Top 14 Ways of the Spirit of Social Capital

by Mark Votava


I have struggled with this idea of social capital in my life.  Social capital is the building of relational trust with our neighbors in the place we live.  This practice seems to be vanishing in our twenty-first century world.  But maybe it is more important than we realize.

My journey in the Spirit of social capital has been one of teaching me the importance of rootedness.  I need to stop moving around and center myself in one place to grow roots and a life there.  This will help me to learn the ways of loving my neighbors as myself.  And I think this is the whole point of my spirituality, to learn to love.

How can I learn to love if I am not rooted in a place, if I am not about embodying community in the place I live?  Community will only happen if there is social capital among us.  When there is no trust between neighbors, there is not much of a life of community there.  We stumble around in isolation, fear and live by invisibility.

It seems God is calling me to come out into the light of social capital, to be known and not to fear visibility anymore.  I am being called to see God through the face of my neighbors.  In the neighbor, through the practice of love, God is revealed to me in so many ordinary ways.  This is the great miracle of life and brings meaning to my existence.

Here are 14 ways we can live into the ways of the Spirit of social capital.

1. We live interdependently

Without the neighbor, there is no friendship in life.  Without the neighbor, there is no partnership.  Without the neighbor, we are destined for loneliness.  We live interdependently on our neighbors when there is social capital alive in the place we inhabit together as the body of Christ.

2. We collaborate with our neighbors in everyday life

We need them to teach us that we must become a friend not an enemy.  There is no place for wronging the neighbor and not seeking his or her good will through the parish imagination.  The parish imagination collaborates with the neighbor in everyday life.

3. We come together around place

New connections and relationships grow as social capital and neighborliness are present among us.  This web of connection and collaboration signifies a care for the common good of the parish.  There is a powerful synergy that develops when others come together around place.

4. We live out of love and compassion

There are so many assets among us and between us relationally.  When we develop social capital and neighborliness we are living out the gospel of love and compassion.

5. We create new connections and relationships

John McKnight and Peter Block say, “…we know that the power of what we have grows from creating new connections and relationships among and between what we have.” 

6. We find meaning in our life’s work

Our relational connections give us meaning in our life’s work.  Our relational connections build trust between us.  This social capital is miraculous when we can see it and feel it in the place that we inhabit together.  It is mysterious yet practical.  It is simple yet complex.

7. We live in a liminal state

It is surprising yet challenging.  All these paradoxes keep us in a liminal state of embodied neighborliness.  We are constantly being shaped by our developing social capital among us.

8. We value the neighbor before us

Social capital sometimes feels like a tangible salvation we experience in everyday life together.  The power and energy it bring our lives is undeniable as we live out our lives to value the neighbor before us.

9. We do to others what we would like them to do to us

“Do to others what you would have them do to you…”  (Luke 6:31). 

10. We treat others with respect

This is such a simple teaching from Christ yet it is embedded with mystery and life.  Social capital and neighborliness are about treating others a certain way.  We treat others with respect regardless of beliefs, lifestyles or attitudes.

11. We seek the common good together

We seek collaboration.  We seek partnership.  We seek the common good because that is always how we would like to be treated ourselves.

12. We resist hatred and oppression

Everyone hopes to be treated with good will instead of with hatred and oppression.  Nobody likes that!  Through building social capital and neighborliness we have the opportunity to treat others like we would like to be treated.  That is one of the greatest truths about social capital and neighborliness.

13. We live by the Spirit

They bring us together instead of pulling us apart in the parish.  Social capital and neighborliness are traits of love.  And love happens to be of the Holy Spirit.

14. We embody reconciliation and solidarity

The Holy Spirit is all about love and treating others with respect and dignity.  The Holy Spirit always leads to relational connection, reconciliation and solidarity.  The Holy Spirit is leading us to neighborliness and social capital in everyday life.

What do you think about the Spirit of social capital in our lives?