I said it out loud.

“I can’t believe no one called, no one asked, no one offered to help,” I complained to my husband.

My old community wounds surface at the first hint of disappointment and surprise me with their intensity. My words sound bitter and I struggle to sort it all out.

Why is it that pain from past relationships cast a shadow over present ones? Why is it easier to remember the negative than pursue the positive? 

He squeezes my arm and says, “If someone had done all those things, would you have accepted it? Did you ask?”

The question hangs. He knows me too well. I shrug and confess, “No. You know how I am, I’m an introvert and it’s hard for me to accept help. I just wanted someone to ask if I needed it.”

And my words sounded hollow in my own ears.

He reassures and reminds me of the deep community we are building. He is right and I feel foolish for drudging up the past because the present didn’t live up to my expectations.

“Community is no longer natural or easy under our present cultural conditions. It will require an intentionality greater than that required by our ancestors, and uncomfortable to most of us….” -Timothy Keller

It’s hard for me to reach out, to let people in and when they don’t meet my (often unspoken) assumptions, I’m disappointed. I have invisible needs and often let the pain of yesterday’s community rob me of the joy of today.

“…But building Christian community is not simply a duty. It should not be a distasteful act of the will. Community grows naturally out of shared experience, and the more intense the experience, the more intense the community…” -Timothy Keller

At the end of the day, I want intense community. And after all these years, I am slowly finding it by sharing the intensity that comes from honesty and being open enough to share life, and not just the ups. Being vulnerable in the low times with other women makes sharing the mountain-top experiences even better.

Many of us spend so much energy pulling away from community. Honestly, it’s easier to shut people out, but in the end fellowship heals community pain.

We need community, the good and the bad. Because it’s exactly God’s answer for community pain. People wound us, people heal us.

The next day, I called my friend and when she asked if I needed help, I said yes. And so did she.

When it comes to community wounds, are you tempted to give up on people? Or yourself? How do you overcome the pain that often comes with being vulnerable in community?

(in)RL GIVEAWAY: Won’t you share in the comments or link up your stories below? We’d love to hear your heart as we all “check-in” on how we’re doing with this whole bravely connecting with community thing.

And we’d love to give one of you who shares our beautiful (in)RL DVD Set and Devotional Booklet.

—>snag yours over here – they’re half price right now

by Kristen Welch, We are THAT family

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  1. 1

    This week I went to a church home group for the first time. It’s taken me such a long time to pluck up courage to ask if I could come- its my worst nightmare being in a room of people I don’t know. But it was AMAZING. I felt so welcomed and wanted, which I wasn’t expecting. I’ll definately be going each time. Thank you for encouraging me to seek out community and step past my fears. It’s so refreshing to know others and to be known :o )

  2. 2

    I think I’ve been trying to overcome the pain I’ve felt from community by letting people who might become my closer community know how past community has hurt me before I’ll let them very far into my heart. I think that is something I need to change, because it is probably kind of accusatory–this is what other people have done, don’t do it to me…

  3. 3

    I appreciate the real and raw testimony that is being shared in this series. Thank you.

  4. 4

    It is interesting, my hubby is not an introvert, yet he will not accept help from others and that has made his community small indeed. However, I have been more than willing to accept help and have gotten little. It is easy for others to offer help for short-term bases, but when chronic illness or a disability goes on for years on end, that help dwindles. God has blessed me with a daughter who helps by living with us, but she is limited by her scoliosis.

    The past hurts are not past, they are daily and weekly, but still they have to be healed, forgiven and move on. This is what people with chronic illness deal with. Most of the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic illness have no signs of such, so it is called “invisible” chronic illness or “invisible” disabilities. Only a small percentage of those with disabilities use devises like canes, wheel chairs, etc. that give any indication of such.

    Online I meet a lot of lonely people with hurts that run deep because one is not healed before another one comes along. I meet so many teens that daily are teased, bullied and ridiculed, but I also meet a lot of adults who experience the same. Children will repeat what they see their parents do or other influences like the media. Often I hear a child repeat the cruel statements of what I just heard the parent say.

    God told us that without the Bible, the precepts, the concepts and the dieing to self, daily, the sin nature would not be restrained. We all see daily how people struggle to be “good” on their own strength and fail miserably. Without the love of God, the regeneration of His Word, a person says things they do not realize hurts another, their hearts have not been tenderized by the Words of God.

    God forgives us daily, so a lifestyle of forgiveness is required to survive this world, but with guarded hearts as God commands. We far too often build ties without guarding our hearts, without reminding us, test the spirits (character) of another person, as the Bible admonish us to. We still think of everyone as “good”, the Bible states other wise. We forget that we are all born after the tree of “good and evil”, the propensity for good is just as prevalent as for evil, without the restraining of God’s Words.

    Our grandfather told us to judge a person by who our dog likes and it always seemed to be true. If animals have instincts that understand this, why do we humans ignore the God given gift of discernment that come from righteous judgments the Bible tells us to use. This goes back to accountability first to God then to each other as the Bible tells us when we come together. If we embrace the human duties, the reasonable duties of our call from God so much pain, hurt and injury can be eliminated. It is a sum of the parts, the body of Christ, this is community, this is the art of fellowship, and this is the love of Christ.

  5. 5

    It is so part of God’s plan that this series on community has been going on, as my husband and I have been struggling in our church community this past year. As of last week, I was ready to give up on people. I believe I had already done so as the months have gone by… but I was ready to go. Time to leave and find a new community (where issues would arise once again as we are all stuck in this flesh until Christ comes!)… little did I know, the only way to grow closer in community is to work through the trials. Learning to have grace, forgive, and continue on – stronger and closer than before – is what needs to be accomplished in order to deal with the pain. I’ll be touching more on this subject, and my recent experiences, next week on my blog. Looking forward to linking up! :)

  6. 6

    I still remember how let down I felt when me husband was away on a 6-month tour with the Canadian military (he’s a chaplain). I was at home with a 3-year-old and a newborn, knew lots of other people in the area, and I didn’t receive so much as an invitation for dinner from anyone. While I consider myself to be independent and capable, it would have been so nice to have someone reach out.

    But my disappointment led me to be more aware of other people in similar situations. I now try to extend the invitation to others. And I learned that offering help must be specific. “Can I pick up anything for you at the store?” Or “Is there any yard work I can help with?” is better than a generic “Call if you need anything.” Because most often, people won’t call. I know I didn’t.

    I loved the quotes by Timothy Keller (what work are they from?), and was especially struck by his comment that “Community is no longer natural or easy under our present cultural conditions. It will require an intentionality.” Because life with the military involves often moving, we are required to seek out new community regularly. And intentionality is key to connecting with people wherever we go. The more effort I put into seeking people to share life with, the more likely I am to find them.

    Thank for you words.

  7. 7

    I’m linking up an old post because as soon as I read this I remembered writing this about what our small group means to me. This is the stuff of our faith, right? The hard stuff of letting go of appearances and being real with each other. For the record, I love the way this is done here in this space. Beautiful women encouraging each other here. That’s a beautiful thing.

  8. 8
    Karen Fawcette says:

    Those of us shy, introverted people who never reach out, but hope that someone will reach in… really have a hard time with this. Just yesterday an event came up in my neighborhood and I had a feeling that it might have involved some issues with my son, so I went to some of the neighbors gathered (mainly to dispel any rumors if there were) and when we shared stories, they said to me without hesitation — if you need anything at all, you have a neighbor who will help. And (maybe rudely?) I replied, I’ve been here 12 years and haven’t had a neighbor help yet… and he replied, ‘not anymore.’ I don’t know what may ever come of it — but I was genuinely touched by his words. And I hope it’s the beginning of a turning point for me in my neighborhood and with my ‘neighbors’… asking may be hard… but getting yourself in position makes it a little easier!

  9. 9

    learning to let go of past hurts is always difficult… There is always that guilt or feeling that it was your fault even when it’s not true… Perhaps if I had been more friendly or likable I would not have been hurt… Truth is we are human and people hurt people some intentionally and some unintentionally… we must learn to forgive as God forgives us and understand that perhaps these experiences teach us how to grow… I say this but it’s easier said than done… But I’m learning too!!

  10. 10

    I realized how much I’ve written on this when looking for the blog post I wanted to share. One area that has helped me heal is to realize it is *okay* for people to come in and out of my life. Not every friend is here for the entire life journey, it helps us both grow when God is able to move us, and use us, somewhere new.

    • 11
      Elizabeth Jones says:

      wow…I needed to hear this Tammy. People can come in & out of our lives and that’s OK.
      Thank you!
      -El

  11. 12

    I really appreciate the (in)couragement to strive for God’s will in these circumstances! My community issues are more family (non-Christian) related, but I know my response is still important. I am finding that fear is keeping my heart and mind captive to hurt, and though I have not, and in some cases cannot, directly address the issue with the people “responsible”, I know I need to focus on the love that God has for them, and that I am called to love.

    1 John 4:18-21 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar…whoever loves God must also love his brother.

  12. 13

    As an introvert, I don’t ask for help either. Maybe it’s pride, or my “I can do it myself” attitude. It is an exercise in faith to ask for help or to say yes when someone asks. We are allowing God to help us through the helping hands of others.

    I need to be better at discerning those who need help who don’t ask…

  13. 14

    We are thinking along the same lines this week! My post above “be a charity case,” was inspired by our Grace for the Good Girl book club. We long for this community.. but to be part of it, we have to learn to take off the masks, admit we have needs, and accept help! And that is so hard! Yet, when we do this in the body of Christ, we often receive grace- ith skin on!

    Emily
    http://www.weakandloved.com

  14. 15
    Rebecca says:

    Wow – sounds just like me… I have unspoken expectations and get hurt when they are not met… and afraid to really reach out so I am not hurt…

  15. 16

    I am so “there” right now.
    I had always been the “giver” when I had a good job and money seemed to be plentiful. I donated, gave, volunteered, bought meals for strangers at restaurants.
    Then my life turned upside down and inside out.
    I’ve lost everything and am one knock on the door from being homeless. I have no job, no car, no income, cancer and health issues but no insurance. My husband was jailed when the stress of our situation caused him to make a bad choice.
    Neighbors that I once helped or welcomed into my home now avoid me. Churches I’ve contacted for help do not return calls or respond to letters. I feel some days like I have leprosy, and am overcome with hopelessness.
    To survive this time, I have turned to God and learning the Bible and His words of hope for us. For the first time in my 50 years, I am really reading and learning God’s word.
    I don’t yet know where He will take us on this journey, but I do know that “all roads lead to home” in His Kingdom as long as I follow His word and put my trust in Him.

    • 17

      Cindy,
      Your trust in Him resounds with courage!
      Praying for Him to meet all your needs though His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
      In Him,
      pk

  16. 18
    brittany jacobson says:

    I know exactly how this person feels been there sevrel times i can realate i just want them to ask , thats eaclty how i feel to. when my brother was deployed all my friends kinda abonded me my moms so called friends even kinda walked away . when my brother deployed my friends who new didnt check on me didnt pray with me they just left. it hurts

  17. 19

    Being an introvert myself, I know how hard it is to ask for help. I’m still having a tough time reaching out to my community

  18. 20

    It’s taken me several months to find a group, but I finally attended my first community group meeting this past week. At first, I felt really out of place and afraid that I had accidentally signed up for the college women’s group, but it turns out that most of the women just happened to be much younger than me. Being 35, I’m not used to being “the older one” in a group.

    By the end of the evening I felt much more comfortable, and I think I’m going to get a lot out of connecting with this group of women.

  19. 21

    I invited my neighbor, Emily, over for coffee yesterday and when she arrived I greeted her with, “I am so glad you are here!” She lit up like a light and relaxed immediately. She is caring for a very ill roommate and has been basically pushed away by everyone in this neighborhood. This community of 8 houses has been living on this little block for over 20 years and yet it took me, a newcomer of only 2 years to reach out to her. After reading your “hurtful phrase”, I was determined to use your solution and it worked. I saw another woman come across the street this morning and bring her a basket of muffins. When my phone rang 20 minutes later, it was an uplifted woman thanking me and telling me more neighbors were going to get their husbands together and do some yard work to help Emily. It just takes a bit of reaching out, even when you have been shunned yourself, to help a community see beyond it’s nose. Thank you for your courage!

  20. 22

    i just feel the fear and do it anyway. because i know i need people. and they need me. so i just jump in even when it is hard and scary.

  21. 23

    Relationships are hard work! Just when I started feeling safe again, one of the people I had let lean on me heavily ended up stabbing me, and I really just felt like saying “I knew it! I knew this would happen! I’m done with friends!” Many people lean on me and no friends let me lean on them. But it wasn’t meant to be easy, it was meant to be beautiful – a picture of Christ. And so I stay in the struggle for meaningful community.

  22. 24
    Beth Williams says:

    I wasn’t always an extrovert like I am now. That makes it hard to even make community–much less be hurt by it.

    I’ve learned that people come into your life for a season, reason–God knows! If hurt by community then pray for them and yourself. Pray for healing and a forgiving heart!

  23. 25
    Becky J. says:

    I am a Pastor’s daughter and have been in the same church for 44+ years…I am 44 :) …let’s just say I have seen a lot…up.close.and.personal!! My flesh always desires to build up walls after being wounded by community..Jesus said “offenses would come, but woe to him through whom they come”…there’s a lot of pain being in community..especially when people that you hold so close to your heart just walk away and disappear from your life with no explanation..BUT..there is a richness and a growing insight, little by little, of the great wounds our precious Lord must have suffered as HOLY GOD..full of love/beauty/compassion..so unlike me…yet, “rejected and despised of men”…Love..it covers a multitude of sins and keeps no record of the sins of others…so we love on by His Spirit!! :)

  24. 26

    I am in a transitional place and find it hard to find a real community right now but am trying to hold on to the old friends I have and make sure I have some contact with them for that inspite of how hard it is to do that at this time.

  25. 27

    Love this! Having a ministry which runs on the efforts of volunteers and leaves me constantly hosting events that include asking for people to set aside their time and support our efforts, I am in a perpetual state of struggling with the issues of hurt and disappointment in community. I hate that I struggle with it….that I allow my flesh and pride to get wounded…that I allow disappointment with others to set in when my expectations aren’t met. I am also keenly aware of how society has changed…how busy and distracted and already overburdened people are…how commitments sometimes are shirked and promises aren’t kept. It is a struggle not to take it personally. I feel so small that I do. And, yet, we press on….knowing His strength is made perfect through our weakness. And, knowing that it is still a privilege to act as His vessel…to be about our Father’s business…even in our flawed, cracked vessel state. And…oh how grateful we are when someone does come alongside us, and we get to see the body of Christ working together as He intended. It is such a blessing…when community works as it should.

  26. 28
    Brooke Burger says:

    It is hard to find community especially when you have felt rejection in the past. My husband and I love to reach out and help others, but it isn’t always recieved. It is sad, but I think sometimes people wonder why you want to help. I sometimes feel that for some reason unknown to us, my family is not socially acceptable. We reach out to open our home and people don’t even respond with an I’m sorry, I can’t. I will keep trying to help, though. We want God to be able to use us.

  27. 29

    Thank you for your words Kristen. This is a big struggle for me right now. Today I feel really let down by my community and past hurts are surfacing. My history involves significant grief and as such I have become that person who makes everyone feel awkward because they never know what to say… I have become accustomed to that and I understand that this is not anyone’s fault, it is just a part of grief – you become sad and lonely for a while. But about 18months ago I asked the elders in my Church to pray over me regarding children (its a long story), they said they would, and I believe they wanted to, but it fell through. 2 months ago my son died. Today I’m really struggling with feeling like they failed to protect me and my son. I know this is not their fault, and I am in no way blaming them for what has happened, but I do feel abandoned… how do I give this to the Lord?

    • 30

      I don’t have any answers…and I don’t know what to say…but could I offer you a spiritual hug? I know we’re not sitting together in person, but if we were, I’d give you a hug. So just pretend right now I’m hugging you.

  28. 31

    My struggle with community is kind of multi-faceted. I struggle with being vulnerable because I don’t want to be hurt, I struggle with asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden, and I struggle with offering help because in the past my intentions haven’t been pure and I’ve given help to get acclaim for myself and then been angry when I didn’t get it. So I’m really working on an overall change of heart right now.

    I’m taking a big chance next week – I’m going to a moms group full of strangers. But these women all go to my church, and I’ve been feeling a need to connect more at church, and the only way to do that is to do something about it. So…I’m going! I’m determined. I’m not as nervous as I’ve been in the past about these things, but that could be the meds talking. ;-) I’m on antidepressants for PPD and I think that little kick has made a big difference in my attitude.

  29. 32

    Wow. I thought I wrote the first half of this because it sounds like my own mind and experience. Validating to know that I’m not alone on my thoughts.

  30. 33

    what does it mean when i have been hurt-(not even disappointed and willing to move on with renewed trust on my part)- but really hurt more than i have ever been healed or helped. i will say 10% healed or helped by followers of christ. and yes i have particiapted in all the things churches ask you to do, tithe, volunterr, study, go to small groups, pray, give, give, give, work, work, work, look the other way, etc, etc… everyone is a sinner so it’s ok. no don’t express what happend, don’t speak the truth because then i don’t have grace. it’s ok what my brother in christ did to me, but how dare i go and reconcile and try to discuss the event. and don’t bother bringing it to the leaders because they will say that we all have faults. no one will have any community, or any real christian community unless we can actually speak to one another and reconcile. how can the whole church of god not know how to do this? i don’t get it. god left instructions for us in the bible. to act in obedience to his word i have to fight with my church family over it because it is hard. yes, we hurt each other, but how about following the rest of the steps in the bible to reconcile instead of sticking our heads in the sand and not speaking up. jesus spoke up plenty, so did the prophets and the people of the bible. why can’t we speak to each other about things. even the world follows god’s ways and instructions and don’t even realize it. why don’t we. we have to pray and act in obedience. god isn’t goint to do it all for us. he employs us and pleads with us to act also. we need to take our church back and show everyone how we go to each other and speak about things and repent and reconcile and when necessary even discipline. it’s really not that hard. what is hard is convicning christians it is ok and to keep at it. that is what is really missing from churches, going to each other and talking about things and respecting each other.

  31. 34

    We moved a year ago to where we knew no one. I joined a MOPS group and an ultimate frisbee group (I’d never played before). This helped me create a community but it took time to realize it wasn’t going to be a close-knit family for me right away. I”m still struggling with finding my one “best” friend here that i can call at anytime for anything. I continue to pray for that.

  32. 35

    What a moving article. Godly community is so important to have, but it’s equally important to admit and accept when you need help. Thank you so much for posting this!

  33. 36
    Cynthia says:

    Loved your honesty…thanks for sharing. I have recently been hurt by some in my church community…want to withdraw, but asking Him how to respond.

  34. 37

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  35. 38

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