On Community, Groups, & Vulnerability

I recently wrote on the importance of being part of group and had some mixed reactions. My main point at the end was that groups are natural to humans. We thrive in groups and it is natural to form them for many different reasons. I said that we should join a group to learn and participate in the give and take of it all. And that this is what helps the world go round…

Some people agreed and some disagreed which is to be expected. What I did expect is how they agreed and disagreed and for what reasons.

Here are some things said for both sides….

Groups are great because they give one a sense of belonging, it gives people a sense of importance, they are used as a support system, gives a place where people won’t be judged…

Groups are bad because they are exclusive, they make others feel inferior, they push people out, it’s hard to find a group you fit into, it’s hard to find a healthy group…

I have the urge to answer each of those one by one, but I feel that would be missing the point. Because we all know, when it comes down to it, groups can be good or bad depending on the situation. Let’s focus on something else…


This is one of the main reasons we both like and dislike groups. Why groups can be the most wonderful or most awful things in the world.

Part of the requirement for being in any group is a certain level of vulnerability. And one might say an ever increasing level of vulnerability based on your level of deepening involvement.

Groups require a certain level of intimacy. You know things about the other members of your group that others don’t know. You know things about these other people that you can use to benefit them or to harm them.

Take gossip for example.

You can learn of something about a certain member of a group and choose to harm them by spreading gossip. Many of us have played the telephone game where one person starts off with a sentence and whispers it into the person’s ear next to them. By the time it goes around the circle it gets twisted and distorted and often causes a lot of harm along the way.

Now take that same something you learn about that person and use it to help them. One of the best things you can do is to refer them to someone you might know that has been in similar circumstances or has the ability to help. This is why networking is such a powerful force for good. Instead of harming that person through gossip you help them by referring them to someone that can help. What a joy it is to be in a group then!

I have more to say, but I will stop right here. I have a feeling the comments will help expound on the subject and I would rather have you think about this deeper than have me expound on it further.

My final point is to say consider the risks and rewards and the level of vulnerability you will have when you are thinking about joining or participating in any group. Things could go bad or they could be much better than you ever expected!

6 thoughts on “On Community, Groups, & Vulnerability”

  1. I think you’ve done a good job getting to the heart of the matter. “Groups” in and of themselves are benign, but it is the mentality (both individually and group mentality) of them that matters. Groups are like any thing else. For example, money is neither good or evil but it can be used for either. Groups are the same. They can be good, especially when they are welcoming and supportive, or they can be very bad, as in when they become exclusive and shut out others and are generally destructive as opposed to being constructive.

    Good article, really got me thinking..and that’s GOOD! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Keith’s last blog post..Why Not Now?

  2. Here is one for you Jeremy.. If humans have an innate need to be part of a group, then why, when you are in the process of dying, say, on Hospice in your home, do you NOT feel that need? Like there is no group for, “dying persons.” Yes, they may be surrounded by their loved ones, although I do not consider them a group per say.. Is there scientific data out there that people thrive in groups? Are cults the same thing as groups? Did anyone thrive hanging out with Charles Manson? Or in Waco? Do you need to be vulnerable to be in a “scrap book” group? Or a “dump diving group”? Why do you need to be vulnerable to be in any group? One could be in AA, and never share anything.. you could go to many meetings and never open your mouth. Just because you are there, does not mean you are vulnerable.. or are required to be.

    Linda Degus-Barns’s last blog post..SPD MOM: SPD Playgroup & Mom

  3. Hi Linda,

    You do make some good points. I would venture a guess that there are groups out there made up of people dying from cancer and also cancer survivors. I would say your loved ones make up a group. They are connected by blood and therefore form a group in that way.

    I know there is a whole heap of scientific data on groups and their harm or benefit. “science” has proven that people thrive in groups and also has proven that people don’t.

    All cults are groups, but not all groups are cults…

    And like I mentioned in the article not all groups are beneficial…

    I imagine there is a certain level of vulnerability in a scrap book group although it may be very low. If anything, scrap books are about memories and I am sure conversations about those events will happen in a group, thereby making you vulnerable.

    Not sure what a dump diving group is although I can guess. And yes, there is a certain level of vulnerability because they have a shared experience.

    You don’t need to be vulnerable in a group, but the very action of participating in a group leaves you vulnerable to varying degrees.

    I would also point out that attending meetings does not make you part of a group. If you go to AA and never open your mouth you are not part of that group, you are simply an observer. It takes participation to say you are part of that group.

    So if you never participate then you are never vulnerable. You won’t be a part of that group and therefore you are not required to be vulnerable. That is why being part of a group, participating in it, requires vulnerability.

    Hope that makes sense and maybe clears up some confusion about what I was trying to get at.


  4. It seems to me that those outside a group are far more vulnerable than those inside it. To the average group, outsiders are literally unacceptable–and opposing the will of the majority is dangerous indeed!

  5. Many of us are these days disconnected from our communities and we no longer live close to our extended families. This has been shown to have an affect on people’s stress levels and may also account for increased modern levels of depression. People are social creatures and need to feel part of a group.
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