From youth activities to volunteer projects to singles Bible studies to young adult groups and women's dinners, I've done and been involved with probably every type of function a church can possibly have to offer. I've been burned and disappointed the same way there that I have been at work and in social activities, so when she shared to me how she'd been turned off by the gossip and backstabbing she'd recently witnessed first hand at a friend's church, all I could do was listen.
Writing about this though, I'm realizing it's not just about the church. I'm dealing with, and have dealt with the same efforts to degrade and wear down self-esteem and well being in others in the secular areas of my life. There, I've had the same apprehensions, misgivings and overall wear in my resolve of getting to know, and getting involved with new groups.
Long story short, I'm tired, my friend is tired. A lot of the world is tired.
I think this issue is especially relevant to singles and those who don't have children because we inherently have more time and resources to connect with groups. That though, also puts us in a position where we're more frequently exposed to environments that wear down our social tolerances. Those of us that are introverted or socially shy, wear down more quickly because there are fewer benefits offered us in group participation. What's more, with time and age (I'm calling 30 as the magic age) the prospect and hope of "new" sparkles less and less.
I'm at a point in my life where I'm genuinely beginning to question the benefit of planned, large group interaction, aside from the satiation of some extrovert needs. I'm reminded of the fact that around him Jesus had a relatively small group of connections, and even within that small group, he kept a few apostles closer than others.
When I look at all the problems, all the willing bodies lost to bad environments, all the hurt feelings and crushed enthusiasm, I do see one common theme that this book addresses. Basically, it's a no tolerance policy for rudeness, abruptness, callousness, meanness, underhanded behavior and the like. That means that people entering an organization know it's not tolerated and when it's seen, it's addressed immediately with a warning. Repeat behavior earns an expulsion.
I know that doing this in the church wouldn't work the same as it does in business, but I think the spirit of dealing with detrimental and poisonous behavior is one that all organizations, business or otherwise, would benefit from.
All of this makes me beyond thankful for the friends and Christians that I do have in my life, since the idea of building those types of connections and trust at this age seems, though not impossible, incredibly difficult.