The human soul longs for intimacy and connection, yet genuine community seems to become more and more difficult to attain. Why might this be true?
There are a number of factors we could address, but let me share something I hear nearly every day.
“I don’t have enough time” is the most common statement I hear leaders say.
(I say it too.)
But the truth is, we all have the same amount of time. It’s really about the decisions we make about how to use that time, and under pressure, that’s not easy. What often suffers is time for relationships.
I recently asked a pastor to tell me his story. The story of his life. He looked at me with uncertainty. Not like he didn’t know his story, but more like he was caught off guard because no one had ever asked him to tell more than the three-minute version. When I told him I wasn’t in a hurry and I wanted the unabridged version, it seemed as though he was just presented with a sacred opportunity.
The demands of ministry can cause leaders to forfeit genuine community, and inadvertently drift toward isolation. It’s not intentional, but it seems to come with the territory. What is the path toward a healthier lifestyle?
Again, there many issues and they are complex, so perhaps it’s best to start with the foundation.
We all have a deep soul level need:
- To be seen and valued – to be noticed as an individual of worth and value is core to our self-esteem and ability to give ourselves to others.
- To connect and be in community – to experience human connection at a heart level and be in genuine relationship with others establishes a baseline for healthy human interaction.
- To be known and loved – to be known as the real you and be fully accepted, and receive the most profound gift of all, to be loved unconditionally, is truly lifegiving.
We intuitively know these things to be true, but find it challenging to consistently live them out.
Why is that?
Some of the larger issues are things like the basic human condition, the fears and insecurities we face, and the pressures life presents.
But let’s break that down to a few of the more current and practical realities that cause relationships to suffer.
And also provide insights to healthier and more enjoyable relationships.
4 Current Realities That Challenge Meaningful Relationships
1) The tension between the speed of life and the speed of love
The speed of life demands that we keep up. The speed of love requires that we slow down. These two realties carry a tension to manage. Which one do you surrender to most?
Leaders have to keep up. In fact, we actually need to stay out front in order to set the pace. We are also responsible to make progress. Yet, Jesus modeled the greatest of these things is love, and for that, we must slow down.
- Leading any organization to realize their mission requires the speed of life.
- Playing with your children and grandchildren requires the speed of love.
However, the danger in these two statements is they paint a simplistic perspective.
Life doesn’t allow itself to be neatly compartmentalized. The challenging art is how to blend both the speed of life and the speed of love in our daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms.
One of the most significant decisions we make every day is when and why we’ll travel at the speed of life and when and why we’ll slow down to the speed of love. It’s a choice.
I’ll admit it doesn’t always feel like a choice, but it is, and it’s often a tough choice.
The good news is that every day we are presented with a fresh opportunity to make good choices and live them out well.
How are you doing as you navigate the speed of life and the speed of love?
2) The declining ability to exchange differing ideas, thoughts and opinions
The art of conversation is often lost to the heat of debate. Not the spirited sense of debate classically taught in school, but the debate that demands one must win and one must lose — one is right, therefore the other is wrong.
Our growth as leaders, husbands and wives, friends and colleagues, and, purely human beings is found in the ability to exchange differing ideas and opinions with respect and a mindful intent to understand and grow.
The danger of defending our own echo chambers based on emotion over thought and data is real. We don’t need to abandon our core beliefs and values to have a conversation that leads to growth and understanding.
This is not a platform for wishy-washy compromise, it’s a desperate need to find a better way to connect and communicate with others who have ideas and opinions that differ from our own.
When we can exchange differing ideas and opinions with respect and intent to understand; strained relationships can be restored, new relationships can be formed, and the gospel has greater potential to gain more ground.
3) The challenge to value social messaging in its proper perspective
I’m enthusiastic about the potential good in social media, but I’m also aware of its pitfalls.
Social media allows us to stay connected on the run, celebrate successes and milestones, share ideas and helpful content, pray for each other, share common values, and even inspire one another.
Social media can also be shallow, divisive, suck us into purposeless scrolling, propagate lies, incite anger, and create a false sense of importance and acceptance.
One of the significant pitfalls of social media, among all its potential good, is being lured into a false sense of meaningful relationship. How do you assess what is meaningful and real and what is not?
It takes wisdom, discipline and good common sense to navigate social media for healthy and productive outcomes.
Simple tips to navigate social media well.
- Know your purpose. Connect with friends? Entertainment? Practical content? Etc. In other words, use social media purposefully, rather than reflexive habit.
- Watch your values. Establish personal boundaries so you don’t find yourself wandering in unhealthy territory.
- Avoid jumping tracks. Example, you start off in search of content, or to connect with friends, but end up scrolling entertainment.
- Limit your time. Establish how much time you will invest in social media.
4) The complexity of managing the tension between grace and truth
Most of us lean toward either grace or truth in our basic personality and wiring, and under pressure that bias becomes magnified. Knowing which way we lean helps us avoid the extremes, and stay closer to a place of balance.
For example, my bias is clearly toward grace, so I intentionally keep myself aware of the need to live and speak truth.
How about you?
Which is your natural bias?
How do you keep yourself in tune with a balance between truth and grace?
(I’m not sure any of us consistently maintains a balance, but we can get closer to center when we are aware.)
Grace and truth:
- Grace without truth can ring hollow and shallow.
- Truth without grace can be harsh and difficult to receive.
- Truth brings boundaries and strength to grace.
- Grace brings hope and life to truth.
Ephesians 4:15 sums it up well. Speak the truth in love.
When you consider your role as a leader, parent, spouse, friend or colleague, your ability to be self-aware about truth and grace is a game changer.