Over the weekend my family and I were hanging around my house with no where to go. As it happens, our oldest two girls (4 and 2 years) were following my wife and I like ducklings following their mother. If we went to the kitchen, they went to the kitchen. If we went to the living room, they went to the living room.
At one point I slipped into our bedroom and our oldest daughter followed. She made herself at home at the desk in our room, pulled out a pen and paper and began to draw. I don’t remember why I went into the bedroom, but after a few moments I was headed out on to what was next.
As I passed by our daughter sitting at the desk, I leaned down to kiss her on the head before walking through the bedroom door when she said with earnest, “Daddy, wait! Don’t leave! I don’t wanna be alone!” I replied back saying that she didn’t have to stay and she could go where I was going. She quickly gathered her things off the desk and trailed behind me out the door.
As we walked out of the room together I was struck by the thought of how loneliness is the prevailing fear for so many people. We were created to be in relationship. We were made for authentic connection, but in a society that values individualistic self actualization, loneliness is an epidemic that’s running wild.
We live in a time when connecting with others has never been easier. In fact, between tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and blog comments, the majority of people in our society are always connected, all the time. Between our mobile devices and social networks, getting in touch with anyone anywhere in the world at any given time is as simple as swiping your finger across a screen. The irony is, even with all of these opportunities to connect, people find themselves isolated and alone.
But I wonder if in part, even though were afraid of being alone, we’re equally afraid of being in true relationship. Relationships are hard and messy. They’re complex and require deep commitment. They demand significant investment and they don’t come with a guarantee.
Among other things, true relationships and authentic connection require three things.
1. Time – True relationship requires the investment of time. It’s one thing to “like” a picture or a Facebook post and have a conversation with a friend through out the day in bursts of 140 characters or less, but it’s another thing to sit face to face and talk through the deeper and more meaningful things of life. It’s been said, in relationships, you can’t have quality time with out quantity of time. In day in age when time is money and productivity is king, we are always looking for ways to get the biggest return from the least investment, but relationships don’t work that way. True relationships develop over lots of time together.
2. Vulnerability – Living our lives online affords us the opportunity to edit our lives as we go. We are able to project a manufactured image of who we are, what we look like and the experiences we have. We have the ability to control what other people see of our lives. Which means we can hide the parts of our lives we don’t want people to see. But being in true relationship is about being known for who we really are, even our fears, failures and insecurities. In order for people to see these parts of us, we have to be willing to take off our digitally constructed masks and reveal what lies underneath.
3. Self-Sacrifice – Much of our modern society is built around the question, “What’s in it for me?” Relationships built on that question are short-lived and shallow. In order for a relationship to last there has to be a willingness to be inconvenienced by the relationship. When we go into a relationship looking only to receive, we will quickly exit the relationship when our needs and expectations aren’t being met. True relationships develop when we communicate love through sacrifice and service, by putting the other person before ourself.
In light of all of this, even though we may not want to be alone, perhaps it’s safer than being in relationship. True relationship is risky and costly. It’s not for the faint of heart. So while, just like my 4-year-old, we say, “I don’t want to be alone.” We must ask, are we willing to find the courage to take off our masks, give of our selves and put others first?
1. Where have you seen these three things play out in deep relationships that you have?
2. What other things would you add to this list?