Legos are the best! When my boys were young, we had legos everywhere. My favorite thing to do was build houses, airplanes, tractors, people, castles, dinosaurs, star wars fighters. It’s so fascinating to connect little tiny unadorned shapes into something significant. I experienced a big loss the day we stopped playing with legos. Humans have a built-in need for connection. We’re like nondescript rectangles that come together in fascinating and impressive ways when we make connections.
Disengagement is the Problem
Brene Brown, a researcher from the University of Houston, says that disengagement is the chief issue underlying the majority of problems in families, teams, and organizations. We disengage to protect ourselves and we also disengage because we are disappointed in others. This desire we have to protect ourselves from others' judgement typically pushes us to pretend we are near perfect. Authenticity sounds dangerous, so we cover up who we really are. Even though most of us would love to wave a white flag and cry, “I need help” or “This isn’t working;” instead, we smile and say, “I’ve got this.”
Two fairly unpleasant examples of this disengagement due to disappointment are politics and religion. Politicians are making laws that they are not obligated to follow. They speak of values that are seldom on display in their behavior. Likewise, when religious leaders prey on our fear and need for certainty by creating a system that requires us to conform or face repercussion, the entire concept of faith is undermined. Faith minus connection equates to extremism. “Connection and engagement is not built on compliance, it’s the product of love, belonging, and vulnerability,” Brene Brown in Daring Greatly.
We are not purposely creating cultures of disengagement. However, we might not be intentionally building connection either. How do we shape a culture of connection? Brene Brown says, “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.”
Two Giants Steps toward Connecting
Living in genuine community, a place where there is real connection, has been my privilege for a couple of decades. In the beginning, I was skeptical. I didn't trust anyone. I doubted the wisdom of being as authentic as the people around me. Then I began to take risk, show a piece of myself, become transparent and vulnerable. As I began to live like that, I gained a sense of belonging that is unexplained, a new kind of peace with who I am and a desire to be real with everyone. This kind of connection and community is contagious.
What if people came together with their masks off and shared their struggles? What if we could create a culture where we show up and aren’t afraid to be seen — just us, the real deal, not the fake, pretending, perfect, show-to-the-world us. If you don’t have that kind of community, maybe it’s time for you to create it. Start by choosing to show up and be real, be honest, let your true self be seen. Then create connections with others by seeing, hearing, and valuing them, just as they are. The problem most of us face is that we want others to be vulnerable with us but vulnerability is the last thing we plan on showing them. Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, no wonder it makes us uncomfortable. Humans are designed for connection. That means cultivating connection is a necessary part of our very health.
What can you do to start creating this kind of connection in your family and beyond?