What you surround yourself with matters. Who you surround yourself is important. As humans we are expected to grow: physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, etc. Just like seeds that need good soil, we need good environments to grow in.
Jesus was clear that unless a seed is buried in the ground and sprouts and grows, it is nothing more than just a singular, granular lifeless entity that has no significance that produces nothing (John 12:24) -like that random penny you find in your couch which you look at and think "I guess it's got potential but by itself this penny can't do anything for me by itself sitting next to a bobby pin and a forgotten lego.
Seeds need soil. Period. Jesus loves soil. Period. Jesus spent more time talking about soil than seed which means a healthy environment, surroundings and culture is more important than you think.
Our soil (dirt, y'all) is powerful. Soil sustains life by helping seeds become plants. Soil provides food, water and air that is needed by plants to grow. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients a plant can soak up. The healthier the plant, the better the fruit. In our natural world, the quality of the soil ultimately affects the health of people and animals.
Our "soil of our environment" is equally powerful. What we are surrounded by is constantly giving off sustenance for us to consume. We might call them "cues" that we pick up and apply to our lives. These cues reflect and even establish our values, priorities, ideas, language, etc. Your soil, or in other words, your environment is made up of these 5 ingredients:
Who you are: Recognition
What you see: Observation
What you hear: Conversation
How you do: Contribution
How you relate: Cooperation
Don't underestimate the power of your surroundings. Your "soil" is always teaching, always communicating, always driving decision, always driving actions and behaviors. Whether you believe it or not, your surroundings have missions, values, goals that are build into your 5 soil ingredients or cues. What is around us affects us. You are influenced by your environment... negatively or positively.
7 Ways to Grow A Healthy Community:
1. Go deep
We live in a culture of shallow relationships. Being connected today means having twitter followers, facebook friends, reality TV romances, Netflix drama, etc. But these faux friendships aren't deep. Most of these relationships are pretend, shallow, hollow and superficial. So we sit in front of our screens and enjoy the dream of friendship: a story that we wish we had, where there is a group of people we seem to relate to, that seems to understand me, that seem to "like" what I say, and "share" what I enjoy, etc. In reality we don't have real friendship but real isolation. Jesus modeled deep friendship by being vulnerable, honest, loving, humble, servant-hearted, etc. Acts 2:42 says the disciples "devoted themselves to fellowship" and to go deep we have to do the same. Devote yourself to A handful of people and go as deep as you can with them. Most likely these relationships will reciprocate and these will be relationships will have for life.
2. Give back
Acceptance is more palatable to culture than resistance so we choose to accept people where they are and influence people to where they could be in Jesus. So we choose to resist a culture of self indulgence so we can live in self-denial modeling and reveling the essence of Christ which is serve other and give back to our community. The Bible says, "let us think of ways to motivate once another to acts of love and good works " (Hebrews 10:24). This is the kind of soil that I can grow in.
3. Live open
Being defensive and living a closed life is easy in a broken world. Our past experiences have conditioned us to be guarded and closed off to others. If you live a closed life you will live a lonely life because people will look elsewhere. So take a risk...and trust. Simply trusting the process and the person is hard but essential to healthy living. An open life means having honest dialogue, palatable conversations about issues that matter, listening and celebrating the stories of others, accepting others where they are at and pacing with others when they are slow to change. This demands a high level of trust in your surroundings. So be the first to trust and be the last to resist. And for some of you you are in healthy soil but you're choosing to remain closed. Not only are you not benefiting those around you but they those around you were not benefiting your contribution. But choosing to be closed off in good soil ... you're still hurting yourself and depriving those around you.
4. Laugh often
There's nothing like a creative, open and talkative atmosphere full of smiles and engagement that is attractive and appealing. Create inside jokes, have phrases that meaningful to you, laugh at yourself and with yourself, etc. What movie quotes do you share, what tv characters do you celebrate, what songs get you hyped, etc? Identify these and use them as anchors of laughter and celebration in your community. Also...be secure in your deficiencies, idiosyncracies and personalities because that gives you and others permission to have fun too.
5. Engage in honest conflict
Conflict is rooted in not understanding where others around you are coming from. So when a conflict arises, rather than trying to "gain understanding" we instead are trying to tell them "what's going on." Stephen Covey speaks to this in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when he says, "seek first to understand then to be understood." So guard yourself against assuming because when you assume you cease to draw close because you "already know" their thoughts and motives and remain at a distance. If you're going to assume something...assume the best about that person and not the worst! When you believe the best about someone you can't help but draw closer and draw from them.
6. Take responsibility of your surroundings
Someone has to step up and take responsibility for the health and well-being of your environment. If you're friends are unhealthy, your romances are dysfunctional, your spiritual life is lacking, your emotions are running high in your "soil" ... you are part of the problem. When you realize you didn't step up, you didn't course correct, you didn't stop the conversation, you didn't say anything, etc...you were part of the problem. But you are also part of the solution! When you stand up and say "my office, friendships, church, neighborhood, etc isn't healthy and I am going to do something about it" that's when real change takes place. Take responsibility to be the solution and stop being part of the problem. Even if it's not "your fault" it Is still your responsibility. It's tough. I get it. The absence of tough decisions in your culture means you allow those things to remain. So make the tough decision and have the tough conversations.
7. Use your words
Here's a question: What do you want to be surrounded by? Write down the words: honesty, acceptance, generosity, etc. Finally, once you have identified these words ask yourself if your community is reflecting these attributes. Lean into and lead towards these attributes. If you choose to start living these words they will "take root" in your life and be visible to others around you. Every culture has "bad" underneath the surface or in other words soil has potential for "weeds" to grow. So you kill the weeds and feed the flowers and fruit that you want to grow. Discover the bad and praise the good in your community. Give energy and attention to the actual values that should be affirmed and the aspirational values you want to see around you. Discover what you want to become and simply do what you say. Be honest about your "soil" and be equally honest about what is necessary to change and watch your community flourish.
Anythjng you you would add?