Don’t Become Ingrown

Everyone should have the opportunity to hear people with different viewpoints from time to time. I think it’s an essential part of a healthy thought life. I think it’s crucial to your mental well-being. And sure, I know that we all have to regularly rub elbows with co-workers or neighbors who may be worlds apart from us ideologically. But conversation at the end of the driveway or around the water cooler is easily turned off, and often too trivial to really impact the core things we care about.

We’ve all been busy for several years now, building online communities where birds of a feather can flock together. And I don’t want to knock it…I can’t think of a better, quicker way to find folks with interests similar to your own. I can think of a thousand benefits to virtual community. But I’m also noticing a down side: Becoming Ingrown.

Of course, the internet isn’t the only place this happens. Real-life, flesh-and-blood communities fall into this ditch, too. Churches, clubs, support groups, and even families reinforce their own way of looking at things–which isn’t entirely a bad thing. But I think it’s terribly important that someone within those communities stay interactive with the larger world outside…for the sake of everyone else within.

I feel like I’ve gained so much from interacting with people who don’t see things the same way as I do, and I wouldn’t trade their input for anything. It keeps me balanced. For example, years before I became a part of the church/community in which I live, I read up on their detractors. I collected critiques of what they were doing, and thought about those critiques a good bit. I wrestled with the arguments both for and against what I was headed into. In fact, I still do that today. Just in the past week, I’ve spent a good bit of time processing criticism from people who think differently from me on things I hold very dear. I do this, even now, because it keeps me from becoming too narrow-minded, too certain of what I know, too confident in my own knowledge. And I think that ultimately benefits those around me.

It’s mentally exhausting sometimes, I have to admit. I don’t think everyone can sustain this kind of thing at the same level. Maybe some folks are better suited to this kind of exercise than others. But it’s still a useful activity. Groups like the one I’m in can draw immense benefit from such a thing.

So if you see someone close to you asking scary questions, analyzing things you think shouldn’t even have to be analyzed, stop for a moment and consider that we need folks like these. We need people who can interact with the wider world, who can evaluate things that most of us simply take for granted. They’re a necessary part of a healthy community.


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