Home Concepts Ethics Habits of the Heart: Finding Spirituality in Community Coherence

Habits of the Heart: Finding Spirituality in Community Coherence

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In alignment with de Tocqueville, Robert Bellah and his colleagues, I propose that there are two ingredients that are essential to building and sustaining a community of coherence. The first ingredient is a shared sense of spiritual unity and a transcendent set of sacred values and purposes. This ingredient is one that Bellah and his colleagues return to in recognition of the final and most important habit of the heart identified by de Tocqueville. This final habit is the abiding belief to be found in the community regarding human progress and a sense of greater purpose in life.

The second ingredient turns us to the wisdom offered by Paul Tillich (1948), a prominent theologian of the 20th century. Tillich writes about the structure of grace in the shared history of a society. If we specifically introduce our focus on coherent communities, this structure of grace could be considered the history embedded in the collective memory of a history. It is a history that includes not just the success of relationships and community, but also the failures and suffering inherent in relationships and the formation of community.

As Parker Palmer (1990, p. 31) notes, “Our successes and our glories are not the stuff of community, but our sins and our failures are”. We love and hurt another person at the same time. We collectively provide benefit to those in need (often as charitable contributions) and at the same time block progress toward increasing the welfare of all members of our community (by failing to pass needed legislation). We are pulled to and pushed away from relationships and communities at the same time. We do good and we do harm—both are inevitable (Bergquist and Pomerantz, 2020). Tillich believes that Grace only comes with the act of acceptance and reform. This is a spiritual perspective. We are given the chance to do better in our collective actions within our community. Grace allows us to enter the world of relationships and community with both courage and hope.



Bergquist, William (2019) Leadership in the Midst of Complexity, Uncertainty, Turbulence and
Contradiction. Library of Professional Coaching, Link:

Bergquist, William and Suzi Pomerantz (2020) Harmlessness and the Leadership Spectrum. Published in
the Library of Professional coaching. Link:

de Tocqueville, Alexis (2000/1835) Democracy in America, New York: Bantom.

Kitchens, Ron, Daniel Gross and Heather Smith (2008) Community Capitalism. Bloomington, IN.: AuthorHouse.

Palmer, Parker (1990) The Active Life. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Tillich, Paul (1948) The Shaking of the Foundations. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons

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