Tuesday, February 12, 2019
When the New Year rolls around, the concept of one word for the year resurfaces. The idea is to choose a word to focus on over the next year. Then, throughout the following 365 days, work on improving in that area.
This year, the word that captured my mind was relationships.
Maybe the reason this word kept circling my brain had something to do with the current cultural norm of people grouped together, cell phones in hand, but rarely talking to those next to them. As a society, we’ve become so engrossed in our electronic devices that the person sitting beside us is technically further away than the person on the other side of the screen.
I’ve seen this scenario played out everywhere I go, including:
- Lunch at school. The kids whip out their phones and bury themselves in watching videos, playing games, messaging those not at their school, surfing the net, or posting selfies.
- A recent visit to NYC. Throngs of people crossed streets or jumped on and off the subway with their faces affixed on their phone screens. Honestly, I have no idea how those folks made it to their destination unscathed.
- Restaurants. Patrons have their attention focused on their phones rather than the people at their table. I’ve witnessed families dining together, but fixated on their devices and ignoring each other.
All of this self-focused screen time has ramifications. Studies conducted within the past two years indicate the negative effects technology (specifically the social media aspect) has on mental health. Articles in Forbes and the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology report that overindulging in technology use increases stress levels, anxiety, and jealousy, and lowers self-esteem (just to name a few).
This phenomenon makes me sad. Unfortunately, I too have been guilty of allowing myself to get sucked into the technology phenomenon. And I believe that realization is one of the reasons my word for the year is relationships . . . or more specifically, investing in relationships.
In other words, instead of spending time engaged with an electronic device, spend time engaged with others. Pour into lives. Invest time in people.
While I am unsure of how this will look as a whole, I’m beginning with four ideas:
- Prayer for God’s guidance in this endeavor. I’m asking Him to place people in my path He specifically wants me to invest in.
- Meaningful conversations. Short superficial conversations seem to be the norm these days. While general conversations have their place, it’s important to dive a little deeper with people. I do have my fair share of short conversations, but I’m striving to go well beyond the typical courtesy questions and answers of “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine. How are you?”
- View interruptions as divine appointments. Investing in relationships means giving time to be with others, even at inconvenient moments. As such, I’m trying to view interruptions in the positive light of divine appointments, rather than in the negative light as nuisances. This means I stop working, quit reading, turn off the TV, and focus my attention on those asking for my time.
- Write a note of encouragement. As a writer, this is an area that should come easy to me, but it does not. I have to work at writing encouragement notes. To ensure that I’m prepared, I’ve purchased several packs of note cards, and keep a stack at home, as well as a stack in my book bag.
What tips or advice would you add to this short list on how to invest in relationships? I’d love for you to join this conversation and share your ideas.
As always, thanks for stopping by ~ Jill