Getting Past the Superficial
We seldom get past the superficial with people. How do we get to the deeper levels of relationship?
Life can be hard. I just got a text that set me off. Fortunately, since it was a text, I had time to think about it and give a better response. If the person had come at me in person with that same level of accusation and demandingness, I doubt that I would have responded well. One bad response creates baggage. Baggage makes the next encounter not go well.
Connection can be difficult. Good connection is life. Bad connection is death. Most connections are a mixture of the good and the bad. So what do we do? Most of us live with a filter that keeps people at a distance. It is safer that way. There is less pain.
To move toward a deeper level connection, we have to believe that there is some kind of reward that is worth fighting through the pain. Many times, it is not worth it. The person throws out enough clues that this is relationship is not going to go well. Period. My instincts tell me to stay functional. Stay distant. Don't get emotionally involved. Cut my losses. To stay superficial is often the safe and smart thing to do.
But what if Christ has called you to reach out in love to one who is not safe? Then what?
1. Deal with your own fear of pain. When the text came, I had a gut level response of "this is not going to go well." Since I deal with this level of stuff on a regular basis, I could choose to dwell on past failures, or I could visualize some of the break through's, where hearts had been changed. I could study to give an answer that could bring life, or I could respond at a level that feared pain.
Having God heal you from a past hurt is big when it comes to dealing with present pain. Believing that God can and will heal you from future hurt is huge. Many who have been incredibly touched by God continue to be fascinated with the pain that they experienced, more than they rejoice in the release. Those people will fear future pain. Unless or until the breakthrough's become our focus, future pain will continue to haunt us.
2. Don't take it personal.
Every person responds more out of his own heart than he does to you. Why do you take another person's lashing out personally? Why do we let it affect it us if there was something wrong with us or something we had done wrong? Generally one of the best ways to turn this around is to speak out loud to yourself, saying "I choose not to take this personally. This person is responding in a way that is consistent with his character (or perhaps is at a bad point at the moment!). I refuse to own his response as if I had caused it!" (If you have done something wrong, grow up and own it!)
3. Embrace conflict.
You will never break through to deeper relationship unless you are willing to be passionately you around others and you also have to let them be passionately them. When we live at a level of passion, there will be conflict. Conflict can be done in a bad way that destroys relationship. Conflict can be done in a way where "iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17). We can allow the challenges of others to make us bitter or to make us better.
4. Value different.
Even God is often seen as an intruder because what He brings is different (John 3:19-20). We instinctively respond to different as if it were bad. If we allow that instinct to rule, no other human being could ever be a true connection point. Every human being is unique—is different. Even the very presence of God is rejected on this same principle. He is different. Different is threatening. Different is rejected.
Genuine connection requires that we fight through this awkward stage to get to the good stuff. During the awkward stage, it is appropriate to have the right kind of filter. Connecting with evil is harmful to self. Thus, our filter is generally set on protection of self. During the exploration phase, we should listen with different ears. We should watch to see what God is doing. Does He have a purpose? Is there something I can give? Is there something I need to receive?
Love is not about forcing sameness. God created every one of us different. Real relationship embraces those differences. When we see others for whom God created them to be, it causes us to grow and it gives them life.
Are you feeling anger stirring inside you? Step back for a moment. It may be a chance to grow ... or to love someone or something that is different. Do you want to stay superficial? Real love fights through the obstacles to give life and receive life. Be a lifegiver. Connect at deeper levels!