Hillel said: Do not separate yourself from the community; and do not trust in yourself until the day of your death. Do not judge your fellow until you are in his place. (Avos 2:5)
In the spiritual roller-coaster of life, nothing is guaranteed. Inspiration comes and goes. Motivation is strong today and absent tomorrow. One of the biggest challenges of living a life of self-growth is maintaining consistency. Without consistency, the daily grind of life will get in the way of what matters most and we will find ourselves stagnating in those areas.
What tool can we use to battle this trend? Hillel teaches us the answer: Your community.
When we speak of community, we speak of a group of people who are unified in their commitment to grow together in some area of life. A community can be the people in one’s geographical neighborhood if they care for and watch our for one another. It can be members of the Synagogue, if the culture there is one of love and mutual respect. It can be a Chavurah (study group), a book club, a support group or even an online forum, if the participants genuinely care about each other.
The beauty of community is that when one member of the community is inspired, that fire catches and the other members feel it. In a community, positive energy is contagious. And when one person is down, or going through a time of difficulty or pain, the others are there to lift them up. In a community there is a sense of accountability. Together, the members of the community create a healthy peer pressure and set a certain standard for one another, and no one wants to be the one to lower the bar.
But there is one danger that always threatens to undermine the power of community. And Hillel warns us about that too. And that is: The judgmental community.
When people start judging other people in their community, when the community becomes a toxic place where everyone needs to fit in a certain box otherwise they feel unaccepted or like outcasts, then that community is certainly not serving its purpose. It is no longer a safe space for growth. It becomes a space that drains its members of their energy, creativity, uniqueness and vitality.
The supportive community pushes its members to be greater at a pace that is healthy for them. It cares for its members without creating judgement. It offers support when necessary, but gives space when appropriate. It creates a common vision for all, but allows for each individual to express themselves. Supportive communities fuse together the power of many and the power of one creating the optimal space for consistent spiritual growth.
Are you part of an ideal community?