I recently joined a rather large Facebook group. It’s a great community of people. But with so many people, it gets a little overwhelming.
Someone posted some concerns about the group, one of which was the constant posts. He probably could have worded his comment better, but I admired him for his honesty. Not everyone agreed with me.
People labeled him a “hater.” There were snarky comments about how he could just take his negative self and leave the group. I was annoyed at how quickly he was written off.
It reminded me of some resentments that I had stuffed down and forgotten about.
Years ago, my husband and I attended a church. We served in a few different ways and connected with the community there. Then something changed. We weren’t sure what. We just realized we were uncomfortable with how some things were being done.
We realized the problems may have been with us. We were willing to admit that, but we wanted to talk about it. My husband spoke up, sharing his concerns.
His comments and critiques were not taken well. He was essentially told, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I was stunned that the community we trusted told us to put on a happy face. Instead of talking through it (which was really all we were asking for), the situation was shelved, and we were left hurt and more than a little bruised.
We didn’t need to be right. We just needed to be heard.
In community, there needs to be freedom to speak up and share. Even if the things shared are not so positive. Even if we don’t want to hear them. Let people speak honestly, and then encourage healthy communication. Realize it’s okay to disagree. Don’t just tell someone to play nice, or label them a hater.
My guard is up. I’m afraid to trust people again. I feel like I have to keep the fake smile on and just act like everything is okay.
I’m scared to really engage in any other community.
Luckily, in that Facebook group, not everyone labeled that poor guy a hater. Several spoke up and shared that they had similar concerns. Including me.
But the best response was from a friend of mine:
“Community is messy. Let us know how we can encourage you.”
I long for this. The recognition that it’s not always wrapped up and pretty. Things get messy, but if we give each other the freedom to speak up without fear, without judgement, that is the start of something beautiful.