Amidst the working from home craze onset by the novel coronavirus pandemic, it becomes easy for us to slip into a way of thinking that allows for us to work in a way that treats those around us as “resources” rather than relationships. Some of us may experience a sense of freedom from office politics, from dealing with difficult coworkers, and maybe even staying out of the line of fire of malignant managers.
Recently, I learned of a survey that was administered 20 years ago, and then again in recent years. I’m unsure of the source, otherwise I would provide a reference here. In this survey, the question was that if you had to reach out to people you know for help, how many people would drop everything and immediately come to your aid? 20 years ago the average answer was five. When the survey was recently performed, the average answer was zero.
In the age of technology, where it has become the social norm to connect with one another indirectly, or even asynchronously, we have lost sight of the joy and value that is to be discovered in true friendship. We are falling victim to an age-old tactic of the enemy, who wants to isolate us from each other, to keep us alone, where he can plant seeds in our lives that steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
Relationships can be messy. Friends can have misunderstandings. Coworkers get promoted or are openly recognized when you aren’t. Family members say things that are hurtful and dismissive. Church members form clicks and exclude others. And these are just a few examples.
The world around us has convinced us that if we disagree with someone else, and we can’t win them over to our point of view, then we are better off writing them off and shutting them out of our lives. It is easier for us to shut others out than to risk being hurt or betrayed by them. Besides, relationships rarely ever last for very long anyway, right?
Let me be clear on something before I go any further. I believe wholeheartedly that there are relationships which can be unhealthy for you or for your family members. These relationships might be toxic and consistently hurtful to you or to your loved ones.
While I would encourage you, in those circumstances, to first heed the words of Christ (forgive 7 times 70, turn the other cheek, etc), at some point it is acceptable to assert yourself to the other person (or persons), to let them know that you are a person of value, and that they can not treat you as their personal proverbial punching bag. Abuse is abuse, whether that is physical, mental, emotional, or verbal. If the abuser is incapable of changing, I believe it is acceptable to tell that person that you love them, that you will pray for them, but you can not continue to let them hurt you or those that you love.
Most of the people I encounter around me do not demonstrate that type of behavior, however. It will take concerted effort on my part to reach out to get to know people around me. I will need to be able to extend grace to others around me, to remember that just like me, they are fallen humans living in a fallen world. If I allow it, the Spirit will show me that the Father loves them just as much as He loves me, and that He has no favorites.
Only when we are vulnerable, when we expose our hearts and our minds to others, when we pour ourselves out for another, will we experience the true joy of friendship. Friendships are a blessing from God. There will be friends who encourage you, who strengthen you, who challenge you. There will be friends who can help you discern, and friends who will push you when you are stuck or uncertain.
If you are uncertain about where to start, you can be sure that your Father in heaven will help. “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) Pray to God, and be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit when it comes to those around you. With 7.5 billion people on the planet today, it is nearly impossible to go an entire day without any sort of interaction with others.