I fear we go through our days and weeks without much communication anymore - real, genuine, heartfelt communication between two individuals struggling to make it through the day-to-day stuff they each face. In fact, we pull out our phones at the dinner table to check for instant messages, read the latest posts on social media sites, and evaluate the latest stuff trending on YouTube. We've lost the art of sharing - of just being real with each other - discussing the regular stuff of life and just listening to each other. I don't expect my best friend to correct me each time we talk together, but there have been times when she just puts in a word here or there which actually help to get me out of my funk, turn my attitude around from one of "self-whatever" to one of really thinking things through from the other person's perspective, or just helping me to decide if I want to buy the new counter tops or not. Sometimes her words encourage me; at other times they kind of change my course of thinking. All of her words are important to me because we have come to value the sharing of these things with each other. I think we need these frequent times of just sharing with each other - even if it is done while strolling along the sidewalk in an after lunch walk, or just sitting back on the couch with feet up and coffee in hand. We need to put down our phones, tablets, and other electronic devices often enough to actually look at the other person across from us - in so doing, we might just be challenged, encouraged, reminded of something forgotten, or just plain dazzled by the brilliance of the other person we are with!
A truly good friend will openly correct you. You can trust a friend who corrects you, but kisses from an enemy are nothing but lies. If you have had enough to eat, honey doesn’t taste good, but if you are really hungry, you will eat anything. (Proverbs 27:5-7 CEV)
The sad truth today is that we have so few of these type of deep relationships with others - resorting to the shallowness of social networking instead. Let me just tell you this - no social media "connection" I have can embrace me when I need a hug, nor can they really "feed me" what I need in order to grow up in Christ as I should. People who are really, really hungry will eat almost anything - won't they? That means we will be open to whatever comes our way. I was strolling through my media feed this morning and came across some rather vulgar and just not so edifying posts. I had to hide them almost immediately, saying I did not want to see this type of stuff from this type of media feed any longer. Those things don't build anyone up, so why have them crossing our line of thought? It spoke to me once again of how people will "feed" on anything when they lack the closeness of true social connection which occurs when you are building relationships of accountability and depth with another individual.
Some rules of thumb when it comes to building relationships which will build you up rather than tear your down:
- Up close and personal is best. We can gain a lot of knowledge just watching people. I am a people watcher. As I recently am back from vacation, I enjoyed a week or so of people watching at the airports, in the lines waiting for rides at the theme parks, and even just hanging out at a restaurant table waiting for my meal. I am always sensitive to how much parents are resorting to media devices these days to actually "entertain" their kids instead of their kids finding their entertainment with each other and with their parents. I think a few minutes on the video games is okay - it won't warp their brains as long as it is a pretty "clean" game for them to play. If it takes the place of all social contact - that is where the line is being crossed. When kids resort to this instead of running, jumping, and engaging in creative moments of make-believe play, it is robbing them of their ability to become truly connected with other individuals later on in life. We need contact - we need to struggle through issues together - not behind a screen. Some of us adults would do well to refrain from a little of the "media time" and just be "entertained" in conversation with someone sitting across from us or right beside us!
- We need others to challenge our way of thinking, acting, and responding. We only grow when we are challenged. I have trees I have grown from seeds in my backyard. They have grown stronger because of the challenges they face - especially the prevailing winds and the long, hot seasons. The challenges they face actually cause them to put down deeper roots and to develop flexible limbs which will "give" with the winds. We grow where we are challenged. We are challenged best when we are living in "plain view" of others who help us to be accountable for our actions. Close, personal contact with another will often challenge our way of thinking - making us consider why we chose a certain course of thought, while rejecting another. Sometimes we will still think the same way, because we find our choice of thought has been correct, but that little challenge we were given helped to clarify and solidify our choice of thought. We need to be challenged - we need the interaction in order to realize the challenge. Whether that interaction is with God himself, or with a close friend by our side, we can only grow from those interactions we take time to create and engage in.
- We may not realize we have pulled away until we realize how hungry we are for true intimate contact with another human being. The danger isn't realized when we first begin to pull away from relationships and pull-into some form of social isolation, but it is a really dangerous place to dwell too long. We need to consider our actions in light of how they make another feel or how they will interpret our actions. I am ever so aware of this when mom mentions that I am playing my games too much on my tablet - or she makes some comment about wishing she had the ability to entertain herself playing a game of solitaire or the like on one of these devices. I know what she is saying is that I need to put it down, spend a little time just chatting with her, letting her in on what my day held, and just listening to the stuff she faced that day while I was away at work. It isn't "deep" conversation, but it is adding "depth" to our relationship. I think this is the most important part we often miss - the conversations don't have to be deep - they just have to be consistent, considerate, and compassionate. In short order, we find a depth created which will be our "go-to" when we really need those moments of "deep conversation" to help us make tough decisions or change the course of action we are about to take which may be all wrong for us in the end. Just sayin!