June 14, 2018 Common Good

Communities of Conditions, not Problems

Fallibility is a part of the human condition, and therefore a reality of the relational world. This is a key distinction we make here. Institutions are not good at surcease and sorrow, the whole tragic and sad part of life. They do not know what to do, because institutions are designed to last forever. They act as if they are immortal, which they are not. So failure, sorrow, and frailty threaten their mythology of eternal life.

[On the other hand] communitiesrecognize and accept fallibility, and do not try to change it. So we will pray for you, we will do rituals. We have cultural ways of dealing with fallibilities and tragedies. The system way is to try to fix it; the community way is to memorialize it.

This relates to the… distinction between a condition and a problem. As soon as we call something a problem, it begs for a solution and we start shopping. When we view fallibility as a condition of being human, we see it is within the capacity of the family and neighborhood to deal with the condition and even see the gift in it.

Our limits, failures and frailties are opportunities for community. Institutions stay in business by defining these as problems to fix… leaving all of us feeling “in need of fixing.”

Learning to live with your own contradictions, making peace with your needs and limitations, is a gift.  It is a gift for the community to be of service to one another. Rather than shopping for a “outside solution” to hide your fallibility, consider turning toward others in your community. This also has an affect on the notion of neighboring presence. Being a community member is to accept the gift of another’s failabilty as a condition for working together, rather than a problem to be solved.

Who has been a neighbor to you? Who accepts and steps into relationship with you at the point of your fallibility? Is there a way to open your own fallibility to that person or to others in your immediate relationships, workplace, or community? To not do so, may be withholding a gift.




McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (p. 89). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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