As I mentioned to you last week, I recently did a funeral for a 35-year-old’s heroin- related death. The funeral was very emotional. The turnout was decent and the speeches about the deceased were powerful. At the end of the celebration of life it is fairly custom for people to come up and shake my hand or say something in regard to the message. It doesn’t always happen, but most times there is an awkward moment when people have to walk past the casket where I am standing.
When this happened at this particular funeral. I began to notice a trend among the closest friends of the deceased. They were all drunk or high. The had “the look.” You know the look I’m talking about: dilated pupils, red cheeks, stumbling about as their bodies emitted an odor reminiscent of a frat party.
You could have set up a DUI checkpoint at this funeral; that is how drunk some of them were. And during the time they drove from the funeral to the cemetery I’m pretty sure they drank some more. It was a rough thing to watch. My heart broke and all I wanted to do was shake them and say, “Have you learned nothing from your friend?”
The other thing that struck me was how close they all were. They loved each other, they hung out together, and they were essentially one big family of users. The loyalty reminded me of what I would say about my own family. This community was close, they were doing life together, and they were integrated into each other’s lives. That is when I realized something extremely important: just because you are part of a community doesn’t make that community a good one.
Often times I tell people to get tied into a community, but I forgot to say something really important. Check the health of the people you are doing life with. I think there are some groups out there that are actually hurting one another, and that rather than lifting each other up they are pulling each other down. Sometimes it is easy to get anchored in a community without actually knowing if it is good or not.
In order to call your community healthy there are the five questions we all should be asking:
1. Is this community encouraging me to achieve my goals?
2. Does this community share my values?
3. Does this community pick me up when I am down? (Keep in mind that that could be a hand up or a swift kick in the rear.)
4. Are other people in this group achieving their goals?
5. Can we have healthy conversation about the status of the group?
If you can’t consistently answer “yes” to these questions, it might be time for you to reconsider where you are receiving your support.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says it well: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”