Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to meaningfully connect with others? As a Christian, I’ve noticed a trend in the church toward surface level relationships. When I think about it, I see this trend throughout our culture, not just in the church. It saddens me to think that our relationships with other people could be downgraded to simple social pleasantries.
I want to be real with you. In the church, we wave and smile. We participate in small talk. We even ask the obligatory “how are you doing?” But do we genuinely want to know or is this just social etiquette? The answer is always the same. “We’re doing fine.” Then we move on, never going beyond the “selfie” that we want everyone to focus on. The truth is that we’re not always fine, and we are certainly not perfect. So, why do we lie? Why do we expect others to lie to us?
We don’t invite vulnerability. When someone does step out of their comfort zone and exposes pain points, we become uncomfortable. We’ve come to expect the “fine,” and when we don’t get it, we try to shift the conversation as quickly as possible. If we accept the fact that someone else is “not fine,” we may have to face the reality that we are sometimes less “fine” than we would like to admit. If not in the church, then where are we safe to be “not fine?”
The surface is familiar. The surface is safe. Remaining on the surface is devastating to real connection.
I have seen the result of people being hurt by the church for this very reason. I am personally aware of many people that have left the church because they felt devalued or disconnected. These people have said that if this façade is what the church is about, then they want no part of it.
I am beginning to see a movement within our church towards true genuineness, and it is a process. It can only happen when we are intentionally open and genuine with others. It has to be about building real relationships, instead of tipping hats to social pleasantries.
8 practical ways to begin getting real with others:
- Recognize that we all struggle, and nobody is always “fine.”
- After the initial answer, “I am fine,” is given, dig a little deeper. Open up space to share.
- Be honest.
- Acknowledge your own positive and negative feelings. When we are real, it gives others permission to be real.
- Listen, I mean really listen for understanding to what people are experiencing.
- Be accepting of others just as they are without judging.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
- Spend time with others in community.
While genuine connection can be scary, this is what we were designed for. If we maintain a social media mindset of only showing people the things we are proud of, then we will never achieve the real connection we all desperately long for. I strongly encourage you to do some self-examination. If you have experienced trauma of have been hurt often, it may be hard to trust others. Setting boundaries is important. However, we were never designed to do life alone. I encourage you to give others the chance to be real with you and you be real with them too.