Finding joy in community

Finding Joy in Community Happens by Putting People First

Joy Today starts with people first.  This may seem obvious to many, but for me, it has been a lightbulb moment. Which is ridiculous because if I think about it, my greatest joys have come from being in community with others.  My greatest joys happen when I laugh with friends, connect with colleagues, bond with family, share with my husband, play with my boys, smile at a stranger.  Finding joy in community happens by putting people first.

Because of this quote:  “We spend so much time living our lives yet so little time designing our legacy.  When our life is over, there’s very little that will live on after us.  When we really get down to it, our main legacy will be the investment we made in people.”

Boom.

From page 30 of Brian Dixon’s book Start with Your People: The Daily Decision that Changes Everything.”

Community happens by putting people first.

This book has been convicting me for one very good reason.  The message is one that God has been forcing me to face head on for the past few weeks.  The minute I picked up this book and began reading, I knew God had hit me over the head with a brick just to make sure I was finally paying attention.

Finding joy in community happens by putting people first. 

I have a quality that can be both a blessing and a curse.  I am fully driven by the need to complete a task and reach a goal.  When I set my mind to accomplish something, I face it head on and go all in.  The blessing lives in the fact that I am very self-motivated and driven.  I thrive on overcoming and smashing my goals.  Examples:  moving to Nicaragua, running a marathon, sewing a quilt for my husband when I’d never sewn a stitch in my life, building an entrepreneurial business, going back to teaching Spanish, fighting ED, starting a blog.  I see a challenge.  I meet a challenge.  I don’t quit until said challenge is conquered.

But, the blessing comes with a curse.  People take a back seat to my goals.  I don’t work hard on building relationships because I allow my goals to fill my focus. I like working on my goals, and I like doing it on my own. On my own I don’t have to worry about compromising or letting other people have a say or being frustrated by others or worrying that I’m being the annoying one in a relationship.  I barrel thru all on my own.

Yes, I do have friends, but I feel as though I have not allowed those friendships to be truly deep friendships.  I hold part of myself back.  Some of that I blame on my eating disorder in which isolation was the key to ED’s mind control for 17 years.  But I can’t lean on that completely.  I learned early on in the fight against ED that community is key to success as I explained in Brick by Brick.

Apart from how ED brainwashed me, my need to accomplish and complete leads me to push people aside.  I assume completing a goal will give me my deepest joy instead of the people I’ve helped or who have helped me.  Then, when I feel a bit lonely or left out, I convince myself I don’t need to be in anyone’s inner circle and dive right into my work, striving for my goals and dreams.

That is wrong.

God has been working on me.  As he tends to do when I’m too hard-headed to take heed.  Brian Dixon’s book is the brick that has blown me on my backside.

I need people. And maybe, maybe, people might need me.

I will admit, my task-centered personality also allows me to hide my fears of relationships.  I fear close friendships. Maybe it is some of the lies ED told me lingering in my brain.

  • When I see a group of ladies talking and feel the urge to join in, that little voice in my head says, “Why would they need you to crash their conversation?”
  • When I hear of women gathering for fun, my little voice whispers, “It’s too much work to reach that tight of a friendship. You’re no good with people anyway.”
  • The voice hisses in my head, “Those relationships might ask more of you than you are willing to give; they might get in the way of your To-Do List.”
  • The voice mockingly says, “They really couldn’t care less if you are around.  They have each other already.”
  • The whispers speak my deepest fears – you are better off alone and people are better off without you.  And so I throw myself into my goals and lists because in them I only need to worry about myself.

Well, that’s a load of bunk.  And a selfish load at that.  Notice that all those fears center on ME.  The focus is on what I’m afraid of, what I don’t want to put the effort into. It’s all about me.

“People lead to purpose” (34).

Thank you, Brian Dixon, for being God’s brick.  Putting people first allows me to serve, to offer of myself, to make someone else the center of my attention instead of my own fears and desires.  People first.

Finding joy in community happens by putting people first. 

God didn’t give his commandment to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself for no reason.  His commandment puts love for him as the fullness that leads to loving others.  Putting people in my line of love – what a difference that makes on how I walk into a day.

Finding joy in community happens by putting people first.

Instead of fearing that I will be rejected:  wondering how I can be a word of encouragement.

Instead of fearing that I don’t have what it takes to be a good friend:  focusing on the needs of the other person.

Instead of fearing that a friend may mess up my task-oriented world:  waking up to my day with a prayer that my day may hold purpose for at least one other person in my path.

My motivated and driven desire to face challenges head on is not a bad thing at all.  God knew what he was doing when he created me for checklists and challenges.  He wants me to use who I am in my daily interactions.  That is empowering.  I may be able to help someone, or be a friend to someone, in a way that no one else can because of who God created me to be.

I don’t have to be everyone’s best friend either.  I simply need to be open to putting people first.  I need to be willing to set aside my list of must-do’s and my fears when someone unexpected steps in my path in my day.

When I wake up with this mindset, of putting people first and finding my purpose in relationship, I’ve opened my heart to the fullness of God’s love in action.  What greater checkmark can I make in my day!  And what greater way to quiet my fears and point my purpose outward instead of living in the shallowness of fear and isolation.  Isolation might feel safer, but it also feels empty.

“People lead to purpose.”

I am a work in progress.  But the key word is progress.  God may have to use a brick to knock some sense into me, but I’d rather he did that than be a God who lets me sit in isolation and fear.  Stepping over my fear and into God’s purpose for me is the greatest freedom I know!  So my To-Do List for today:

Put people first.

And my dreams and goals will fall into place beside the relationships I’ve built and hold dear. Finding joy in community happens by putting people first. Start with my people.

Building community happens by putting people first

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