Community and Individuality

I was re-reading Lewis Smede’s Shame and Grace and I came across the following. As a rule, I don’t post what others have written, but this is too good not to share. Although it was written nearly three decades ago, it is remarkably prescient in addressing some of the problems we’re now facing as a culture due to the erosion of personal boundaries. Here are some excerpts:

  • If we have no privacy, we have no mystery, and if we have no mystery we have no self.
  • If we have no privacy, we have no depth; we are on the surface, transparent, superficial, shallow, boring.
  • If we have no privacy, we have no sacredness; we lose our boundaries, and we have no place that is holy to ourselves. Take away our sacredness, and we lose our core.
  • If we have no privacy, we lose our identity; it is swallowed up in the mass. We do not know who we are even if we are celebrities and everybody on earth knows our name.

I think that says it all. Community and individuality are both gifts of God, but neither is meant to be exercised in exclusion of the other. In fact, they both enhance and complement each other. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of different parts of the body. There is individuality (different parts), and there is community (one body). 

The current emphasis among some of oversharing is just as misguided as the under-sharing that started us in this direction a generation ago. Due to God given limitations, we cannot and are not meant to exist at an intimate level with everybody we’ve ever met (even if we’ve friended all of them). The best most of us can do is to have a few close friends and recognizing this, limit our intimacies to them. 

Oversharing such information may be flattering to us in that we suppose that everyone is holding their breath as we unfold our daily dramas, but the far more likely truth is that we simply become the obnoxious individual talking too loudly on their phone in a public place who should respect the privacy of their conversation as well as the people around him.  More to the point of Smede’s remarks, we also lose some things that are important to our individuality and spirituality.  Community is a good thing; individuality is a good thing. Together they are wonderful. Let’s not separate what God has joined together. 



Published by A Taste of Grace with Bruce Green

I grew up the among the cotton fields, red clay and aerospace industry of north Alabama. My wife and I are blessed with three adult children and five grandchildren.

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