A Spark in the Dark
Recently, while driving a friend home from the airport, we discussed how difficult it can be to build any type of relationship. I hate to say “at our age” but if I did, I would just mean that post-college it is rare to be in such a similar melting pot of community again. In reality it can be like a spark in the dark if you will. If you put yourself “out there” what does it even look like because everyone is so different and wants such different things. Sometimes as an adult, you can connect with one friend, and they might be geographically or emotionally gone in a week or so. What’s left then but who is directly with you and how do you engage? And what about when those people are not interested in shallow friendship, let alone deep relationship?
Like anyone who was in youth group as a pre-teen or teen in the 90s, you are probably thinking of DC Talk right now. It’s okay, it’s alright if you are. Also, last year, when I was in grad school I wrote my thesis proposal on the effect of social media on community in the art classroom, but more personally studied the effects on community in general. While this intended study was specific to teenagers, it opened my eyes to adults as well. The thing I kept finding was that while mediums like Facebook and Twitter help to keep you informed of tidbits of what is going on “out there” it keeps you hidden from what is right in front of you. How often have you been at a dinner table of friends who have their phones out? I would answer that it is too often for my taste. If you are new to a place or hoping to build relationships, it can actually be as unsocial as you can get.
So, maybe we are actually hindering our ability to go deeper in relationships by engaging social media often? It is, in all honesty, merely a dim highlight of other’s lives. I know for me, if you are looking to my Facebook and Twitter to note whether I’d be a good friend or not, you are missing out on basically everything I actually have to offer in friendship. If you were to assume that I am constantly making witty remarks, and always jet-setting*, you would be surprised to know that I actually sit at a cubicle sending others on the mission field, and I am generally quietly pondering things with an occasional side-splitter or deep revelation. While I have a lot to offer in friendship and future relationship, I am not sure many people are really getting that side of me right now. There’s a depth with others that I’ve personally prayed for that is still to come. While that is obviously due to more reasons than just social media, I do think it plays a role for each of us.
Please also picture this for a moment: Facebook friend who lives 800 miles away. You knew this person in high school, who now has 3.5 kids, a dog, broken water heater in their rented home, and brand new truck. They knock on your door, sit down at the table without invitation, and show you all of the pictures from their child’s birth, honeymoon in Vegas, kids on the trampoline, and summer at grandma’s.
Yea, I wouldn’t like this in real life either, but I’ve probably seen their photo album and life updates over the last ten years.
*Slight exaggerations may apply. 😉
100 Lonely Hearts
While attending a college group a couple years ago almost 100 women sat in the room. A speaker stood at the front and said we could ask her anything we wanted about life, marriage, God, etc. To my surprise, almost every question the women in the group asked were about loneliness. These were 18-20 year old women who were in college! It is so easy to hide ourselves isn’t it? When we fear that we don’t have enough to offer or that it won’t be received, we end up suffering alone. Meanwhile, 100s of others are silently suffering their loneliness alone. The irony could stand up and punch you in the face.
I don’t know what you think, but to me this is a travesty of great proportions! Especially considering that I believe we all at some point want the following two things (perhaps to varying degrees) relationally:
- We all want to be known authentically.
- We all want to know someone deeply.
We all, at some point, want to have the chance to accept others and be accepted. Is it that we are scared to step into the waters? Is it fear that keeps us lonely? We can’t be friends with everyone, but we have so much more love to give and receive than what we now know. Honestly, are we getting to those places? Why or why not?
100% Me, Myself, &… Why?
I’ve talked of being authentic on my blog before, and I wonder how we are all doing with this authenticity thing? If you aren’t being exactly you then you will feel lonely with even 1000 true friends. And probably exhausted because that’s a lot of people, and friendships are actually hard when they are no longer surface level. I spoke recently with a friend about how frustrated I was, that I didn’t understand why it can be so difficult to find people who will fight for friendship and relationship when I am being 100% me. There’s nothing wrong with me, and I actually really love who God has made me to be. So, seriously, where are people who will love me when I am being 100% myself? Where are these friends?
Yes, people like me at my 100%, a lot actually. They laugh at my quirky hand gestures and at my well-timed jokes and want to have lunches, but where is the depth? We all want it but are afraid to pursue it, but why and what does that pursuit look like? Honestly, where are the people who will even dig into who I (and you) am to even know me as a person on that level? It’s not without trying. It’s not without deep conversations and meaningful approaches. It’s not just you and me. What are the crutches that hinder community?
When we are being 100% authentic, it isn’t that we are showing off or revealing all of our baggage to test whether someone accepts us. Anything negative you are working through takes depth and trust to share so protect who you share that stuff with. Being authentic is about owning who you are. It is celebrating the gifts God’s given you and sharing them in an overflow of you.
Accepting Authentic Acceptance
Do we sometimes sit lonely because we’re afraid to accept acceptance? Does fear of rejection win when we don’t embrace fully the love offered now?
Okay, that sounds like an ad for an anti-depressant, but honestly. If we stopped watching friends through the medium of social media for awhile and sat down to more coffees with the intent of truly knowing each other, how would that change your relationships? Right, I wouldn’t have hundreds of “friends”, but that’s a fact that’s true now. If I only posted what I actually did during the day each day no one would “follow” me because our lives (all of our lives) are a majority of day-to-day things with small sparks of intrigue. That is what social media is for, after all. Social media isn’t bad or wrong, it is just misused. The issue comes when we trick ourselves into thinking it is everyone’s reality and decide not to go any deeper.
Putting yourself out there relationally is scary. But I would encourage not to fully adapt yourself or adjust who you are to suit others. There are people who will (and already do) love you as you are and will love you into the best version of exactly who God has made you to be.
Does anyone want to take a stab at some of the questions I posed here? Let’s get a conversation started!