Do you know of someone who has developed a habit of taking over and shutting down the passing lane of communication? You nod, frequently interjecting a perfunctory “oh, my” and “uh-huh” — all the while, you wonder if the person talking has an inkling that something may or may not also be happening in your world. You leave feeling a little lonely and a bit heavy because now you are also weighted by the barrage of their words and worries.
I was looking forward to getting out of my usual pace and space. Meeting friends for lunch has become something outside my norm since a move and the progression of time and responsibilities. I made a deliberate effort to make plans with two lovely souls at a new restaurant in town. I knew myself well enough that if I didn’t keep telling myself I was going, I would find an excuse not to go. I write this not because I don’t love my friends but because I think I miss my closest friends… those who really know me, quirks and all. I know I need to work on this, so I am trying to get out and make an effort. Let’s face it, developing new friendships takes a lot of time and emotional investment, two things many don’t want to spend in today’s world. Folks are busy and exhausted. It is much easier for people to connect via texts or popular social media sites.
Traditional friendships are becoming as dated as postcards.
The breakdown of friendships that go as deep as they go wide is disheartening. Many people no longer have a go-to friend to call for emotional support or to pick them up off the side of the freeway when their car breaks down. All the Facebook friends in the world or likes on Instagram and photo sharing on Snapchat can’t compete to someone showing up when you need them or making you cry from laughing. Yes, we all need people who see us… really sees us… without filters.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Because we are so protective of our time, we often end up being busy but lonely. Or worse, when we do finally see people, we dominate the conversation trying to get in everything that has happened. In my case, something different occurred.
After I met my two girlfriends for lunch, I was going to send them each a text apologizing for dominating the conversation. However, once I replayed the afternoon in my head I realized I didn’t overpower the table talk; rather, I only thought I did because my mind was so crowded with personal concerns. Yes, I sat, listened and talked and still left feeling a little lonely and a bit heavy. Why? Because I was not fully present. I was politely participating without unplugging from my pace and mental space. I cheated myself of really seeing the people before me. I wonder how many of us do this, sometimes without even realizing it?
Perhaps we have gotten in the habit of putting an affirming status on a friend’s Facebook page or liking posts as we wait in lobbies and pickup lines. We maintain these friendships through thumbs-up, pings, pm’s, streaks, and whatever else there is out there. And when we actually see our friends, we have become rusty in the art of true communication. We realize we are no longer skilled in active listening and full engagement.
May we not forget people need people. We need people who really see us. And we need to brush up on our communication skills, be present, and authentically engage so we are not such an isolated, anxious, and lonely society. In doing so, we will return to truly being there for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Imagine the depth and width of our relationships for His glory if we unplug and serve one another with our time, presence, and attention.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
SGLY, dear readers.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier, Instagram: @tiffanysgly, and Twitter: @tiffanychartier.