Relational risk | Rejection, connection, vulnerability
Living by myself and having summer off of work means that I can go entire days without speaking to another person. Where the extent of my human interaction is ordering my iced Americano with light ice and a splash of cream at the local coffee shop. And for this introvert- that can actually be fine. For a while. I bask in the silence and solitude.
But at some point I begin to feel restless. Introspection and journaling can only get you so far. Because the reality is, we need others. We are designed for relationship. And yes- the alone time results in a deep intimacy with the Lord- which I'm incredibly grateful for. Yet- even at creation, God pointed to the importance of human to human relationship (Gen 2).
If I'm honest... social connection is hard for me. Part of how I'm wired and part of my own insecurities. I'm a really good listener (#therapist). But actually trusting people with my stuff- that's a whole other thing. My own counselor reflected to me this week- "relationships require risk taking. Without relational risk, there can be no true intimacy." #micdrop
Ok. Well there's that. Why is it so hard for me to trust other people? I've been let down. A lot. Disappointed. Left hanging. Felt like I didn't fit in or wasn't wanted. But- I have also been held up. Taken care of. Validated. Valued. Encouraged. Seen.
Sure there are times when I am vulnerable and the person didn't honor it in the way I needed or that they should have. But that's not the whole of my experience. And in the more recent years of my adulthood, there have been far more times when deep and raw sharing resulted in a response of LOVE and ACCEPTANCE no matter what. By God AND by people. For some- it's hard to feel like you can be that vulnerable and real with God. That's not where my struggle is. I can (and do) pour my heart out. All of it. The mess, the ick, the real, the joy. He is safe with it all. It's people I struggle with.
So when I got the courage to share something deeply personal with my pastor this week and her response was "thanks for sharing, we all struggle with things"- it took me off guard to be honest. I was ready for I'm not sure what- disappointment, correction, admonishment - whatever it was I expected it wasn't that. It was such a neutral response. Not neutral meaning uncompassionate, but neutral meaning no judgment. An acceptance of my humanity as just that- humanity.
R.P.E. Recent Positive Experience. This is a phrase that was used a lot in my family as a "get back on the horse" encouragement. It means that your most recent experience is what you tend to think of when you engage in something. And if it's positive- you are more likely to be willing to try again. It's this motto that I have to remind myself when I am struggling with feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected. As much as I love the summer quiet, I KNOW that I need friendship. AND I want it. I love my friends. They are great people. Fun to be around. Encouraging. Challenging. They know the deepest parts of me and love me no matter what.
They are also people with limitations, wounds and humanness of their own. Which means that I also have to keep in perspective my expectations. People aren't supposed to be our everything, but they ARE supposed to be something.
People are important. Relationships are meaningful (and messy). Vulnerability is hard. And it's worth it. Because that moment when you share something personal and the response you get is warmth, kindness and acceptance- it's a healing balm. Yes, we will experience hurt in relationship. But to not risk anything and stay in the shallow end also prevents us from experiencing the depth and fullness of life as God designed it. There is something about our human relationships that demonstrates part of the nature of God.
Hopefully, someday my automatic thought won't be "if I share this, I'll be rejected." But the way I combat that narrative is to build more and more RPE's. To work at building my neural pathways around safety and connection rather than lack of trust and independence. I'm not there yet, but I am on my way.
If this is you - know that you're not alone. You don't have to jump into the deep end right away. But don't settle for a life of shallow connection. You are loved wholly and completely by God and CAN experience it in your relationships with people too.