Wealth is difficult to achieve on any level apart from healthy relationships. Likewise community is difficult to achieve apart from healthy relationships. Thus, it might be posited that real wealth can only be achieved in the context of real community.
What do I mean by that? Let’s take a look at relationships and community first, then wrap up with how real wealth is found within the context of healthy community.
Relationships for our purposes here are defined as close, personal, individual connections.
Each of us, hopefully, have several of these kinds of connections – with our family members, our friends, our teammates, teachers, mentors, coworkers, etc. (You are probably starting to see how relationships lead to community – but we’ll discuss that more in a moment).
In these relationships, some closer than others, transactions are always occurring. Maybe you’ve never thought about it that way. Some even call it social capital.
When we interact with each other we are giving and taking. Sometimes it is tangible, like a sales transaction, but much of the time it is intangible, like trust, love, commitment, security, and on and on.
If I do something that violates trust in a relationship, like gossiping about something shared in confidence, I have taken trust away from the relationship and will need to take action to repair or repay that trust if I want to restore the relationship. I might do this through a sincere apology, and if I had enough trust built up in the relationship (social capital), that is all it might take to restore it. If the relationship was just starting, the apology, even if accepted, may not be enough to keep the relationship from ending.
We must be careful in how we handle our relationships. Unfortunately, our societal obsession with credit and borrowing has infiltrated our relationships, causing us to take, take, take and seldom give. Constant taking in relationships leaves us devoid of relationship in the end, and makes it nearly impossible for us to be part of a community.
If we learn to give in our relationships, we find that we receive back what we need without having to take at all. When enough of us do this well in our relationships, communities are created.
Now let’s take a closer look at community.
Like relationships above, communities operate on social capital. When one community violates the trust of another community, mistrust and division arise. Not only between communities but within them as well.
Communities can be based on many different types of relationships: geographical, social, religious, political, and even things like sports teams, causes, and crime.
Some communities, like geographical ones, are made up of smaller communities that are made up of relationships between individuals. These smaller communities transact with others within the larger community, and may even fight or dislike each other, but when dealing with another larger community from a different geographic area, they tend to put aside differences and put on the unified face of the larger community.
For example, Boston and New York City are rivals in many ways – each thinks it’s city is nicer, it’s sports teams are better, and even make and sell merchandise that say things like Yankees Suck. While these rivalries may sometimes get a bit out of hand, they also tend to serve as a way to glue each community together.
But rivalries are set aside in a moment when a larger threat appears, like the attacks on 9/11. Rescue workers from Boston mobilized without hesitation to go to the aid of their brothers and sisters in New York, temporarily setting aside rivalries, and acting as part of a larger community as even more rescue workers and support poured in from across the country, and even the globe.
Those rivalries still exist today, but they have been forever altered by these events, solidifying the bonds of the larger community, which creates a safe place for healthy rivalries to exist.
Unfortunately communities can also tear apart and destroy, both the relationships that make them up, and the bonds of larger communities they are a part of.
Think of the violence erupting during recent protests across our nation. Geographical communities suffer collateral damage when outside communities show up to wage war in their streets. These outside communities even manage to divide the host geographical community when it ought to be bonding together to protect itself from harm.
The thought that there are individuals within or outside these communities who use relationships to agitate these communities to violence against each other is reprehensible, and left unchecked will rob our nation blind of the wealth of community we have worked so long to build.
There is a simple truth in the saying, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” From relationships to communities, division within will eventually lead to destruction.
Marriage offers a good example of how relationships interact with wealth, both positively and negatively. Proverbs 31 paints a picture of a prosperous relationship, and while written from the perspective of a husband and his wife, it can easily be read from any relationship perspective, including business partners:
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value. (vs. 10-11)
This relationship is built on trust – did you see it? “Has full confidence…and lacks nothing of value.” A relationship like this will last through thick and thin, and will ultimately achieve the wealthy they seek, however they might define it for themselves. It is a good indication that they will achieve at least some level of financial wealth as well.
On the other hand, without this trust, marriages and partnerships soon fall apart. Two of the leading causes for divorce in the United States are lack of communication and fights over money.
Lack of communication robs a relationship of trust, and eventually leads to money fights and other problems. Remember the house divided? Without good communication a relationship will become divided and eventually fall. Without good communication a relationship cannot build wealth, as there is a lack of confidence in each other.
Likewise, when communities come together and communicate well,working together they will prosper and build wealth in multiple ways. And when communities refuse to listen to each other and resort to violence, all suffer, and wealth begins to erode along with the bonds that hold us together.
Choose to invest in relationships and in community, and wealth will seek you out; choose to invest in wealth alone, and you will find yourself at last, alone.