“Should we call the cops?” my wife asked as we heard a thud from the adjacent condo. Great…Our neighbors were at it again. Like anyone who has shared thin walls, arguments mean that the neighbors can hear every word. Well…every word, that is, if we put our ears close to the wall. Then we could make out most of their words. After all, if there is a crime being committed, we need to know what to tell the police; and that we did. As things began to escalate, we did call the cops and the situation was temporarily resolved.
Sadly, the content of these volatile episodes was all I really knew about my neighbors. Okay, maybe I had introduced myself one time, but once inside the safety of my home, I didn’t give a second thought to the people on the other side of those walls. Not until the fighting started. Behind the safety of my locked door, I could form judgments without knowing their whole story. I could be a good citizen by calling the police without ever having to get to know them or to inquire if everything was alright. Those thin walls shielded me from other people’s lives.
Generally speaking, our culture craves communication while at the same time fears intimacy. That’s because intimacy costs us something. It’s risky, and that’s terrifying. Therefore, we settle for the thin walls of technology and social media to meet our relational needs.
Let me ask a couple of questions:
What is your primary method of communication? Is it face to face or a phone call? Maybe an email or a text message? How about Facebook or Instagram?
Why do you prefer that method?
Of the two questions, the “what” is not nearly as important as the “why.” And while electronic communication has its benefits (i.e. large audience in a timely manner), if this is our sole way of relating, we will suffer a deficit in our ability to give and receive intimacy.
Here’s my answer to these questions: I prefer texting, emailing, & social media because phone conversations sometimes intimidate me. I’m afraid of the immediacy of a verbal conversation. There’s no room to edit what I say, and people may get a more socially awkward version of myself (particularly if its a tough or vulnerable conversation). Plus, I don’t know if I have the time to invest in any lengthy interaction so texting seems to be more efficient. It feels like a win, right?
But what do we lose when our daily communication is reduced to a typed message? What do we lose when our idea of “catching up” is simply checking someone’s social media feed?
We lose intimacy. I lose intimacy. You lose intimacy.
We lose opportunities for maturity, as the best environment for growth is in the scary mess of real community.
So what about this year? Might we attempt to live differently? Will we seek conversation over soundbites? Will we have dinner with our neighbors while we set our distracting cell phones aside? Will we let the stuff of life come to the surface in all of its messy glory and allow ourselves to be changed for the better?
This is me saying I want more in 2016. Do you?
Check out our Mission Page for more ideas on creating community. Share in comments below what you’re hoping for in 2016!
Written by Ben Sadler, © 2016 Benjamin Sadler, All Rights Reserved.