Elevators are unusual places, aren’t they? Especially crowded ones. You’re packed like sardines close to people you’ve never met, and you try not to touch them. You can’t look at anyone; in fact, you don’t look anywhere except up, watching the numbers light up. And nobody talks either. Have you ever noticed two people walking into an elevator talking, but once they enter the elevator they stop talking?
Years ago, several crazy friends and I were about to step onto an elevator. The door slid open. The thing was full of people who gave us that hey-you-guys-aren’t-gonna-try-to-get-in-are-you look. But we did. My friend, Jimbo, was last. When he stepped aboard, there wasn’t room enough for him to turn around. As the door slid shut behind him, he smiled big and roared, “You might have wondered why I called this meeting today!” The place broke up with laughter. It was the most amazing sight to watch. Strangers began talking and relating to each other.
That elevator is a microcosm of our world today: a large, impersonal institution where anonymity, isolation, and independence are the uniform of the day. We can be a part of a company, a club, or a church and not feel we belong or are accepted. We can share a carpool, an office, and even a home and not have significant relationships.
What is needed is someone to break the ice, to engage in communication, to care for the other. We don’t have to live our lives in anonymity and isolation. We can develop significant connections, even in a fast-paced world.
Concede our need for others
God rooted our need for others in our very being. Abraham Maslow, a Jewish psychologist, reinforced God’s original design and plan through his well-known hierarchy of needs theory. Maslow believed that one could learn as much by studying healthy, well-adjusted people as one could by studying those with problems. He concluded that each of us has various levels of need. As we satisfy one level, we then move up to the next level.
Maslow’s research revealed that before we can be a person of value and become all that we were intended to be, we first must have our social needs met. We must be a part of a group, affiliating with others, experiencing caring and loving relationships.
Cultivate deep relationships
To survive in a cold and cruel world requires deep relationships. But those relationships do not just happen; they require effort. We have to do more than reach out to others; we have to share our lives with them as well.
Cultivating deep relationships necessitates that we:
- Practically look for ways to help others. Remember, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Relationally get to know others. Deep relationship can’t occur at a distance. We must get up close and personal with another.
- Emotionally get real with the people in your life. When we love others, we do not treat them as a means to an end, but rather as individuals of value. To communicate our love with others, we talk about our affections. We must learn the gestures of love—a hug, a handshake, acts of kindness. Love is something we do, not just something we say.
Commit to authenticity
It is not enough to admit we need each other, or say, “Oh, a few friends would be nice.” We must get beneath surface conversations and become interested and accountable to each other. Authenticity occurs when the masks come off, conversations get deep, hearts get vulnerable, lives are shared, accountability is invited, and tenderness flows. Believers become brothers and sisters.
We become absorbed in the lives of others as active participants, relating to, sharing with, and caring for each other. Reuben Gornitzke said, “We can’t simply cheer people on and give them our best wishes. We have to make room for them in our lives.”
By making room for others in our lives the walls of indifference and apathy come down. Then, we discover the best of others and the best in ourselves.
Finally, Martin Buber was right, “Sin is our failure to grant another his plea for community.” May we never be guilty of committing that sin as we build authentic connections with those in our lives.
To get more information and join the South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce (SC-C3) movement, go to www.sc-c3.org and become a member today!
Rick Ezell is the Managing Partner of Employee Care of America, which provides care, chaplaincy, coaching, and crisis management to the workplace (www.employeecareofamerica.com). Read more of his writings at www.rickezell.com.