The Christmas and New Year season is a time when our focus shifts away from work to our personal lives. Many of us look forward to spending time with family and friends. However, it can also be a stressful time, as we try to live up to the expectation that it should be a happy time. For many, it can be a lonely time, as the busyness of life winds down.
Being connected is one of our most basic human needs. The quality of our relationships affects our happiness and success more than anything else. However, relationships don’t just happen, and many people struggle to find meaningful connections.
Relationships take work to build and maintain, and there are inevitable setbacks and disappointments. How we respond to these defines the quality of our connections.
A healthy relationship does not mean agreeing on everything. However when there is more conflict than peace in a relationship, the energy turns from positive to negative, and the negative atmosphere can begin to define the relationship. People deal with this in different ways. Some people try to take control; others try to avoid disagreement or conflict by keeping the peace. However, this often means giving up part of ourselves for the sake of peace.
Having relationships means taking risks, putting in the effort, listening and thinking about the other person and trying to understand their perspective.
A relationship is about an “US,” not a “ME” or a “YOU.” Being an “US” involves looking to the interest of the other person, being respectfully honest, exercising patience and forbearance - an old word which basically means “putting up with one another.” Of course, this does not extend to mistreatment.
Online communications like texting and social media have created new ways to have relationships. At one level instant access can make us feel more connected, yet at another level it maintains distance.
So while people might be communicating more and have a wider circle of friends on Facebook, people are generally no better connected relationally speaking. It’s easy to make comparisons between our lives and what we see on Facebook, Instagram, etc. – images of others having a great time. But how real are these images?
So when you have some quiet time this season, perhaps the following may provide a pause for quiet reflection:
1. How important are relationships to me?
2. Do I put time into making connections or do I wait for others to approach me?
3. Do I avoid approaching others for fear of not measuring up?
4. When I am with others, am I present or preoccupied?
5. Do I jump to conclusions or check with others if I’m not sure what they meant to say?
6. Are my expectations of others realistic or do I get disappointed easily?
7. Do I think before I react?
8. Are there winners and losers in my relationships or do we influence each other?
9. Is the climate control in my closest relationships more positive than negative?
10. Are my relationships a “ME” or an “US”?
11. How much of my connecting with others is done online versus spending time with them?
Wishing you a safe, peaceful Christmas