How People Grow

A friend of mine sent me these links a long time ago, and I finally got motivated to blog about them while reading How People Grow. He said:
* “Cloud and Townsend have a triploid for spiritual growth: truth, grace and time. I think they have a good grasp of realism and understanding of personal growth. I think you would appreciate them alot.”
* “Bruderhof is an interesting communal movement. It seems to highly esteem humility and reality.”

These are very different — and in their own way radical — sites. The former are psychologists working to help individuals overcome mental illness. The latter is basically a kibbutz, whose members hold everything in common. The only similarity between them, apparently, is that they want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. [Read More] for my thoughts on what they both can teach us about growth.

First of all, I commend both of these for their innovative efforts to grow in being human. I see them as emphasizing complementary aspects of what that means, though, based on where they are coming from. Cloud and Townsend are authors and psychologists, so they focus on reality and character. Bruderhof, from what little I’ve read, stress community and humility (especially selflessness). While each modality has its strengths, and can make a huge difference, they also have their weaknesses. For example, I know it is possible to read and understand Cloud and Townsend on a personal and intellectual level without being part of a vital community (I know, because I’ve done it). To be sure, a deep understanding would motivate one to engage in heart-level relationships, but that’s left as an exercise for the reader.

I suspect (though I don’t know) that the same effect operates in reverse in Bruderhof. There must be strong social pressures to live a selfless, non-acquisitive life — which is a good thing. However, the very lack of financial responsibility seems like it would inhibit the need to make difficult personal, moral choices about how you spend your time. I’m sure the teaching and parenting provided inside the community (not just from biologic parents) would inculcate many of the relevant virtues. But, if personal understanding isn’t required for social conformity or ‘moral excellence’, then I’m not sure how they could tell whether it occurred or not.

Ultimately, I believe we need both. We need to take personal responsibility for living our lives in service to others. We need to share in communities that will inspire us to grow, and whose burdens we are committed to bearing. We need to understand how we need to live, and make the necessary choices to align with that purpose. But ultimately, neither words nor people are enough: we need regular, even continuous contact with the Living God to make it all hang together.