March 9, 2012

Theses on Community Relations in Religious Life

People are a complex mixture of conscious and unconscious motivation.

Presume that the darker side of your own unconscious motivation conspires with that of others to make dysfunction in relationships and hinder the salvation of both parties. This is what it means to take the effects of original sin seriously in community life. Therefore, work on bringing the best parts of your conscious and rational motivations to bear in relationships.

Whether members of the community are attracted to or repelled by each other is likewise usually based in a mix of the good and the bad, the conscious and the unconscious. Therefore, there is little confidence to be taken from others being friendly to you, nor discouragement from them staying away.

We all tend to reproduce in community the place in the relational system that we had in our family of origin. This is neither good nor bad in itself, depending on the nature of that role and its relative utility for our salvation and the good of the community. It's not all toxic and maladaptive, though sometimes a lot of it is.

The more skilled and accomplished the manipulator, the greater the rage will be against him when those who have allowed themselves to be manipulated realize what has happened. Therefore, strive against your own tendency to manipulation.

Celibates do not have the experience of being parents, and so tend to be very out of their element when it comes to the discipline, teaching and care of very young children. Unfortunately, people who are still very young children on the emotional level are sometimes found in the community. Therefore, if you don't know how to love such persons such that they can grow, or are not permitted to try, stay away. The more they are not helped, or are appeased and spoiled rather than loved, the greater will be their tantrums.

Of those who suffer in community, some are victims. But most are volunteers.

People find change in the system upsetting. Therefore, even if you are changing in accord with your salvation, expect push-back from the community.

If you get along with everyone, worry that perhaps you are putting getting along ahead of your own heart. If you can't get along with anybody, worry that you are selfish.

If nobody is ever annoyed by your opinions, you probably don't really have any. If everybody is annoyed by them, perhaps you are an ideologue.

The point of community life is being brother to others, not having them be brother to us. It is not to say, 'I'm a brother' but 'I'm your brother.'

The community does not exist primarily to be a support on the natural level, and still less to provide for anyone's unrealistic emotional needs. It does not exist to provide some 'intimacy' that we have allegedly renounced by our celibacy. The community exists to be a sign of the arriving Kingdom of God, to be a sort of laboratory where practitioners of the Christian life can learn a certain wisdom that they can then pass on in ministry, and to be a place of interior asceticism for those whom God--in his mercy--calls to embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ in this particular way.


Greg said...

Excellent thought piece.

I just returned from a convention where, in addition to delivering a five-day workshop on Taming the Wolf, I moderated a panel that is beginning to look at dispute resolution systems for clergy.

Those who are passionate about this topic may find useful information in Taming the Wolf, which is now available as an e-book.

Anthony Zuba said...

Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank you, brother. Some comments on your last thesis. Religious communities do not cease to be human communities for being religious. So they can and must provide support on a natural level, and like secular communities must discourage the wishful, witless pursuit and gratification of unrealistic emotional needs. If you are proposing that celibates do not lay down some "lower" kind of intimacy only to take up some "higher" intimacy of a communal sort in religious communities, then I agree with you. There is, of course, authentic and healthy intimacy in religious communities, and where it is, there, too, is a sign of the coming reign of God.

Greg said...

Have posted the first six of eight blog posts on The Church as an Instrument of Peace, in which I take up the need for us to heal internal conflict as we prepare to bring peace to the world.

Anonymous said...

I like your way of telling truths in a simple language. this is helpful for young religious in a culture where relationships must be held at bay and not expressed thanks for the insights.
sr. frances farrugia op