Another excerpt from Jean Vanier
“Communities need tensions if they are to grow and deepen. Tensions come from conflicts within each person–conflicts born out of a refusal of personal and community growth, conflicts between individual egoisms, conflicts arising from a diminishing gratuite (giving freely generously of oneself), from a clash of temperaments, and from individual psychological difficulties. These are natural tensions. Anguish is the normal reaction to being brought up against our own limitations and darkness, to the discovery of our own deep wound. Tension is the normal reaction to responsibilities we find hard because they make us feel insecure. We all weep and grieve inwardly at the successive deaths of our own interests. It is normal for us to rebel, to be frightened and feel tense when we are faced with difficult people who are not yet free from their own fears and aggression. It is normal that our own reserves of gratuite run low from time to time, because we are tired or are going through personal tensions or sufferings. There are a thousand reasons for tension.
And each of them brings the whole community, as well as each individual member of it, face to face with its own poverty, inability to cope, weariness, aggression, and depression. These can be important times if we realize that the treasure of the community is in danger. When everything is going well, when the community feels it is living successfully, its members tend to let their energies dissipate, and to listen less carefully to each other.
Tensions bring people back to the reality of their helplessness, obliging them to spend more time in prayer an dialogue, working patiently to overcome the crisis and refind lost unity, and making them understand that the community is more than just a human reality, that it also needs the spirit of God if it is to live and deepen. Tensions often mark the necessary step toward a greater unity as well, by revealing flaws which demand re-evaluation, reorganization, and a greater humility. Sometimes the brutal explosion of one tension simply reveals another which is latent. It is only when tensions come to a head like a boil that we can try to treat the infection at its roots. I am told there is a Chinese word for “crisis” which means “opportunity and danger.” Every tension, every crisis can become a source of new life if we approach it wisely, or it can bring death and division.”
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