So here we are at the finale of some of my musings on relationships. This one hits home for me in a lot of ways because of who I have been and continue to be, and also because of the unique individuals that God has placed in my life. I want to change the lives of those around me but I know that I cannot simply wish them changed and it happen without some action on my part.
We need relationships to become whole beings, without them we live only half a life. In removing relationships we severely hinder our ability to experience and we give up the power to become more than ourselves. Within relationships we find meaning and purpose beyond what we could give ourselves. It means facing our greatest fears, discovering our deepest desires, and giving up ourselves for the sake of someone else. They are so difficult simply because people are difficult. We are moody, confusing, irrational and messy. Getting in close with someone means being willing to get messy, both in your own swirl and theirs. But getting messy should be the end goal because wonderful things happen when we live in relationship with others.
In college I was told a very simple yet incredibly profound truth about living in community; you can only impact someone from up close. There is so much in this simple phrase that we often forget to apply to our daily lives. One of our primary inclinations as a living being is to protect ourselves from any and all threats including threats that are not physical in nature. I am speaking about the threat of someone getting in and knowing who we really are. In allowing another person in to our hearts we are allowing ourselves to become incredibly vulnerable. The knowledge they obtain could very easily be used to utterly destroy us. This is a terrifying prospect for anyone but some are able to overcome it more readily than others. This fear drives us to build barriers to keep everyone, and sometimes even ourselves, from the very core of our being. In doing this we learn skills to keep anyone from ever really having an impact in our life.
We cannot change or be changed at an arms-length.
To have truly meaningful, beneficial relationships we have to overcome this fear. If we ever want to be loved, a desire that is within each of us, someone will have to get in close to us. This can be a heart-wrenching process that requires us to destroy walls that had been thought indestructible. The process is often slow and arduous the whole way through, but the end result can be a beautiful thing. Love is the most precious thing we can give and accept as humans. It is something we need as much as sustenance and without it our lives become mere shadows of humanity. Once we have overcome these fears and accept love the true living begins. This is applicable to ourselves yes but it is also a principle we have to keep in mind in our dealings with others.
There are many arenas in life where we let our differences define us, sometimes this is shown in uncomfortable silence while other times it will appear as all-out war. In these moments we have a crucial choice to make; we must decide whether to keep ourselves separate and alien or to get close and do our best to understand the other individual. It would appear that the most common reaction is the former of these two which results in many of the confrontations we see in the media. This reaction is the one that leads to hate, anger, emotional abuse, and in certain terrible cases physical attacks. This is the reaction that often communicates the opposite of love regardless of the intent. The latter approach is one that is not used enough. The second one is much harder in many ways, mainly because it forces us to humble ourselves and be willing to listen without always having an agenda. However the second one can have the most meaningful impact with the most beneficial results. The second one more readily communicates love.
I think it very important that we learn to stop being afraid of being close to one another and be more willing to engage in the meaningful discussions and hopefully, someday, relationships. This is the only way we can ever hope to effect real change in the lives of others. This is the only way we can hope to be more than stereotypes and caricatures that define our understandings of one another. This is the only way we can truly love one another; not from across a debate floor but through a caring embrace. Going out for coffee and engaging with someone on a personal level will do more in an hour than days of arguing across a street will ever accomplish.Max