Creating Meaningful Connections: How We Stand In Our Own Way, and What To Do About It

While individual humans are made up of individual qualities, there is one quality that we all share – our desire to connect with other human beings in a real and meaningful way. We desire to be know. To be seen. And to be accepted. We are both made to form meaningful connections with others and made through the forming of meaningful connections with others. Connection is at the core of who we are and who we hope to be.

We all want it. We all crave it. But we aren’t always good at acknowledging and responding to that desire. Some of us struggle to form connections because we don’t think we need to, while others of us struggle because we don’t think we have the ability to.

Both, are fundamentally untrue.

We all face the same problem: We all desire meaningful connection with others, but that connection is made difficult (if not rendered obsolete) by the only force more powerful than our desire to connect – our insecurities.

We seem to live in a world divided into two camps: Those of us who desire connection and actively seek it out, and those of us who desire connection but don’t seek it out.

There is no third camp of “I don’t crave connection because I’m an introvert,” or “I don’t crave connection because I suffer from social anxiety.” Connection doesn’t only happen for extroverts. Connection doesn’t only happen for the confident and the outgoing. Connection doesn’t only happen for those with nice homes and the ability to cook.

Connection is craved by ALL of us.

But.

There is a problem. Well, two, actually.

First, we let partial lies dictate the whole story.

It’s true, reaching out to others is scary. It’s true that extending an invitation for others to come into your home will require you to carve out time in your schedule, and time is a limited commodity. It’s true that some of us are introverts. It’s also true that social anxiety is a real thing. It’s true that opening up your home to others will make you acutely aware of how dirty your house is, how limited of a cook you are, and how much of a hostess you feel you are not.

But. If we stop there, then we let these partial truths dictate our whole story. In fact, we let those partial truths hijack the very thing that we all have in common and fundamentally makes connection possible:

We all CRAVE it. We all NEED it. Therefore, we are all uniquely created with the ABILITY to pursue it.

Yes, reaching out to others can be scary, and that fear is a very real emotion. It’s ok to be afraid. It’s not ok to let fear dictate our life.

I’ve been thinking SO much about fear lately. I used to think about fear in very negative and narrow terms. There is a verse in the Bible that says we “were not given a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7). I adore that verse. But I used to think that it meant that if we weren’t given this spirit of fear, then the goal should be to become fearless. I realize now just how much I’ve misappropriated the meaning of this powerful truth. It’s not about becoming fearless, it’s about understanding that when we become afraid,  we don’t have to let that fear limit or bind us. Why? Because God didn’t equip us with fear. No. He equipped us with POWER and LOVE and a SOUND MIND. This isn’t to say we won’t experience fear. It simply means that when fear arrises in our hearts and minds, we can access a more powerful, more loving, more sound spirit.

Yes, connection takes time. But there is literally nothing more valuable on this good earth than time spent connecting with others in real and meaningful ways. Period. End of story. Time spent building connections is time WELL spent.

Yes, it’s true that some of us are introverts and/or experience social anxiety. This is not a case against connecting with others. This is a case for finding a way that YOU can connect with others based on your own needs, desires, and personality. No one was made with a limiting personality. Your personality is the point of connection, not the excuse against it.

Yes, it’s true that our homes get messy, that we sometimes burn food or don’t feel like the best cook (or even like to cook for that matter), and that we don’t always know “how” to host others in our own home. These are all very real, very limiting, very partial truths that get in the way of our connecting with others in the space that can provide the greatest catalyst for connection: our home.

Our homes might get messy, but guess what? So does everyone else’s home. People aren’t expecting their friends to have homes that look like they are straight out of the pages of Town & Country Magazine. They are simply craving that same connection and meaningful encounters that you crave.

And yes, you might not like to cook or feel like a good cook, so what? I’ll let you in on a very important secret. Food is not so much about fanciness as it is about feeling. Food is one of the simplest, easiest reasons for gathering. Use it. Embrace it. Maybe you cook something tried and true that isn’t fancy but communicates the feeling that you simply want to be with that person/group of people. Maybe you hate to cook but you know how to perform the time honored tradition of exchanging cash for pizza (it works every time).  What you serve matters far, far less than who you’re serving. Focus on the people, my friends. Let them guide your heart and your intentions and I promise you, YOU WILL BE FINE.

Or perhaps you love to cook but the idea of welcoming people into your home stresses you out. I get this. But I also resist this excuse and will fight it with every breath in my body. We have one of two options when we start to feel that stress rise to our chest at the very idea of inviting others into our home: we either let that stress dictate our life (not a great option), or we dig a little deeper and ask ourselves the tough but important question of what exactly is stressing us out about the idea of inviting people over.

This leads us right into the second problem we face when think about connecting with others. Friends, 100% of the time, when you put in the work to look past your stressed out feelings and ask yourself WHAT is stressing you out about connecting with others, I guarantee it is because we tend to work with a very limited understanding of connection that is based more on what we lack than what we have.

No one is telling you to have a million friends or to host fancy dinner parties or hang around people you don’t like. No one is telling you that you aren’t good at connecting or that you don’t need anyone outside of your family or that you don’t know where to start. You tell yourself that, because it’s easier to believe that we don’t need connection or that we don’t have what it takes to connect rather than putting in the work to get over ourselves and into community with others.

I was listening to a podcast recently about how we tend to do the same behavior over and over (even the bad behavior that we hate) because we mistake familiar for comfortable. It’s not actually comfortable to stay stuck in behavior that we don’t like. It’s just familiar. To put it another way, let’s take it back to old Newton’s first law of motion: an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.

We all crave connection. We are all built with the ability to connect. So outside of our insecurities, the next greatest thing that gets in the way of fulfilling this desire is that it’s easier to remain in the familiar. It’s easier to get stuck in our own little schedule of work and school and family life. It’s easier to keep our doors closed to the outside world. It’s easier to use our insecurities as excuses. It’s easier to let our past dictate our future. Easier, because that is what’s familiar.

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stay in the familiar just because it’s easier. And I certainly don’t want to allow my fears and insecurities to hijack my hopes and dreams for forming meaningful connections with others. As with anything, it might be uncomfortable for a time to reach out to others, to ask someone new to meet you for coffee or host a new family for pizza night in your home, but I promise you – that discomfort quickly turns into something so much better when you do.

It turns into connection.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s