Arm’s Length Community


We’re going to do a little experiment. Ready?

Find a small object nearby. It could be a pencil, your cell phone, keys, etc. Now, using just your hands with your arms fully extended, pick that thing up and hold it for 30 seconds. Did you get it? Good. You should have.

Next, find something bigger. Something like a desktop monitor, a chair, a small dog, etc. Do the same thing as before. Use just your hands at arm’s length, pick that thing up and hold it there for 30 seconds. How did it go? Was it any more difficult? It should have been.

Finally, find something even bigger. I’m talking about a couch, another adult person, etc. Now, do the same thing. Using only your hands at arm’s length, pick that thing up and hold it for 30 seconds. Could you pick up the thing you found? I know I couldn’t pick up the whole couch using only my hands.

So, why did we do this experiment?

Many people hold community, help, and care at arm’s length, trying to grasp on with only our hands. It becomes easy for those “just slightly heavy/big” items to slip through our grasp, just like the people we try to hold. This is a problem for many reasons, but the biggest one is, what happens when a couch sized thing shows up in our life, and the only people we are in contact with are at arm’s length? What happens when we can’t pick up and hold it on our own?

Arm’s length community is an oxymoron. You can’t have real, genuine, authentic community and not let people into your world. But we all try it in different ways. It may look like:

  • Not talking about how you are actually feeling
  • Not asking for help when you really need it
  • Sarcasm
  • Flakiness

Why do we do things like this to keep people just in reach, but not totally gone?

It’s because vulnerability is hard. It opens us up to our most sensitive, authentic parts that we may not like to look at ourselves, and share them with others. It is an invitation to let others into the secret parts of our life. Vulnerability is hard. But the fact of the matter is that, like when I tried picking up the couch with only my hands, holding people at arm’s length doesn’t actually make getting through life any easier or safer. It’s actually easier to get hurt (I may have pulled something while looking really dumb picking up the couch earlier), and to lose control (I may also have let the couch slam on the floor…).

By embracing community, yes literally and metaphorically, an opportunity to fully grasp and hold on to the people and things that really matter is created. It leaves us with the chance to ask someone to carry the couch with us. It makes things safer. It helps us maintain composure and control in our life circumstances.

Don’t just hold community with your hands. Give it a big ol’ bear hug and hold on tight. It might be the difference between you lifting a couch with others, or alone.

– Mitch (and the LifeSuccess.com Team)


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