I read this today, from an article in which the writer reflected on her experience of attended 12-step recovery meetings, and comparing the community she found there with church. I found it very moving and full of truth. Community can be hard, but it is also where we are most fully beautiful and most fully human, so these things seem ever more important to me;
…and then it hit me. Maybe the depth of community I experienced in recovery, but rarely in church, had something to do with the inclusive nature of the meetings. Here, it was safe to be honest about your journey with God, because it was impossible to be “wrong.” Here, the basis for acceptance began and ended with a mutual need for healing, which led to honesty and connection.
These days, I still think what happens in recovery is in many ways a wonder, but my bafflement about the power of this community has passed. I think I get it now, and I think it’s really pretty simple. It’s definitely something Jesus understood: People bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.
I have a couple theories about why this is the case.
When folks gather in church around a strict system of beliefs, the price of acceptance in the group is usually agreement, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being right, which in turn invites conformity.
But when people gather in recovery around a shared need for healing, the price of acceptance in the group is usually vulnerability, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being real, which in turn invites community.