The one word I chose to contemplate this year is CONNECT. So far I’ve been thinking about connecting with various things, shifting slightly from month to month.
Last month I reflected on connecting with failure. That brought up memories of failures in communication, my own and others’. For me, connecting and communicating are so close in meaning they are almost identical. We can’t communicate without connecting with one another, and once we do connect, something is sure to be communicated.
And yet, somehow I have managed to have so many broken, interrupted, garbled or otherwise unsatisfactory links in communication in my life. I don’t connect to the people I desperately want to hear and understand, and who I want to hear and understand me. The lines get crossed or cut off and we can’t reach each other.
What would it take to establish better connections, better chances of communicating?
Sometimes, I have to take a hard look at my behavior, see where I might need to take responsibility for something I’ve done, and apologize. I find this hard to do, because I’d rather make my faults go away by pretending they don’t exist. However, this ostrich-like behavior does not work. And a dose of humility and truth can on occasion open up the connections amazingly.
At other times, it’s my assumptions and fixed ideas that are getting in the way. I have to get rid of these and open up my mind and my heart. Without that openness, nothing can get through, no connection can be made and no communication can reach my stuffed-up ears.
The Psalms are moving reminders of how fundamental the longing for communication is to our souls. The one who prays cries out to be heard by God and longs to experience a reply. To be cut off from communication is incredibly painful:
I said, “I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
while in the presence of the wicked.”
So I remained utterly silent,
not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
my heart grew hot within me. (Psalm 39:1-3)
For a long time it was incredibly difficult for me to imagine expressing myself honestly to another person or to God. Like the psalmist here, I thought I could combat sin and wickedness (my own, especially) through clamming up. The anguish pressing on my heart eventually broke me open, though. And it was such a relief to find that I didn’t have to stay incommunicado.
These days, I may sometimes err on the side of saying too much. I’ve been guilty of thoughtless blabbing that can also be off-putting and break connections. I am working on the art of restraint. But I still find it better than when I would remain “utterly silent, not even saying anything good.” Mistakes can be corrected. But if you are afraid to ever make a mistake, nothing good can happen either.
Connecting in a way that enables healthy communication poses a huge challenge and is very complex. I may need more than one month to ponder this particular goal.