Viewing entries tagged

Can you hear me now?

“Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?Remember the Verizon commercial advertising better connection.

2016, the year of the most connected society that’s ever lived.  A device in our pocket connects us to our children, our hair stylist, our boss, our suppliers, our neighbors, and our grocers at the push of a button. An order can be placed and received within 24 hours; a tune up on the car can be scheduled; instructions about “how to” can be downloaded.  No group of people in history has ever been so connected.  And yet . . .

We are more isolated than ever.  We sit alone in our cars ordering our pizza for supper.  We sit alone in our homes scrolling through social media.  We sit alone in our office surfing the web looking for answers to our dilemmas. The last two evenings, I’ve listened to two different groups of people who have been intentional about building community.  They’ve purposely begun to live life together.  It was a decision they made and some of them had never experienced that level of connection before.  

Connecting through technology is not the same as connecting in community.  True connection in authentic community looks like vulnerability.  Vulnerability comes at a cost.  So community needs to be trustworthy.  I watched a 30-something, motorcycle riding, inked-up, family man (and btw he’s much, much more than that) point his finger at a friend in his community and say, “We can cry with you about the junk in our lives because you are trustworthy.” Real connection requires vulnerability but vulnerability can only exist when the community is trustworthy.  

Engagement becomes authentic when the community values each other.  When everyone’s voice is important and everyone has something to offer, then engagement will be a natural by-product.  Most of us protect ourselves by acting like we don’t need anything or anyone.  Seldom do we say, “I need . . .”  More often, we can be heard saying, “I’ve got this.” Rich community values everyone, not just the ones who dress well or have more education or do a better job of communicating.  Everyone’s voice is a necessary part of the whole in community.

Humans are designed, just like Legos, for connection.  That’s why isolation is used as a punishment.  It’s hard on us.  It’s not healthy for any of us.  One Lego standing alone is not living up to it’s full potential.  If connected to the right pieces it could become a firehouse headquarters or something equally as elaborate.

If you’ve been without community for a while, I want to suggest that it is already impacting your health, both physical and emotional.  Consider getting outside of your comfort zone and create connection with others who value you, who are trustworthy and who want to be real with you.  


Filling our Need for Connection

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?

Fighting Terror

One thing the last several days of terrorist attacks have left us all feeling is uncertain.  It seems impossible to fight something so pervasive.  You may have even thought there’s just nothing we can do about it.

What if we could actually fight the terror?

Community is our best weapon.  Not just any community but the kind of community that builds you up, helps you fight your own self-doubt and keeps you engaged in good.  Community gives us a place to belong; a place to discover ourselves; a place that fights isolation and abandonment and even fear.  Jean Vanier in his book From Brokenness to Community, basically says that to love someone in community reveals their capacity for life!  How can you extend that kind of community to more people?  Who in your world needs to be a part of a community like that and how can you be part of making it happen?  

If community is the best weapon, then development is the absolute mechanism for the fight.  Each of us are in the development business.  Whether you are butcher, banker, or candlestick maker, you are in the people development business.  If we all recognized that our purpose is to invest in the people around us, we could drive out terrorism.  If we started developing the person in the cubicle next to us, the neighbor next door and our child’s best friend, there would be far fewer people who have been left uncared for, discouraged, discontent and generally abandoned.  Jean Vanier emphasizes that if I’m growing toward wholeness, then I will be an agent of wholeness.  How can you encourage the next person forward?  What could you say or do that would leave the people in your world better?

At the ripe old age of 28, I found myself a bitter old woman.  Thankfully a women 30 years my senior scooped me up and began to mentor me, challenge my rough edges, refuse my sorry excuses and invest in me like my mother.  I was rescued from the attitudes of resentment and revenge and tutored in contentment and forgiveness. The community and development that came from that one relationship liberated me from a lifetime of hate.  

The best way to fight terrorism is to look for a community that loves you; connect everyone you cross paths with to a community that will love them.  Then make it your objective in life to invest in as many people as you are able and encourage others to invest in the ones around them.  Fight being terrified with belonging, engaging, investing, encouraging, not with fear, hate, withdrawal, and isolation.  Belonging, engaging, investing, being encouraged will also go a long way to prevent people in your neighborhood from wanting to terrorize. 

I'd love to hear from you.  Where are you being encouraged?  How are you investing in others?