and generosity. We believe in giving without expecting a return, loving whether or not someone is deserving and serving others without expecting anything back. We constantly do our best to teach and model all this within our church community.

Why then can it be such a challenge for us to receive others help and generosity ourselves?

Please don’t misunderstand me: we were utterly blessed by it. It touched us deeply to have so many people look after our children, get them to and from school, prepare us beautiful meals, shower us with flowers, cards and gifts, clean our house, step into our roles at work, church and school and offer up prayers and words of support.

We were and are so very grateful and thankful for the support of so many wonderful friends and family. It was a lifeline at a very difficult time.

However, I realised that sometimes we may not naturally allow others the joy of giving and helping us because of our own pride and self sufficiency that says we are OK and can manage, even when in reality we are struggling. This is often because we do not want to trouble other people and so we think we are helping them by not letting them share in our struggles.

from darkness

Thankfully in our case we have friends and family who know us well enough to know we needed help regardless. We hardly needed to ask because the offers came pouring in which was truly a God send and a wonderful blessing. However, we still learnt that people will not always have room to be the blessing they desire to be if we do not allow them into our weaknesses and struggles. One of the reasons we don’t always let people in is because it is not easy to be vulnerable.

It is not easy for self sufficient people to be the ones in need. 

Perhaps many of us are too used to being individualistic and self sufficient.
Maybe we are more a product of our western society than we first thought.

I have realised that my own self sufficiency can actually get in the way of us building the community that I believe God created us to live in. And that community is not healthy until we begin to lay down our own self sufficiency and learn to both GIVE and to RECEIVE with grace and humility.

When you are used to giving, it is not always easy to receive. On the reverse, some people are so used to being in need and receiving that they do not find it easy to give. Which is a challenge, because we need to be doing both for community to work.

Our own individualism and pride can stop community working as it should, if we do not allow others to share in our STRUGGLES as well as our VICTORIES.

As I wrote in a recent blog post about the anniversary of my Mums death I believe that:

Sometimes our hearts need to be exposed.
Our weaknesses need to be seen.

I believe it is important because it’s often our vulnerabilities that bring us the greatest connection to other people. It’s in our weaknesses that we realise:

That we all need others.
That we are not built to live life alone.
That pride & self-sufficiency are the enemies of true community.
That if we want to be part of a community that we need to let people into our lives – warts and all.

The challenge of community is to become people who are open about our lives and will choose to both GIVE and RECEIVE graciously.

The beauty of humanity is majestically displayed when we are loving & serving one another. For it is love that creates real community. At the heart of love is humility & generosity. And it is humility & generosity that breaks down pride, individualism and self sufficiency.

Which, in turn, opens the way for true community.

We may impress people by our strengths; but we connect with them through our vulnerabilities. – Nicky Gumbel

How can we allow others to share in our lives in a way that builds true community? Do you find it easier to give or to receive? How can we embrace the humility needed to model healthy community to others?

Community is not healthy until we begin to lay down our own self sufficiency and learn to both GIVE and to RECEIVE with grace and humility.