Have you ever wanted to resign from the human race? Have you been disappointed, hurt, betrayed just one time too many and said to yourself, "Enough is enough!?" Join the crowd.
I think we've all been there from time to time in our lives because, the truth is, relationships are hard. They're also very much worth it. This is not just my opinion, (even though I'm sure that's good enough for you). The facts back me up on this.
I've been reading a great book by John Ortberg called The Me I Want To Be. In that book he quotes some interesting factoids. Social researcher Robert Putnam is quoted as saying that "The single most common finding from a half-century's research on life satisfaction, not only from the U.S. but around the world, is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one's social connections."
This confirms something that I've learned from observation, people who have good, healthy relationships are generally happier and even physically healthier than their lonely counterparts. The reality is that we need each other.
We can define success in many different ways, but researchers at The Journal of Happiness Studies (I'm not making this up) have found that one factor consistently separates quite happy people from less happy people. It's not money, health, security, attractiveness, IQ, or career success. As Ortberg says, "What distinguishes consistently happier people from less happy people is the presence of rich, deep, joy-producing, life-changing, meaningful relationships."
That being said, how are your relationships?
The sad truth is that most men will only have one or two close personal friends in their lifetime - if at all. Many men live their entire lives without having anyone with whom they can disclose their deepest hurts or greatest victories. Women, on the other hand, tend to be much more relational.
I think Henry David Thoreau had a most insightful moment when he said: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." The question is, does it have to be this way? I think not.
It is the moving from surface relationships to true connectedness that is the challenge. Ortberg is right when he says "Connectedness is not the same thing as knowing many people. People may have many contacts in many networks, but they may not have any friends."
There is a risk involved in this, of course. People are people, and they will let you down. But learning to forgive and try again is all a part of personal growth. The option is isolation - and that is not a good option.
There are some amazing facts out there in relation to the power of relationships. Ortberg states that "People who are socially disconnected are between two and five times more likely to die from any cause than those who have close ties to family, friends, and other relationships. People who have bad health habits like cigarette smoking, overeating, elevated blood pressure, and physical inactivity - but who still remain connected - live longer than people who have great health habits but are disconnected."
So how do we build those healthy relationships?
Look up. Start with God. All worthwhile change begins with God. If this relationship is broken, nothing else will work. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law He immediately replied: “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Look around. Find those "life-givers" who are around you. Who is it that encourages you? Who loves you and wants the best for you? Who is there for you even after you blow it? Strengthen these relationships.
Look within. Be honest with yourself. Many people have never been still long enough to look at their own lives, their dreams, their fears, their hurts, their passions. We are to deal with the baggage if we are to realize our potential. All of this is best done in community.
Look out. Once you have found what you need, look for someone else who is in need of community. There is no shortage of people who have been deprived of healthy meaningful relationships. You can be part of the solution - believe in somebody. As Emily Kimbrough said, "We all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand."
Let me end with a quote from Proverbs 18:1 (The Message): "Loners who care only for themselves spit on the common good."
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Repacking the baggage of our lives
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What Love Language Do You Speak?
Iron Sharpens Iron