Connect or Disconnect?
“Someone forgot to shower today!”
The class halted our small group discussions and stared at the one person who dared say out loud what everyone else was thinking. This wasn’t the first time my high school ESL class was startled by a comment from this girl. In fact, the other girls in the class, all immigrants from Hispanic cultures couldn’t understand the bold way this young lady spoke and acted. Finally a few of them approached me one day expressing their puzzlement over this classmate who used an “unusual dialect” and behaved so strangely.
“We know she’s like us, learning English. But she’s not like the other Hispanic girls. She doesn’t act like us.”
“She’s from Italy,” I told them. They smiled and nodded at this revelation. But even though they secretly admired this open, friendly girl and her blunt ways, especially when speaking to the boys, they would never completely accept her.
She remained disconnected from the class for the remainder of the year. She probably figured if she wasn’t going to ever really belong, why even try? Not being part of the group of girls didn’t seem to bother her. Or maybe she just didn’t let it show.
The world tells us we need to have the right connections to get ahead, to be somebody. But connecting goes deeper than just who we know. When we feel disconnected we drift. We lose our purpose, our sense of belonging.
Dr. Brene Brown discusses the idea of connecting at great length in her book Daring Greatly*. She talks about creating a culture of connection that is essential to the well being of any company, organization, school, church or family. As humans she says we are “hardwired” to connect with other people. Belonging is what feeds our hearts, minds and souls. It’s what gives each of us purpose in our lives.
If we sense our company, organization or family isn’t experiencing the benefits of being connected, what can we do? How can we change its culture?
Some try using games and role-playing to bring their group together. However, I have never felt any more connected to a staff or principal after participating in those sessions.
Perhaps a better approach is a shift from controlling people to engaging with people. To do that, we need to value those we are with. If people feel they are seen and heard, not in passing but in a purposeful way, they are more willing to give and receive comments. Especially when they aren’t afraid of being judged.
But if as leaders we aren’t willing to let our guard down, others won’t feel the courage to engage in a meaningful connection. This isn’t a time for bluster, for worrying about appearing weak or not in charge. We should be ready to ask for help. Prepared to listen to criticism and act on valid points. Willing to change… our mind, our decisions, the way things are done.
If this connection is trustworthy then we admit we don’t have all the answers. That’s really tough for someone who doesn’t want to appear vulnerable. But it’s the only way to make a true connection that will benefit everyone involved.
Connection with one another is more important today than ever before. Because of personal separation, it is more difficult. As a result, we need to be intentional. We have to be more creative. Ask those involved for their ideas. But be careful how you ask. Surveys have limited value. Face to face conversations reveal much more than questions on a page or in an email.
Asking the right questions is crucial: “What would make you feel more connected?” “What can I do or the company, church, business, school, or family do to make you feel that connection?” And then act on those suggestions.
Now more than ever, so much about our lives is new territory. Our connections can seem so impersonal. We can’t always be close physically. Because of this we need to explore new ways of doing business, communicating, learning, marketing, buying and selling, even making family occasions and holidays special.
At the same time we must be sure we’re connecting with answers and ideas that are beneficial not just to our bottom line but to the well-being of our company, organization, church, or family. And we also need to disconnect from baggage that weighs or drags us down. Anything that causes problems and friction isn’t good for the health of any group.
There is one quote I especially like from Dr. Brown’s book: “We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be” (p. 177). Actually this is why we need to be connected to our Lord Jesus, to establish who we are and Who we belong to. If we don’t have a solid connection with Him, we can’t possibly expect others to accept our encouragement to become connected to one another.
To maintain that connection with our Savior, we need to be vulnerable before Him and receive His love and mercy and forgiveness knowing that it comes without judgment. After all, Jesus is the only one we can be completely vulnerable with. He’s earned the right to hear about our feelings and experiences because of His atoning sacrifice. And He already knows what we are hesitant to reveal to Him.
Humbling ourselves before God is really hard to do when we think we have power, influence, the right answers. We don’t want to appear weak. Yet when we admit we aren’t in control, that’s exactly when His power comes flooding into our lives. That’s when the connection with Our Lord Jesus is complete.
It’s time to disconnect from the lure of the world’s idea of success. Time to connect with the power that comes from being a child of Our Lord Jesus. Time to bask in His success in freeing us from sin and death.
Beyond this personal relationship with Our Lord, we pray everyone we come into contact with, everyone we connect with, will want to have that same connection with Him. Because of all the connections, that’s the one that matters the most.
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
*Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
First published at Lead Like Jesus March 2021