It’s the end of the semester and instead of writing a blog post I probably should be studying or reading right now. But there are a few things that I feel that I should write down for my own benefit, and perhaps yours. I am finishing my third year of seminary. My experience here has been demanding, yet fruitful. Over the past six semesters I have learned a lot. I have been involved in the student leadership on campus. I have been a Resident Assistant. I have lead a student group. I have been an intern for our Student Affairs department. Even though this is a busy time of the semester, this is typically the time when I begin to assess my growth throughout the past semester and year. I look back on how I’ve grown as a person. This year has been perhaps more significant than any other year. I could write nearly a book on some of the lessons learned in this semester alone, but let me briefly mention a few that I think have been the most significant:
1) Model the change you want to see
This may seem simple, but it is not. Generally speaking we are quick to criticize and complain. More often than not we are not willing to go the next step and think of practical, realistic solutions. So if you have an issue with how things are communicated between people, change how you personally communicate. Take the steps in your own personal life that you want others to be instituting. This is huge. Once you begin modeling it for people, then they expect that from you in the future. They may also begin reciprocating the changes back to you.
(For those who may be weary of me condoning what is understood as the “miracle motif,” believe me that is not what I am condoning at all. I do not believe that we need to just change the way we think and then all will be swell and all of the world’s problems will be solved.)
2) Be willing to think critically, but positively, about every community you’re a part of
Life moves so fast. It’s ridiculous. But we need to learn the skills to be able to pause and think critically about the communities that we are a part of. We need to be able to healthily critique the way we think, talk, and live. Most of the time this means we need to be around others who do not think exactly like we do. That means we need diversity. We NEED others to show us our flaws. We NEED others to show us our faulty thinking. We need others to show us how we can better critique the communities that we are a part of. There is a danger of always being negative, but if we begin modeling the changes in our own lives, then we can think about how we are bringing growth to the community rather than constantly attacking it.
3) Step into the awkwardness
This is a hard one to actually follow through with, but I think everyone could benefit from this immensely. Most of us are really good at picking up on awkward moments or situations. We even go as far as to say “AWKWARD...” to try and relieve awkward situations. However, we rarely try to truly relieve the tension that has been built. To do so requires maturity and honesty. To step into awkward situations takes intentionality. When we recognize we are participating in an awkward situation we should own up to it. This is something that I feel should be modeled, and I feel that I have only begun to model in my own life. I have seen tremendous dividends from the times that I have modeled this in my own life. It removes the present tension and, more often than not, future tension. It brings relief not only to you, but to the person or people you are communicating with. I could give plenty of examples, but maybe I’ll expand on this idea in a future post. It’s probably a bit too abstract to understand now though…
4) We are most safe when we are most vulnerable
This goes along with the previous idea. Generally speaking I believe humans want to feel secure. That security is often found in relationships with others. Many times in our relationships we want people to like us, so we don’t often reveal many negatives about ourselves or what is going on in our lives. Our culture only bolsters this through a society which constantly says “How’s it going?” “How are you?” “What’s going on?” but never expects a negative answer. We most often just say, “Fine.” or “Good.” If we’re feeling especially honest we may say “busy.” Sometimes we even give the wrong standard answer to the question. For example,
“How are you doing?”
We need to learn that everyone is not perfectly okay. We all experience struggles and burdens and pressures and stresses. It’s okay to admit it. It takes time. It takes effort. It exposes flaws, but that is where true relationships flourish. People grow closer when they are transparent with each other because when we do, we relate with and learn from each other much more holistically. That requires being vulnerable at first. We must realize that we actually harm ourselves by not being honest with each other. We seclude ourselves. When we are honest and vulnerable with each other we learn what it looks like to actually love one another. And that is where true safety is found.