Community. Belonging. Friendship. These words can bring to mind snapshots of when you experienced them — or really wanted to but didn’t.
Four years ago, I was extremely sick with Lyme disease and became isolated. I wasn’t able to work, and I couldn’t even get out of bed on my own. I had nothing to do and no one to talk to, and it seemed like life was just passing me by.
When I look back on that time, I realize I was lonely beyond belief and longed for community and connection. But you don’t have to be sick to be lonely or isolated. Those feelings are pretty common today.
Why can it be so difficult to find real relationships or connections with others today? What gets in the way of your experiencing community on a regular basis?
Three barriers often stand in the way of deep and healthy relationships.
Our society doesn’t know how to slow down and isn’t great at balance. In fact, we aren’t even sure that we should; we sometimes wear an overcrowded schedule like a badge of honor. I can make it to the end of a day when I’ve been so busy that I haven’t thought about anything except the next task to complete.
Rushing to work in the dark of the morning, hastily preparing for the test that popped up, cramming a “meal” into a 10-minute break, or running to an event for the kids — your health, your relationships and your mind suffer as the cost of an overscheduled life. You can’t live the life you really want if the time you would be using to stop and build deep friendships is constantly filled with other things.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with using your phone, but it’s easy to overdo it. Before you know it, hours of precious time have been poured out on cat videos. I can barely make it through a line at Starbucks or the grocery store without checking my social media feed.
Intentionally or unintentionally, using your phone to distract yourself or escape doesn’t leave much time to interact with actual people or bring your need for relationships with others to the surface.
Is the way you use your phone distracting you from the friendships you long for?
“We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability.” — Andy Crouch
Because we’ve gotten so used to multitasking and living and working with technology, many of us have lost the skill of being fully present.
Does it ever feel awkward introducing yourself to new people but totally normal burying your head in your phone when you’re surrounded by others? I sense a real feeling of relief when I can zone out and scroll through Instagram by myself. I even catch myself regularly checking my phone for updates when I’m with friends or family.
Watching videos on your phone or listening to music — or even a book — are great ways to relax, but in excess they can easily become barriers to relationships.
Putting yourself out there and making intentional choices to move toward community is scary. It’s a lot easier to hide behind the barriers listed above because they don’t require the risk of being seen or rejected.
While hiding feels safe, living “safe” can prevent you from experiencing the joy and fullness a life lived in community offers.
People are messy. They can hurt and disappoint you, but you were created for relationship. You were created to be with others.
One person in history who showed the importance of relationships through His whole life was Jesus. Even in the busiest time of His life, His last three years, He still knew how to prioritize both rest alone and time with others.
He had a genuine group of friends that He worked, ate and traveled with. They saw the deep, human and vulnerable parts of His life. Some of them were loyal, and others betrayed Him. Still, He pressed on to live and love in community day in and day out.
I believe you and I were created for real dynamic relationships, both with God and with others.
If deep relationships are meant to be part of your life and they aren’t right now, how can you get there?
Try starting a conversation with someone you trust about which barriers you see in your life. Ask about which ones he or she can relate to.
Here are some other resources about how to build a healthy community:
There can be many barriers to building relationships. Learn how to find true community by addressing the roots of the problems that distract us from it.
There’s no course or handbook on making friends, especially in college. But there’s a few simple how-tos that can help you out.
Our journey with God isn’t meant to be solitary. We need each other — it’s been this way since Christianity began.
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