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Life is about relationships. Connection is why we are here. Health is Social — it is what gives us meaning, purpose and healing in our lives.

This is our path and practice of love, healing fractured relationships and restoring the loss of social capital in society.

"Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.” Brene Brown

If we have been broken and hurt in relationship, we heal in the context of a relationship. Enter the value of a community, tribe – Encourager's Counseling and Training.

As long as we share our stories, as long as our stories reveal our strengths (light) and vulnerabilities (Shadows) to each other, we reinvigorate our understanding and tolerance for the little quirks of personality that in other circumstances would drive us apart. When we live in a family, a community, a country where we know each other’s true stories, we remember our capacity to powerfully lean in and take charge of our love to restore each other into wholeness.

I have read the story of a tribe in southern Africa called the Babemba tribe. When a person has done something wrong, something that could destroy this delicate social network, the leaders bring all work in the village to a halt. The people gather around the “offender,” and one by one they begin to recite everything he has done right in his life: every good deed, thoughtful behavior, and act of social responsibility. These things have to be true about the person, and spoken honestly, but their time-honored consequence of misbehavior is to appreciate that person back into the better part of him or herself. The person is given the chance to remember who he is and why he is important to the life of the village.

I want to live under such a practice of compassion. When I forget my place, when I lash out with some private wounding in a public way, I want to be remembered back into alignment with my self and my purpose. I want to live with the opportunity for reconciliation. When someone around me is thoughtless or cruel, I want to be given the chance to respond with a ritual that creates the possibility of reconnection. I want to live in a neighborhood where people don’t shoot first, don’t sue first, where people are Story-catchers willing to discover in strangers the mirror of themselves.

As we remember and learn to be ourselves on this human journey, we need the kind of tribe that allows us to look our worse, make a mess, fall down, look foolish, fumble, even hurt others (accidentally of course), so long as we all stay in relationship and commit to working through it.

One of the roles of this kind of conscious community is to see us and accept us as we are. Our genuine allies in the group don’t need to buy into our mask or our strategies. We want them to believe in, and see, our wholeness and demand that. When we are unwilling to see ourselves and know our own value, we can ask them directly to support us there and love us out loud, reminding us of the truth of how they experience us. The trick of course is that unless they are working on themselves and can actively self-reflect honestly, their reflections will often support the very habitual patterns we are trying to transcend. A non-growth oriented community member will tend to collude with the disempowered version of us who habitually wears a mask, because that’s what they are doing.

Of course, the other choice in community is to keep wearing our mask. Then, we can indirectly and unconsciously subcontract our need for acceptance and approval out to them without telling them. Then, when they don’t love us or appreciate us the way the hurt little kid in us wants, which is common (and just the right blessing we are seeking), we might get upset, hurt, and mad. Hopefully, that will continue to happen until we are willing to be the kind of adult that knows, and is direct with, our needs, or until we are able to love those places in us that we’ve agreed to dislike or hate. Then, at some point we can get back to, or learn, the direct, transparent route by starting where we are, rather than pretending from where we want to be.

As adults, it’s our goal to love and appreciate ourselves, and when we are not feeling it, because those days happen, we can ask for safe “9-1-1 friends” (people we can trust with our inner-most vulnerabilities) to remind us that the story we’ve been telling ourselves (i.e. I’m not lovable or valuable) is a lie. Together we can listen deeper for the true story, THE story that aligns with all that we are. Our community and tribe’s job is to reflect that. Accepting ourselves where we are, as we are, is accelerated by being in-relationship with others who are able to help the real us come out. Soon enough these friends will probably be more drawn to us because we are facing the truth inside, rather than posturing over it. Eventually, in a conscious tribe, we can be ourselves, ugly parts and all, and the community becomes not only a container for our development but the vehicle for our awakening. Now the ember inside can turn into a flame and blazing fire as we come to remember, know, and trust, that we are indeed lovable, worthy, and beautiful just as we are.


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