Making Time for Friends and Family

Posted on Thu, Nov 29, 2007 @ 04:55 PM
The importance of keeping relationships current.
"Resilience, our ability to cope with life's ups and downs, is closely tied to the extent and quality of our support systems."

As David Hulme noted in the post that launches this new blog, getting relationships right is one of life's most important pursuits. I highly recommend that anyone coming to this blog should begin by reading that post.

Coincidentally, the same day this blog was launched, the afternoon's mail brought a package from a very old and dear friend. Among other things, it contained a very special T-shirt from the 70’s—a souvenir from a concert we had attended together as teens. Now that we each have teens of our own we lead very busy lives, which may partially explain why we’ve lost touch over the past dozen years or so. But of course there is more to it than that. In an enclosure the friend wrote, “we need to try to be more current,” a feat which should be relatively simple considering the fact, as she also pointed out, that we now have amazing technological advances like email.

Image by Stuart Seeger It’s true, modern life has handed humanity more than a few shortcuts—but then again—it’s also handed us more than a few new responsibilities to multitask our way through, new gadgets to be tied to, and new commitments to make claims on our time. If care is not taken, all of these factors can distract us from nurturing the relationships that protect our communities, our personal support systems and our mental and physical health.

Pepperdine University psychology professor Louis Cozolino reinforces how important relationships are to us. “Our brains rely on other brains to remain healthy,” he says, “especially under stress. When faced with illness, catastrophe, or loss, we turn to each other for comfort, regulation, and stability. Resilience—our ability to cope with life’s ups and downs—is closely tied to the extent and quality of our support systems.”

Image by CeriseToo casually sometimes, we promise ourselves that “when we have time” we’ll write that friend we’ve been neglecting, or we’ll spend quality time with our spouse or children, as if these are tasks of the same priority level as say—doing laundry or mowing the lawn. We may tell ourselves, “If I don’t get to it this week, I can do it next week.”

In reality, our families and other relationships should have the same importance to us as eating and sleeping. These are not luxuries—these are the things we must have in order to live and breathe.

My friend was right to say we “need” to try to be more current, and I took her remonstrance to heart. At least this time, I didn’t tell myself I’d write her back “when I have time.” An actual, hand-written note was dropped in the mail to her just before I sat down to write this post.

Tags: resilience, family and relationships, stress, friendship, support systems

Getting Relationships Right

Posted on Tue, Nov 27, 2007 @ 04:57 PM

"We abuse people because we regard them as a commodity we may use freely. When we see people as a community to which we belong, we may begin to relate to them with love and respect. "

Aldo Leopold was a U.S. forester and the author of a well-known early masterpiece on ecology, A Sand County Almanac. Here's a sample of what he wrote:

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Here he's writing about our relationship to what we see around us all the time—the land. His point is that the planet is a community in which we're responsible to play our part. When we're in harmony with it, the land and all living things are the beneficiaries. Of course, we have the evidence all around us of what happens when we abuse our relationship with land.

Abuse is an interesting word. Ab-use: It means wrong use. Like the land, we humans are also subject to wrong use by others. If Aldo Leopold's comments on land are applied to humans, how much more powerful are they? Substituting a few words in Leopold’s quote, and applying the quote to human relationships, here's what we get:

“We abuse people because we regard them as a commodity we may use freely. When we see people as a community to which we belong, we may begin to relate to them with love and respect.”

There are many books that dispense advice about how to relate to each other as a community, but few can improve on the timeless wisdom in the pages of the Bible. It teaches that a healthy community is made up of all kinds of relationships—husbands, wives, parents, children, old people, young people, employers, employees—and has much to say about how different cultures should respond to one another as well. In fact, the Bible has something to say about every conceivable kind of human relationship. One thing the Bible teaches is that all relationships have to be based on the right kind of love: the outgoing kind that enables us to love our neighbor as we love and take care of the self. People who have this kind of love are going to be seeking the good of others, and are not going to abuse other people by manipulation for selfish ends or by trying to use others. They are going to be unselfish. They are going to be patient.

In contrast, human nature teaches us to use other people. To fight back when we feel wronged. It doesn't teach us to please and forgive others. Yet, none of the Bible's instructions about family and relationships leave room for any kind of dictatorial, manipulative, pressuring behavior—using other people to get the results we want.

What God wants for humans is the experience of peaceful relationships based on the principles of love toward God and therefore obedience to His way. Living these principles is about a real appreciation for and love toward neighbor, treating others with dignity and with respect for their individual freedom before God. It’s about giving oneself for others rather than taking from others for the benefit of self.

It’s about getting relationships right—a vitally important part of each day's experience.


David Hulme

Tags: family relationships, Aldo Leopold, Community