Thursday, January 17, 2008

When Words Don't Come Easy

I run into her around town and we both make an effort to be cordial, but we just don't connect. We've tried. We've even spent time one on one, but no matter what we talk about, conversation is hesitant and uneasy. We go to the same church, have common friends, kids the same age, yet our interactions always seem a little forced. Why can't we relate to each other?

He and I live very different lives. Any talking we do is labored. Whenever I ask a question about his life, his answers are very short and he has no clue what to ask me. I love him and feel an obligation to him, but I don't call him. He doesn't call me. We leave each other with assumptions about the other that may or may not be true. I pray for him all the time and kick myself around for not talking to him more.

Why is it so hard to connect with some people? Why do we feel completely at home with some and utterly inept and awkward with others? What makes interaction so difficult? Why do we feel uncomfortable and unsure? Is there a way to make it better?

. . .Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:21


All we can do is love them, not UNDERSTAND them, mind you, not spend every waking minute with them, but LOVE them. So how do you love someone you don't comprehend?

Pray for them.
In the same way praying for your enemies gives you new compassion for them, praying for those who are hard to relate to can soften your heart. Pray for courage to step out of your comfort zone. Pray to see them as God does.

Listen.
Don't assume. Don't interrupt. Don't finish their sentences. Be willing to withstand a little silence as they gather their thoughts. Pay attention to their body language as well as their words. When you don't grasp what they're saying, ask about it, even at the expense of looking stupid yourself. Pay them the highest respect by valuing what they have to say.

Take a risk.
I once sat next to a woman in Bible study whom I had been acquainted with for years. On this particular night she was unable to hold back the tears. She is a strong person and somewhat guarded and though all of us noticed, no one was sure if we should say anything. When my heart couldn't take it any more, I took a big breath and pulled her aside. I had no idea what to say. I didn't want to offend her or make her feel more uncomfortable. To my relief, she appreciated my concern and though I couldn't solve her problem we prayed together. Now, years later, she is one of my dearest friends. It was worth the risk. Pushing aside anxiety and discomfort can lead to a breakthrough in a relationship.

Be vulnerable.
People have all sorts of crazy assumptions about us. Their impressions don't always match up with what is true. Is a particular relationship awkward because of a wrong perception? Let people in on you. Give up some of yourself. I used to bemoan the fact that some of my family didn't know the "real me". When I thought about what was different between them and my close friendships, I realized I didn't often share my thoughts, feelings and dreams with my family, thinking they wouldn't understand. I never gave them a chance. How did I expect them to know me?

Show you care.
It's hard to connect with someone you feel a little stiff with, but your actions can speak volumes. Even though you've never been close, a visit while they or a loved one is in the hospital may touch them. You may not have articulate words to soothe a grieving heart, but I bet they'll remember you were at the funeral. Little gestures make big statements.

Make an effort.
Don't slip into the next aisle at the grocery store to avoid talking. Go out of your way to say hello. You don't have to stand around with your hands in your pockets, staring at the ceiling groping for things to say for ten minutes. Just say hello. Give them a smile. Think of one thing to ask about and expect nothing in return. Pleasant interactions can lessen uneasiness.

It is not realistic nor humanly possible to be fast friends with everyone. God doesn't expect us to have intimate interchanges with all people. He calls us to love. Do you suppose He gives us uncomfortable associations to teach us how to love better?

There is hope for awkward relationships. Pray for them. Listen. Take a risk. Be vulnerable. Show you care. Make an effort. They are simple steps to improve any human tie, however weak or strong. Can you give it a try? Will you practice loving others this way, especially those you have a hard time connecting with?

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love
and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7


We can do this. Press on in His spirit of love and power.

11 comments:

Angie said...

Tami---I have never read anything so powerful and helpful. Dealing with a strained relationship with my brother--my sisters feel he avoids us....very uncomfortable. I have never thought of the things you have laid out here. Needed. Necessary. I have to change my ideas. I will make more of an effort. After all, we are the Christians...he is the one running from the Lord...why would he not "run from us" as well.
Thanks for such an incredible read.

Anonymous said...

Tears spill forth again. This time in gratefulness for a treasured friendship that is such a sweet oasis in my life.

Now, I promise to work on the "Be vulnerable" words of wisdom.

You are a blessing beyond measure.

Brenda said...

Wow! Tami, that was really good and gave me so much to think about. I need to read it again.

Denise said...

Very nicely said Tami. A good reminder for me. Denise R.

Dianne said...

Powerful post, Tami. Love what you said about learning to love better. I think that's what it's all about and you laid out some clear challenges here. Thanks.

Hopeful Spirit said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Sorry I'm a little late . . . I didn't realize.

And why didn't you submit this post to my weekly carnival, Missy? It's brilliant, of course. I will include it if you have no objection. It deserves as much traffic as my humble little site might be able to direct your way.

You are SUCH a good writer . . . I always stand in awe after visiting your site. And find myself thinking about your writing long after I've closed the browser window.

Hopeful Spirit said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Sorry I'm a little late . . . I didn't realize.

And why didn't you submit this post to my weekly carnival, Missy? It's brilliant, of course. I will include it if you have no objection. It deserves as much traffic as my humble little site might be able to direct your way.

You are SUCH a good writer . . . I always stand in awe after visiting your site. And find myself thinking about your writing long after I've closed the browser window.

Heather@Mommymonk said...

Tami, This is so well written and full of good advice for those prickly relationships we all have. Thanks!

Sandy Carlson said...

Your paragraph "Be Vulnerable" speaks to me tonight! This for me is the real crux of a lot of problems. Mustering the trust and the self-confidence this requires can sometimes be daunting.

eph2810 said...

Powerful post, Tami. Yes, I think with help we can even love the unlovable (maybe I am unlovable to some too)...

Thank you so much for sharing your insights and wonderful Scripture passages to underline what you have written.

Be blessed today and always.

Living Beyond said...

Wow Tammi this is such a powerful post. I can relate to every point you have made in your post. So much so that I often wonder if there is something wrong with me? Especially as it relates to just not connecting with another.

I have some wonderful girl-friends back where we use to live, but I have found that in recent years as we have moved from one end of the country to another - I am lacking very much a girlfriend/people that I connect with. I would love a best friend to live God with in the flesh.

I wonder if it's because I'm a pastor's wife? Maybe sometimes people are a little hesitant with me and I with them?

But I love how you have made me realize that I just have to love them anyway and take the risk and leave the rest to God. God alone knows what's best for me and when to send people into my life. I have also noticed that he gives me times of a lack of friendships so that I will lean more heavily on him.

OK I'm going to copy this post to my files.

BTW I gave you something at my blog - please come visit!!