Coming off the heels of the election season and in the trenches of the holidays I can't help but write about this topic that has been on my mind. There are some trends running rampant, and they have been for a while, but are out of control more now than ever. I am referring to the lost art of conversation. I don't blame texting, emails or even social media for the loss of communicating with integrity, rather a product of it. I'm not sure there is someone or something to blame. The responsibility falls on each and every one of us to uphold the kind of conversations that build each other up, heal, illuminate alternate points of view to consider and create stronger bonds. Sounds wonderful doesn't it? Well, here are some trends we are losing to.
"The Brutally Honest"
Have you noticed? It is the hot trend to be "brutally honest". To those who subscribe to this style of communication it means that they are a bad ass in the realm of hurting people based on their actions or opinion. The trendiness seems to carry some glorification to the one who can be curt and domineering with their words in a way that is intentionally hurtful. It's like a quest to become the Alpha in the conversation and in their social group. The more venomous the more pats on the back from the onlookers or post event gossipers it seems. The notion that if you communicate like this you are somehow the authority on any given topic as you bully your way around through the words you select without consequence. They might be wrong, they might be right, but for sure they are a brut in that moment.
We hurt with our silence. For those that subscribe to this stamina of silence many somehow believe they are an elitist with extra high morality because they stayed quiet. This silence is a place where often patience is confused with passive. It's a place where thoughts and opinions form without the respect of a conversation and feelings are harbored. They are quiet for many reasons. Sometimes it's to look holy, other times it's fear to offend or retreat as a self defense mechanism. It might be simply that they have been muzzled so long that they believe their voice doen't matter or that it is just easier to disengage because you believe your pearls will fall on deaf ears. No matter the reason the message is the same. Silence says you are not willing to listen nor respond. It says you don't care. It says in many cases "It's not my problem". It says don't pursue me and that is just scratching the surface. Silence sometimes hurts. You can see it if you are watching. Usually they are only watching themselves...that could be why they consider themselves so self aware. This mentality lets their clients leave without telling them soberly that they are on a slippery slope to a shorter life, let their loved ones pass us by without telling them they are beautiful and that we appreciate them. The silent sit back and watch (or not watch) "silent" destruction happen all around...in "saintly silence."
"The Unapologetic Conversation"
Then there is another option, the unapologetic conversation, so foreign that when confronted with it we don't know how to decode it, because there is nothing to decode. It gets misunderstood and mis-categorized as brutal because it is just so far from common. It's the raw, un-flowery, non sugar coated essence of what is being conveyed. It's basic. It's so simple it's stupid and we certainly can't comprehend it when we meet it. It's communication primarily based on facts that can't be changed, that are non negotiable and undeniable, where opinions and calls to action are based on love, concern or excitement for one another. There is no enemy or manipulation. These moments are the uncomfortable yet necessary call for correction when a friend sees danger looming ahead. The rain on their parade yet prepared with an umbrella. The compliment that someone needs to hear. It's the tug for real connection. It's a back and forth conversation that doesn't assume each other is one dimensional because of one view they hold. When both heed they both understand one success or failure doesn't define who they are. It requires both parties to listen and both parties to respond. It requires love & respect. It does not however require agreement.
I've been around long enough to admit I have mistakenly slipped in each camp while finding my way. I do I regret fiercely the times I may have been brutal and even more so the times I have stayed silent. I have seen so many terrible situations that could have been different had I gone out of my comfort zone to really reach someone. Lives could have been changed had I the courage to speak up boldly with the mission of building the unapologetic relationship. I could have spoken up when I saw trouble ahead and became an ally instead of a bystander. I could have spoken up when someone needed it most and perhaps changed the course of life for the better. While I'll always risk brutal before silence I aim for unapologetic. I don't want to be brutal...I don't want to hurt you with my silence. I want to love you, I want to shape our relationship with our words. I want to water it and prune it to grow, not chop down or lead it to drought. I want to greet you with my iron and expect the same in return like it is commanded and like it is the privilege that it is.
Proverbs 27:17 says As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the other.
Relationships are a great privilege. We too often seem to forget that they need to be nurtured. Relationships need to be cultivated and invested in by the pair. That doesn't happen in brutality and it doesn't happen in silence. Circling back to the beginning I think I can sum up by asking this questions. When was the last time you cared? When was the last time you were cared for? In order to care we need to connect with people. Whatever is holding you back, wipe it away and start loving people. Not just new people that are easy to love, love the ones that are hard to love, that challenge you, that make you stretch. This is the perfect time of year to start paying attention to the intention of your relationships. Get beyond the surface. Everyone knows it's cold outside and the meatballs are awesome. Love people, love the ones that are hard to love. Do it now, whether that means an uncomfortable intervention or a giant hug and a helping hand, don't wait. You don't know if you will have the chance tomorrow. Your clients are counting on you, your friends are counting on you and your family is counting on you....if you listen to that still small voice well enough there might just be some strangers counting on you too. Sometimes we are meant to be each others angels. God uses us to touch peoples lives so be careful where you tread not to wallow in your brut, shy, silent, offended, aloof, self-absorbed coma that creeps in on all of us at times or you will miss it. Use your sense, not your defense in keeping safe boundaries. There is a big difference. Move in wisdom.
Not sure where to start? Here is an ice breaker.
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to know the chicken on the other side.
I hope this means something to you and that the people in your life mean something to you. Sometimes speaking up is the noble thing to do as light and fluffy as a genuine compliment or something deeper and more personal than you are comfortable bringing to light.
Here are a few verses on honorable friendship to fill your courage tank
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
Proverbs 27:5 (NIV)
Better is open rebuke than hidden love